THEY MAY BE TOO BUSY TO SHOP FOR THEMSELVES, BUT THAT ISN’T STOPPING STYLE-SAVVY CELEBS FROM LAUNCHING THEIR OWN ACCESSORIES LINES.
Byline: Marcy Medina
Between acting, auditioning and just being plain fabulous, it’s a wonder celebrities have time to shop for their own accessories.
So it seems even stranger that some stars would have the time or inclination to jump on the jewelry bandwagon and design and sell their own jewelry line — an activity gaining in popularity in Tinsletown.
Most celebrities said they simply fell into designing. Actress Jennifer Tilly, whose line of gold and precious stone necklaces is called Jenny’s Jewels, went with some artist friends to a gem show two years ago and it was love at first sight.
“I was just hanging out and then I realized that these rubies and amethysts were cheap. Then I began to get exited,” said Tilly, from her hotel room in New York, where she is currently performing in the Broadway production “The Women.”
“When I first started, eight hours would go by and I’d realize it was three in the morning, and I’d still be making them,” she laughed. “Then someone suggested that I design a whole collection.”
Mena Suvari started making her semiprecious beaded bracelets, which she sells as a line called Papillon, when she had some downtime between two film projects.
“I had made some to give to the cast as wrap presents after I finished ‘American Pie 2.’ Before I knew it, I had made a whole line,” she said. “It was never this big dream of mine, it was more for myself and my friends and it really just kind of snowballed.”
For Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the syndicated radio talk show host, the inspiration for her line was her son.
“About a year ago, my son said to me one day, ‘Mom, you need a hobby because you’re always either working or you’re stressed out. ‘So I thought, ‘I like jewelry, I’ll try that,”‘ she recalled.
Like Tilly and Suvari, Schlessinger went to a trade show where beads were sold, but the wares didn’t catch her eye right away.
“All I saw were these cheap plastic beads and they weren’t for me,” she said. Then on the way out, I saw these antique Tibetan beads, and it was like ‘Bam!’ I bought a bunch, then bought a bunch of books about making jewelry, and now it’s an obsession.”
For all three women, the step to creating a collection and offering their pieces to the public was a small one. Tilly’s friends suggested she take her necklaces to local boutiques, Suvari brought her collection to a small shop where she’s a regular customer and Schlessinger took some of her necklaces to her office, where a co-worker suggested that she sell them online to fund her children’s charity, The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Foundation, which she founded in 1998.
For her necklaces, Schlessinger uses semiprecious stones, turquoise, coral, pearls and antique Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese beads. The Dr. Laura line, sold at Sun Jeweler in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Primavera in Ojai, Calif., retails between $300 and $1,750.
Most stars are under no illusions about why they got such easy starts, and they are reluctant about using their names in the lines’ monikers to attract business.
“That’s why I call them Jenny’s Jewels and not Jewelry by Jennifer Tilly,” said Tilly. “I want people to buy them because they like them, not because I made them.”
Likewise, Suvari chose to call her line Papillon, after her production company.
“I don’t want people to go, ‘Oh God, she already makes enough money acting, what does she need to sell jewelry for?”‘ she said. “It’s all about the end result when I see somebody wearing something I’ve made. It’s not an extra income kind of thing.”
Both Tilly and Suvari only charge what it costs them to buy the materials. Suvari’s bracelets — made from semiprecious beads, as well as metal and antique glass — range from $45 to $200. Suvari’s “American Pie 2” co-star Lisa Artuto wore Papillon bracelets to the film’s premiere.
Tilly’s necklaces — which have adorned the necks of Diane Keaton and Daryl Hannah — range from $500 to $1,300. The ruby and gold necklaces are the most expensive. The line is sold at Jacqueline Jarrot in Beverly Hills, Tricia’s in Ojai and at Golden Door Spa in Escondido, Calif.
Although the women refrain from trumpeting their names on their jewelry, their star power undoubtedly helps boost their lines’ profile.
Suvari’s agent, for example, landed her a spot on the entertainment television program “Extra.”
“I feel so special and lucky because so many designers never get that kind of opportunity handed to them,” Suvari said of the break.
Helen Hwang, owner of Los Angeles boutique Yellow, where Suvari exclusively sells her bracelets, said her style-savvy clientele is more interested in the line, not the celebrity.
“For my customer’s, it’s not about getting Mena’s autograph or just buying something she made,” she said. “It’s more about the jewelry, and people who love fashion don’t care if someone famous or not made it.”
The celebrities prefer to keep their lines small, with limited distribution and offerings.
“I didn’t want to dig too big of a hole,” said Suvari. “And it’s really important for me to make each bracelet myself. I don’t want it to ever get too big that I can’t do that.”
Tilly said, “I only sell to stores on consignment. I don’t let them place orders, because I can’t make a hundred necklaces in three weeks if I’m working on a project.”
For Suvari and Tilly, fashion comes naturally.
“Mena is always so well put-together when she comes in to shop that I wasn’t surprised when she approached me about selling her line,” said Hwang.
Tilly said her designs are also influenced by whatever fashion trend she happens to be going through at the moment.
“I was into the western thing last year, so I did a bunch of big turquoise pieces, and now I’m really into the bohemian thing, and I think my ruby and gold necklaces reflect that,” she said.
Still, the stars are showing no signs of slowing down. Suvari has also begun to design beaded belts, and Schlessinger now makes matching earrings for each necklace.
As Suvari put it, “I’ll always have time for fashion.”