Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mais Oui Joaillerie de France

“Crazy Frog” ring, rendered in high gold, diamonds and emeralds, from the Haute Joaillerie grouping.

Leave it up to the French to do things in the most precise, the most beautiful, and of course, in always the most utterly creative ways. Case In Point: The recent Jewels of France Exhibition and Trunk Show - in partnership with UBIFrance and The French Trade Commission - held for the second year in New York City, at the toney Fifth Avenue Gallery of Aaron Faber - featuring au courant collections from thirteen of France's most acclaimed jewelry houses and their designers. The week long consumer event, which debuted with a lavish press breakfast and evening reception, including lots of fashion and social types, served up an abundant mix of jewelry and watches by many of the Creative Directors and designers beyond the labels.

So, why was this particular Gallery specifically chosen two years in a row for the event, you ask? The answer, according to Camille Wiart, Director of Business Development, Fashion and Jewelry, The French Trade Commission, "we are happy to be working again with the Aaron Faber Gallery, whose reputation and commitment to showcasing the best in contemporary studio jewelry, class and vintage jewelry, made it the obvious venue."

Thinking about French haute couture fashion, especially jewelry and accessories, might bring to mind the big gun brands, the ilk of an LVMH, but in the case of Jewels of France, the focus is on the smaller, less recognized and maybe not so well-oiled or hugely hyped, French jewelry houses, whose quality and craftsmanship is guaranteed by the French Union BJOP, as being designed, manufactured, mounted, set and polished in France, following strict, ethical, legal and environmental standards.

While nearly all of the collections on show at the event were absolutely fabulous, there were several groupings that really stood on their own, in order to make themselves memorable in the eyes and minds of more than just a few viewers.

For starters, Bijoux Commelin ... In the 19th Century, under Emperor Napoleon 3rd, Theodore Commelin set up a workshop in the heart of Paris. Today, Phillippe Commelin's grand-niece, Isabelle Latour, has sustained the legacy of her grand uncle, employing in the workshop, the last few master enamel craftsmen to produce the miniature jewels for which Commelin has since become well-known. In 2006, Commelin became one of the first French companies to be awarded the "Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant" award. In 2008, Commelin received the French jewelry label, Joaillerie de France.

La Parisienne Charms/Monuments of Paris Collection. Charms in 18 carat yellow gold, featuring Tour Eiffel, stained glass window Eiffel Tower and Morris column in translucent enamel, and basset hound.

Garnazelle (meaning “little frog” - See photo at top of article) was founded in 2001 by Celine Rivet as an alternative to the more classic and traditional jewelry houses of Place Vendome. Overall, this eclectic, off-the-beat collection of sensual rings, bracelets and earrings, can easily be translated as wild and spicy, with a touch of mystique and spookiness. Belonging to the world of fairies, the “little frog” becomes the symbol for the creative repertoire and the brand logo, where an extravagant and romantic world mixes animal life and plants, all strangely connected with human life. Nearly every piece across this line portrays a decidedly fetish quality, rendered as talismans of many colors, shaped to convey opulence, attraction, lavishness, and rapture.

Exclusive pieces from the whimsical “Jardin D’Ete” collection, showcasing multi-colored sapphires, tsavorites, fire opals, et al.

La Maison Marchak makes use of a diverse range of artisan techniques, such as pate de verre or gold plating, which uses tiny, articulated chains to give jewelry a feather-soft look and feel, to create signature prêt-a-porter and numbered, haute couture pieces. Founded in 1878 by the “Cartier of Kiev”, Joseph Marchak became one of the Russian Empire’s most recognized jewelers, supplier to the Tsar, and the undisputed rival fo Peter Fabergé. Now in its 131st year, Joseph Marchak’s grandson, Daniel Marchak, working alongside the company’s longtime, senior designer, Bertrand Degommier, continues the revival and growth of the French luxe jewelry house.

Pieces from the Fleur, Taj Mahal and Agra collections, featuring varied hues of French New-Bakelite, 18K gold, sterling silver and gold link chains, multi-sized carats and cuts of blue topaz, cabochon opals, pink and green tourmalines, brilliant-cut rubies, et al.

Sophie Reyre has been a journalist, a novelist, and most recently, a fine jeweler. Her long time fascination with the richness, allure and history of India, and her passion for the work of 20th Century innovators, the ilk of Rene Boivin, Count Fulco de Verdura and Seaman Schepps, coupled with her studies of Chinese Calligraphy and the two years which she spent at the Institut de Gemmologie in Paris, have all contributed to Reyre’s special approach to jewelry design and manufacture. Since launching her business and label in 2007, her collections continue to mix tradition and modernity, translating artifacts from India’s 17th Century Mughal rulers, into modern, precious jewels, embracing jade, turquoise, coral, onyx and other fine stones, accentuated with high gold motifs.

