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NEW YORK — The bauble-loving fashion designer, Miuccia Prada, and the Prada-loving jeweler, Fred Leighton, have struck up a rather unlikely partnership, yet one that behooves them both. Prada has handpicked an assortment of estate and vintage jewelry from Leighton’s vast collection and is showcasing the elaborate pieces in her SoHo flagship. The coupling serves to take high fashion and fine jewelry to another level entirely.

This story first appeared in the November 17, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The idea was to show Prada’s way of merchandising, not a jeweler’s way,” said Leighton. “So they mixed the clothing and the jewelry on the mannequins in order to show the way that Mrs. Prada would actually wear the jewelry. I think customers will see the jewelry and the clothes in an entirely different way.”

According to Leighton, Prada has a penchant for romantic, Old World pieces and for the exhibition selected 19th-century diamond chokers, tiaras and bracelets along with Art Deco pieces and vintage Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron jewels. Yet she’s had the jewelry styled in an unconventional manner. Grand, apparently dated treasures such as tiaras have been made immediately modern by flipping them upside down. Case in point: the 19th-century diamond tiara with spiral designs Kate Hudson wore as a headband to the Metropolitan’s Costume Institute gala last April. The mannequins are dressed in both vintage and this season’s Prada clothes, further offsetting the antique jewels.

Prada is using estate jewelry where most would use costume, yet she’s also taken to mixing high-end jewelry with traditional day looks — offering up the suggestion to women to wear real jewels every day.

“We feel important new ideas can be displayed in an experimental way in this store,” said Constance Darrow, chief executive officer for Prada USA. “We have presented Fred Leighton’s beautiful period pieces on vintage and current collections to show how estate jewelry can be timeless and modern.”

At the cocktail reception last week to launch the Fred Leighton collection at Prada, fashion and jewelry connoisseurs alike gathered to see what the collaboration wrought. “Everyone is dressed so well,” said “Sex and the City’s” Kristin Davis, scanning the crowd of Prada-clad women and men. “Fred Leighton is always so good to us. I can’t get enough of his jewelry, and I often create my outfits around it.”

Davis accessorized her tie-dyed Prada dress with a pair of bold vintage Van Cleef & Arpels emerald earrings, borrowed from Leighton for the occasion. “I feel like Elizabeth Taylor,” she quipped, stroking the dangling earrings.

Other revelers included actress Elizabeth Banks, Sam Rockwell and model Eugenia Silva. Silva, however, was devoid of jewels, having left her Leighton chandelier earrings at home because she was afraid she’d lose them at a bar later.

As the party wound down, the seemingly tireless Leighton was still working the crowd. He noted that while he always loved the idea of this collaboration, initially, he had some doubt. “I asked Mrs. Prada, ‘Is this going to sell?’” he said. “And she said, ‘I have clients that fly in on their private planes and spend $50,000 to $100,000 and then leave. They’ll spend.’”

“What I love about Prada is that they’re not chintzy,” laughed Leighton. “I’m the chintz.”

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