Team spirit is pervading New York Fashion Week, as fashion and jewelry designers band together to create joint presentations—and double the buzz. Although jewelry has had a strong runway presence for the last few seasons, we can’t remember a time when these collaborations have received so much fanfare, giving jewelry labels, especially, a fresh opportunity to garner attention outside the hectic trade show circuit.
“Something happened recently to the importance of jewelry in the marketplace, and people are really accepting this natural connection of accessories and fashion,” says Philip Crangi, who helped launch the trend with a series of statement pieces for Vera Wang’s Spring and Fall 2008 shows. This season, he created jewelry for Shipley & Halmos and Jason Wu, explaining: “We don’t want to be tied to one fashion designer—we’d rather stay non-partisan and be the go-to person.”
Like Crangi, many designers worked closely with their co-conspirators to create pieces specifically for the fashion collection at hand. “Thakoon gave me an image of Sasha Pivovarova behind a broken disco ball, and after a few meetings and fittings with the clothes, we ended up with a modern Constructivist look reminiscent of Tatlin’s tower,” explains Fenton’s Dana Lorenz, who created pieces from vintage German crystals, blackened brass and mirrors for the designer’s show. While the jewelry was designed to create a “cool juxtaposition to the light and airy chiffon pieces,” Lorenz notes, “Thakoon thought it was important to stay true to the Fenton style.”
Bing Bang’s Anna Sheffield also recognized this importance, creating a riff on her existing spring collection when concocting a sharp range in metallic jewel tones for Bensoni. “I wanted to make pieces similar to Bing Bang’s a/w ’09 collection but with even more edge. There’s very little daintiness in the jewelry, which complements the softer silhouettes in the Bensoni collection.”
For Brian Reyes, Roxanne Assoulin echoed this narrative continuity in her creations: “Brian’s inspiration for fall is this sexy strong kind of ’60s Italian woman. She’s laughed, she’s cried, she’s been through the drama and the fire, but she is strong as stone and she always makes it through to the other side. With reference to the stone, Brian focused on marble and I on the veins and the striations of the marble which, like the bark of a tree, gives each slab its very own identity and life. So the jewels are manageable, edgy, and creative.”
Other designers used their collaborations for more experimental means: Subversive’s Justin Giunta developed bejeweled chains that will be worked into garments from J. Mendel’s fall collection, while Abraxas Rex’s Paris Kain and Alexander Wang combined their unconventional sensibilities to, as he told WWD: “Push the meaning of embellishment and how people interpret jewelry.”
While these designers created work especially for the runway, others, such as Ken Leung and Dana Chin of BYLU, used the opportunity to showcase their existing Fall 2009 collections. Geren Ford’s presentation featured their B-Side fashion jewelry line, inspired by hip-hop and graffiti culture this season. “It just happened to have worked out,” explains Leung, who has collaborated with the brand for the last three seasons. “It’s always a last minute thing.”
Dannijo co-designer Danielle Snyder credits a serendipitous synergy with the meeting of her a/w ’09 collection and that of Trovata. “We knew that we wanted to be involved in New York Fashion Week this year, and we focused on finding a partnership that really resonated with us creatively,” says the designer, whose work appeared in the tents for the first time. “The Trovata concept of East Coast cool meets West Coast preppy really connected with us, as our designs have a similar undertone of polarity,” she adds, pointing out that the collection’s entangled necklaces, layering cuffs and architectural rings “really enhance Trovata’s clothing without competing with it (and vice versa).”
In part, it’s this idea of enhancement that’s leading jewelry designers away from cocktail parties and trade show booths, and towards the glow of the runway. “Showing jewelry on models, in motion and under bright lights, gives it life,” says Sheffield, who has collaborated with Marc Jacobs, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Lutz & Patmos and Edun in the past.
Parisian designer Hervé Van Der Straeten agrees. By showcasing his sculptural hammered brass-and-gold pieces on the Ruffian runway, the designer’s work is more overtly linked with the season’s mood. “A lot of department stores are buying my jewelry, so I felt it would be nice to show them with fashion in the US,” he says.
But, even more importantly, collaborations primarily help create that much-needed buzz in a suffering market. “Collaborations create excitement in the press, which gets the customer excited,” says Lorenz.
“It’s a really important time for brands to support one another and I think appropriate collaborations are a win-win for everyone,” adds Snyder. “Over the last few years, the accessory has really taken on a life of its own. Brands recognize the importance of enhancing their runway looks with accessories as it really helps to convey a story and a lifestyle, particularly with the current economic climate, where people are updating their looks with accessories as opposed to buying a whole new wardrobe.
“I definitely think that this is just the beginning, and I do think we’re going to see a continued, if not stronger, presence of the accessory in the coming years,” she continues. “One day, we hope to have a runway show of our own where the focus is really on the jewelry.” For this season, at least, the focus is already there.