Composition of single, double and triple-linked rings and pendant, in combinations of white, yellow or pink 18K gold, white and black diamonds and pink sapphires

Veronique Bailly lives in Hossegor, France, a small, out of the way village, located near the sea. Bailly, who loves nature and sports (she plays golf, surfs, snowboards, and practicates Pilates), previously worked for big sports brands, such as Billabong, Rusty, Rip Curl and Nike. Inspired to take her love of and background in sports, and mix all of that into a different kind of jewelry line, she recently did just that, and began her own company. Bringing the playful spirit of the line into play for this young designer, means creating unisex jewelry with a young, hip, rock-and-roll attitude. which is meant not only to be played with, but can be easily transformed, for example, from a luxurious stack of rings into a swingy, sexy pendant.

-Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Art of the Collection: The Design Spirit of American Fashion Artist Audrey Schilt

On View at The Fashion Institute of Technology
Through Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Copyright © Audrey Schilt

Opening Reception Thursday, December 10, 6-8pm

(Press Release) The illustrations of Audrey Schilt, a Fashion Institute of Technology alumna who worked closely with Ralph Lauren for 22 years, are on display at FIT in an exhibition titled Art of the Collection: The Design Spirit of American Fashion Artist Audrey Schilt through January 27, 2010. Included are sketches of the pink silk Ralph Lauren gown worn by Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1998 Academy Awards, on which Schilt collaborated, as well as sketches of the white silk and organza Lauren gown worn by Emmy Rossum to the 2005 Golden Globes, which Schilt designed. These are among the approximately 125 works created by Schilt between 1986 and 2007 on view, including original concept drawings, advertising images, design silhouettes, and works in watercolor and chalk on paper.

After graduating from FIT with a degree in Illustration, Audrey Schilt started her career as a sketch artist for Halston, where she drew several of the hats for which Jacqueline Kennedy became known, including the pillbox, and Halston’s first women’s collection. From there, Schilt moved to freelance work, creating fashion ads for such clients as Bergdorf Goodman and Vanity Fair, many of which appeared in The New York Times. Schilt also returned to school to learn patternmaking and draping. She then worked as a designer for Jacque Bellini for five years, as well as on a children’s line of clothing. Hired as a concept artist at Ralph Lauren in 1986, Schilt rose during her 22-year tenure to vice president and creative director of collection for the company. Now retired from her position at Ralph Lauren, Schilt has turned her attention to other artistic endeavors and continues to work as a conceptual design consultant.

Free and open to the public, Art of the Collection: The Design Spirit of American Fashion Artist Audrey Schilt is on view through January 27, 2010 in FIT’s Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center (D Building), 27th Street at Seventh Avenue.

This exhibition is co-sponsored by the college’s School of Art and Design, the Gladys Marcus Library at FIT, and the library’s Print/FX Graphics Lab. For press information, contact Cheri Fein, 212.217.4700 or

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

And Now, For Something Completely Different

As shown, from left to right: Tresse Wood Collection: Large Criss Cross Bangle (30MM) with Pyramid Cut Crystals; Arabesque Collection:Small Bangle (25 MM) with Arabesque and Faceted Crystals; Arabesque Wood Collection: Large Bangle (30 MM) with Arabesque and Faceted Crystals; Tresse Wood Collection: Large Criss Cross Bangle (30 MM) with Pyramid Cut Crystals; Arabesque Wood Collection: Small Bangle (17 MM) with Arabesque and Faceted Crystals.

For many jaded editors, jewelry designers may come go and go. When a unique kind of jewelry designer pops up out of the toaster, it is only fitting to sit up, pay attention and take note. In this case, the name of French-born, Dominique Aurientis comes to mind.

Aurientis and her renderings stand out for good reason. First off, she truly knows and understands the art, fashion and craftsmanship of jewelry and haute couture. That is because she has a degree in French Literature from the University of Paris, La Sorbonne, and she trained as an accessory and jewelry designer with Christian Dior, Givenchy, Lanvin, Celine and Nina Ricci, This in addition to working as Eyewear Designer and Studio Director at Salvatore Ferragamo and Emilio Pucci.

Arabesque Wood Collection: Multi Disc Wood Necklace with Arabesque and Faceted Crystals.

Today, Aurientis’ hand-made, and mostly well-priced ($150-$3,000) pieces sell under her own label – Dominique Aurientis Paris - at posh national stores, the ilk of Neiman Marcus, Ultimo, and Tootsie’s. Working around the theory that bigger is better and that biggest and more bold is always best, the designer’s new grouping takes inspiration from her love affair with Bali (she moved there in 1997, and opened a jewelry and home store), along with her interest in the culture, art and architecture of Florence, where she lived in 2000.

Modern Barock Collection: Double Barock Multi Chain Long (36") Necklace with Faceted Crystals.

