Fall 2012 Fashion Week: We’re All Choked Up!

Scan the recent New York collections and one overarching motif comes into focus: There’s a new erogenous zone for jewelers—a woman’s neckline.

Designer after designer sent out models accessorized with little more than a necklace. Behnaz Sarafpour had Venetian glass pendants; Anna Sui, chunky chain-link beauties. Marcia Patmos of M.Patmos went the earthy route with necklaces made of reclaimed wood from a Brooklyn warehouse. Timo Weiland took things to edgier terrain with a collection inspired by The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara. His models wore slim, industrial collars and chokers that were as provocative as they were sexy.

Derek Lam went similarly urban, albeit in a more restrained way, in his collaboration with sculptor-cum-­jeweler Thomas Bliven. The latter, who previously worked with artist Jeff Koons, came up with the riff on ID bracelets, which became chic chain-link chokers. “Derek wanted something that sat high on the neck,” says Bliven. “The collection was inspired by books, so he wanted something a little studious.”

In fact, collar-style necklaces proved the big silhouette of the season. But most designers embraced its more ladylike appeal—which happens to dovetail nicely with the runway’s trend revolving around womanly curves (peplums are back!) and ’50s couture shapes. Leading the pack here: Thom Browne, Peter Som, Tory Burch, and Chris Benz, who gave his girls a heavy dose of retro glamour (and multi-strand pearls) that still felt fresh.

Oscar de la Renta went all-out lady—but would you expect anything less? This time, the collection was also an unabashed celebration of—jewelers, take note—gobstopper baubles and bijoux. So out came dresses with oversized jewel prints, bouffant coiffures with gem-encrusted headbands, and of course, posh brooches, dangling earrings, and decadent necklaces galore.

“There are so many cultural influences,” says Jewelers of America’s Amanda Gizzi of the ladylike push. “You have shows like Pan Am, movies like W.E. about Wallis Simpson, the Christie’s auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s ­jewelry. They all bring back this inner desire women have to be put-together and feminine.”

Not that fall will be a sea of necklaces on the sales floor. There were plenty of other design cues for jewelers to ­reinterpret. The gestures toward Sur­realism could signal more whimsical pieces à la Prabal Gurung and his buffalo skull–inspired gems.

There’s the dark and moody color palette, too. “Jewelers can go matchy-matchy with stones of that color,” says Gizzi, “or to the other side of the color wheel with a contrasting tone.”

There’s one more trend Gizzi says will provide the perfect counterpoint to the lady look: military. But don’t think bedazzled dog tags. “The idea is structure,” she explains. “Body armor, plates, big bold cuffs, and talismans. It’s about a sense of protection.”