NOTEBOOK FROM PARIS
DESIGNERS HERE ARE EXPANDING EVER DEEPER INTO ACCESSORIES, A CATEGORY THAT SHOWS NO SIGNS OF SLOWDOWN. HERE, A ROUNDUP OF THE LATEST HAPPENINGS.
Byline: Ruth Benoit / Sarah Raper / Katherine Weisman
Feng Shui Mania
It’s been less than two years since Pamela Johananoff launched her jewelry collection, and along the way she’s gotten just the sort of boosts an up-and-coming designer needs in a media-thirsty world. DKNY just bought 52 pieces of her feng shui collection for its Madison Avenue superstore, and socialite and fund-raiser Nancy Davis invited celebrity friends for lunch and shopping at her home in Los Angeles in December. Rapper Coolio got the ball rolling last year when he bid on a feng shui piece at a charity auction.
“We’re going to do a switch for Coolio,” said Johananoff, as she laid out chains and bracelets on the dining room table in her 16th arrondissement apartment in Paris.
“I’m doing a substitute piece for him right now that’s a little more adapted to a rapper — it’s got the extra-long rapper-length chain with a super-strong clasp,” she said, pointing out a sterling silver bagua pendant with a blue topaz stone set in the center.
Johananoff, who grew up in Monroe, La., trained as a gemologist and studied jewelry manufacturing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1993 and 1994. She began her career by doing reproduction pieces for friends, and in November 1998 decided to create her own line. She based her first collection on feng shui and some bronze coins she’d picked up for $1 in Macao.
“I’m half Jewish and half Christian, and for me feng shui is a way to inner peace,” she said.
The line is also sold through the Sundance Catalog and buyers from Colette and Maxfield have called for appointments. The silver pieces wholesale from $35 for key chains, yin-and-yang cufflinks and a cord necklace to $250 for a pendant in bronze with amethyst, citrine or topaz inset. More expensive pieces wholesale from $375 for a small gold bagua pendant with two semiprecious stones to $6,000 for a white gold necklace with brown diamonds.
Going for the Gold
Hermes is more than luxe handbags, silk scarves and pricey ready-to-wear. Jewelry has been a part of the French group’s history since 1927, and last year it was one of the fastest-growing product categories.
Over the years, the company has developed a following for its pieces in sterling silver, but thanks to demand from customers, the company is introducing more gold — yellow and white — and more precious and semiprecious stones in the jewelry for fall.
“Today we are trying to answer clients’ wishes to find more precious Hermes jewelry while keeping pieces simple and easy to wear,” said chairman Jean-Louis Dumas.
The evolution of the collection for fall is subtle, but incorporates more contemporary designs. This is seen in the new Mousquetaire necklace and bracelet made from large rectangular links in either yellow gold or silver, as well as in new, graphic enamel bracelets with solid-color enamel accented by a prominent silver “H” detail.
The jewelry department is headed by artistic director Sylvie du Laurent and the goods are made by local Parisian jewelers. The pieces are sold exclusively in Hermes shops worldwide. The collection comprises roughly 150 pieces, and archived pieces can be made by special order. The average retail prices are $515 for rings, $735 for bracelets and $1,180 for necklaces. Dollar prices are converted from the franc at current exchange.
Hot Hair Baubles
Fashion insiders know that not all of the tony accessories that come down the runways actually make it into the stores. But one hot item from Louis Vuitton has turned up in the retail arena.
The summer must-haves are hair elastics with logoed cubes at each end designed by Marc Jacobs for Vuitton. They are available in either red and brown or orange and beige and retail for $39 for a single or $78 for a pair — perfect for pigtails. There’s already a two-month waiting list in Paris, but the chic ponytail holders are just arriving in U.S. Louis Vuitton stores.
“Cocktail Dressing” — that’s how Paris shoe designer Bruno Frisoni dubbed his first collection launched for spring 2000. All the shoes were named after cocktails, like the “Rusty Nail,” a high vamp heel with black elastic bands across the toe, imitating lingerie straps.
For fall, Frisoni’s theme is “My Man — Mon Homme,” taking inspiration from the troubled yet elegant looks found in Bunuel and Fassbinder films. Other inspirations are rock ‘n’ roll, David Bowie and “Doc Martens with a twist, like chic Doc Martens,” he said. One of the line’s strongest spring looks, denim pumps made from the sleeves of vintage jean jackets, will be continued for fall.
Until the launch of his own footwear, Frisoni had spent the last five years designing shoes and handbags for designers including Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent. He said his interest in design was sparked by watching his mother make clothes while he was growing up in Burgundy. His shoes are available at Neiman Marcus, and Maria Luisa and Kabuki, both located in Paris. Wholesale prices range from $172 for a denim shoe to $224 for a satin number.
Eyewear design is constantly challenged by new materials and technology, not to mention fashion. One European designer, however, has a different perspective.
“I’m not following any fashion trends. My designs are avant-garde,” said Sigmar Bergauer, a 31 year-old architect who first became acquainted with the industry by designing optical stores.
He founded the Swiss eyewear company Beryll in 1994. The name is derived from the element beryllium, which was used in early eyewear.
His own line of eyewear features architectural shapes which have been seen on celebrities including Brian Ferry and Steven Tyler. Nickel-free metal and plastic acetate frames that are hand-polished are the keys to the line’s success, according to Bergauer.
“There are no ornamental additions to my glasses. The basic shape is what’s important,” he said.
Beryll eyewear is available at Barneys and Kashiyama in New York. Retail prices range between about $120 and $220.