ACCESSORIES THAT START OUT AS STARS ON THE RUNWAY CAN STRUT THEIR STUFF AT THE CASH REGISTER, TOO.
Byline: Kristen Carr
What’s the fastest route to wide renown if you’re a jewelry designer? You could supply the rock for a royal wedding, say, or a new setting for the Hope Diamond. But if the goal is for your baubles to be caught in the glitter of a thousand flashbulbs, designing costume jewelry for a runway show is as good a way as any.
That doesn’t mean these pieces are for models only. Accessories designers who remake their runway collections — perhaps with sturdier materials or with smaller proportions — find the catwalk can serve as a handy showroom.
Ask Colette Malouf, whose hair ornaments and jewelry appeared in Michael Kors’s show at the spring 2001 collections in Bryant Park. “There’s international exposure on the runway, if you’re working with a designer that gets so much attention. Everyone looks at every detail of what he does.”
A link with a designer’s name alone can help sell a collection, said Roxanne Assoulin, who’s done runway pieces for Marc Jacobs for eight years. “When Marc puts something out there, people will buy it — because it’s great stuff, but also because it’s Marc Jacobs.”
Another source of positive energy: the chemistry that can brew between two like-minded designers. “Some of my designs were in sync with Michael’s,” said Malouf. “He’d seen a piece of mine — I have a lot of neutrals with accents of soft, dusty blues — and it sparked his interest because it was similar to what he was doing.”
“Certain people can point me in a direction, and I can solve what they came for,” said Michelle Savitt of M&J Savitt, a team that’s designed multiple costume jewelry collections for Michael Kors, most recently for his fall 2000 shows. “[His team] would come in with swatches and we’d hook in on ideas — pearls, glam, 1940s, Hollywood. I’m old enough that I didn’t even need to go to our archives to research that.”
“Anyone can design jewelry; it’s being on the same wavelength and knowing what someone wants,” explained Assoulin. “With Marc, it’s the easiest thing — and the most fun.” Accessories designer Karen Erickson of Erickson Beamon is a former clothes designer who launched her business in 1983 specifically to fill the then-industry-wide dearth of runway jewelry.
She said her seven-year partnership with Anna Sui was made fruitful by Sui’s unusually healthy appreciation for accessories. “Because she was a stylist, Anna understands the big picture. She’s not just limited to the [clothes] elements.”
No matter what a designer’s individual approach to style might be, when it comes to runway jewelry, they want it three ways: big, bigger and biggest.
“The things for the runway have to be seen a block away. So we also do a smaller-scale, more wearable version of this collection,” said Savitt.
It’s a good thing they do — one of the more striking pieces M&J Savitt made for Michael Kors’s fall 2000 collection — a quadruple strand of oversized pearls — is a chiropractor’s nightmare, weighing in at about 3 1/2 pounds.
On the other hand, as Savitt noted, “Some people do love the oversize look; they don’t care that it’s that heavy. It’s why they work out — so they can wear the necklaces.” The grouping, which is composed of gumball-sized pearls strung in grand, looping strands and set in earrings and rings, as well as huge, emerald-cut cubic zirconias in straight-line belts and necklaces, was one of M&J Savitt’s strongest-selling runway collections ever. In the retail arena, it’s sold at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, among others.
Malouf, who just launched her first jewelry line last year, won’t downsize for the commercial side. Her pieces may be big — her cast-resin turquoise disc pendant is almost the size of a compact disc — but not too big, she said.
“No one will feel ridiculous wearing them, they don’t have that imposing quality.” A turquoise-resin cuff with a similar oversize, sculptural feel also appeared on the runway, as did Malouf’s signature bridle-leather ponytail holders.
The pieces will be carried in her eponymous showroom as well as by the Metropolitan Design Group. The bracelet and pendant will wholesale at around $30; the hair ornaments, at $15 to $18.
Erickson’s jewelry for Anna Sui, much of it necklaces and earrings made from strand upon strand of shells, some dyed pink and purple, and beads of every conceivable size. Erickson’s favorite pieces, though, were inspired by the punk-rock era — “an era Anna and I both participated in,” said Erickson — such as a leather diamante belt with silver chain and rhinestones.
“We take pieces straight from the runway and commercialize them,” said Erickson. “We started selling them at Coterie the Monday after the shows [in New York], and it was very well received.” The pieces will wholesale from $200 to $1,000 and will be carried in Sui’s showroom, for starters.
Roxanne Assoulin’s pieces for Marc Jacobs’s spring 2001 show contributed to its Eighties-inspired flash and dash. The collection, which she described as “Cyndi Lauper meets Zandra Rhodes,” includes four-inch brooches in shell-like shapes, often worn pinned to the model’s belts. They are heavily spangled with faceted beads and flatback stones and come in candy-hued aquas, reds and purples.
Assoulin plans on retaining the size of the runway pieces she’ll produce for Jacobs’s boutiques and the department stores she hopes will pick up the line. The brooches will likely retail for between $100 and $250 for the large size and between $60 and $150 for a two-inch version. “The pieces need presence when they’re on display in the store,” she said. “And in costume jewelry, the trend is bigger and bolder. If you make ’em small, it’s like, ‘Next!”‘