The collection makes it point, largely due to Aurientis’ deliberate coupling of the delicate flora and fauna of Bali, along with the elegant toughness of Florence’s hard-edge, cosmopolitan flair and finesse. Thus, it makes sense that there is a strong feeling for largesse, rotund, bracelets, intricate, multi-chain necklaces, highly embellished brooches, rings, earrings and the like. Equally interesting as a tie in to the design repertoire are the far-off-sounding names of the groupings which individual pieces fall under; names such as “Arabesque”, “Dimple Ami”, Modern Barock”, “Old Teak” and Tresse Wood”; each of which instantly bring to mind thoughts of old world objects d’art, all mixed up with avant-garde, contempo styling.

In the end, all things across the collection come together neatly, most likely because of Aurientis’ mixtures of raw and precious materials; i.e., lots of huge, cut stones, pieces of glass and bronze; precious woods, resins and studs.

Not surprisingly, each piece takes on its own character and voice, no matter if worn alone, or layered together; one over the other, as a stack of stylish multiples, which for many jewelry aficionados, could look quite new, very moderne, and totally cool. Considering the tough economic climate in which we all currently live, that thought really seems to make a make a lot of sense, both from a design and retail standpoint, n’est ce pas.

-- Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love those Big, Buxom Gems

Tournaire’s “Palis Roman” ring handmade in 18karat yellow and rose gold

June nearly always heralds the time for the JIC Jewelry Information Center’s (JIC) Annual Editor’s Luncheon, and this time around, albeit on a drab, dark day that seemed more like a tropical monsoon than a usual New York City rainstorm, some 60 trade and consumer jewelry and fashion editors, reporters, stylists, photographers, and the like, flocked to Vermilion Restaurant (a sort of, kind of cool, very organic eatery, tucked away on the East Side somewhere) for a highly-anticipated afternoon of fun things to enjoy; i.e., cocktails, fine dining, designer jewelry collection previews, raffles and goody bags.

The draw here was obviously not only the de rigeuer luncheon (this time, though, not as delectable as in past events of this kind), but also the chance to get a first peek at some pretty fabulous jewels and related accessories for 2009 from selected “names”, such as Anna Ruth Henriques, Carla Amorin, Denise Solay Eyewear, Diana Vincent, Etienne Peret,Gumuchian, Michael B, Roberto Coin, Sevan, and so on and so forth.

Naturally, the jewels themselves (and the key trends which inspired the design repertoire here) were the stars of this show. Worked around looking good with the new clothing collections on tap, as well as maybe keeping a mindful eye on the economic situation and the fact that many, if not most jewelry shoppers, are all watching their pennies, there seemed to be a very strong point made for beautiful, big, bold, day and night-time jewels.

Robin Koffler’s 18karat yellow gold necklace with aquamarines and rainbow moonstone gemstones

Let us start here with a huge necklace story, which totally harkens back to the good old days – l980’s anyone - when excess and a larger-than-life sensibility were so in. For these jewels, it is all about variety for the ladies and gentleman who go from classical and toned down to way-out, crazy and very, very wild. Think about lots of yellow-gold, chain-link, V-shapes, tough, rock-and-roller spikes and horns, multi-strands and tassels. While some of the necklaces are plain (and this look is OK for a more conservative statement), the best looks in necklaces appear to be embellished with never shy, multi-colored gemstones, charms, and blackened, sterling silver.

Next up are oversized, sexy, swinging hoops, which while all the rage in the l980’s are back now; only this time, more of the pieces are diamond dotted, which makes this trend fresher and timeless in the modern age. OK, now where would all the jewelry lovers out there be without one (or more) loud, brazen, “Epic” rings, in all-metal or layered with several kinds of gemstones, are totally fantastical and seem to be more than just a bit covetable, according to the reactions of several luncheon guests, one of whom noted that it seemed cool to wear one or several of these rings on just one or both hands.

Zapphire by Kanupriya Khurana’s teakwood cuff with black onyx at the center and deep pink quartz surrounding; edged in sterling silver with rhodium finish and a glossy polish.

Last but not least are cuff bracelets, which although maybe viewed as a staple across the wardrobe of many stylistas, are currently as big, better and as layer-ready as anyone would want, mind you, now served up in a range of different techniques and finishes, such as openwork, filigree, hand-hammered or silky and polished. For many of the event’s guests (and this editor included), the sensual, curvaceous wood bracelets, many mixed in with enamel and colored gemstones, totally took the prize.

Equally nice, in addition to everything else that this event showcased, was the fact that once again, World Gold Council was on hand as a co-sponsor; ditto for a new co-sponsor, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, which provided gratis jewelry cleaning for guests who toted along a piece of personal jewelry that needed some extra zing and bling. Making the pot sweeter was a nice gift bag for all guests (not just the luck raffle winners, among whom this editor was not one of those fortunate one’s) to take home. While not filled to the brim with the usual amount of goodies found at previous JIC events, there were, aside from the several press kits, two, cute designer bracelets nestled inside a colorful, l960’s-inspired, flower-power tote. Right on.

– Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

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