New York City designer Jennifer Fisher is charmed in more ways than one
Jennifer Fisher designs jewelry that appeals to rockers like Rihanna, girly celebs like Cameron Diaz, teens, new moms, and even hip grandmas. The former fashion stylist has hit the sweet spot by combining classic motifs—monogramming, charms, chain links—with edgy execution to create customized pieces that reflect the personality of the woman who wears them.
“Jewelry is so personal,” says Fisher, one of three nominees for the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America Swarovski accessories award. “Women respond to pieces that make them feel like individuals. Shoes and clothing don’t fit everyone the same way, so why should jewelry?”
Brass Hourglass cuff; $1,085; Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, NYC; 888-255-0640; jenniferfisherjewelry.com
In photos on her Instagram feed (@jfisherjewelry), Fisher is every inch the glamorous fashionista, posting snapshots of herself in Paris during Fashion Week as well as drool-worthy shots of hands and wrists loaded with her gold rings and bracelets. In conversation, however, she couldn’t be more down-to-earth, chatting easily about the medical crisis that inadvertently pushed her into the jewelry industry.
“When I was 30, I was diagnosed with a rare tumor on my chest wall, and my oncologist didn’t recommend me carrying a child,” Fisher begins. “My husband and I hired a surrogate who miscarried twice, then I ended up getting pregnant naturally. When my son, Shane, was born, I wanted a piece of jewelry with his full name on it because having him was so significant after all we’d been through.” Finding nothing that suited her taste, Fisher personalized a gold dog-tag charm she sourced on Manhattan’s 47th Street and hung it from a 30-inch chain made in Germany.
14k gold double flat chain link ring with pavé white diamonds; $7,500
This story has a doubly happy ending: Fisher’s pregnancies with Shane, now 8, and his 20-months-younger sister, Drew, actually caused her tumor to shrink. (“I’m a case study at Emory University,” she says with a laugh.) And her necklace attracted so much attention from clients and friends that she debuted Jennifer Fisher Jewelry in 2005. Shane’s original dog tag is one of 4,000 charm options that include pavé diamond-encrusted letters, zodiac signs, lips, crosses, evil eyes, batwings, swords, and lightning bolts, plus chains of all lengths. Fisher still wears her own necklace every day, loading it with as many as 15 charms at a time.
14k rose gold large skinny cone charm with pavé white diamonds; $17,000
As for bracelets, Fisher was stacking them before it became a “thing,” and her collection includes 14k and 18k gold chain link and geometric cuffs and burnished ID bracelets with pavé diamonds made to order or displaying cheeky messages such as Taken, Boss, Wanderlust, and U Wish. At the moment, the designer is wearing her family on her arm in a trio of cuffs: One says Mrs. in diamonds; a second has her wedding date; and a third displays her personal family equation, J+K = S&D.” Translation: Jennifer plus Kevin (her husband, who works in finance) equals Shane and Drew.
Fisher’s rings are showstoppers, too, with cigar bands and signets that can be customized with diamond letters and stacked with thinner zigzag, bone, and circular arrows. Her earring collection is smaller and leans toward geometric shapes. From the beginning, Fisher designed in yellow and rose gold, although she can’t really say why. “It felt a little more European, more international,” she muses. Motifs such as guns, bullets, handcuffs, and skulls aren’t “a rocker Goth thing; jewelry is a talisman of protection, and my pieces make you feel empowered.”
14k rose gold burnish white diamond equation cuff; $5,500
A native of Santa Barbara, Calif., Fisher credits her grandparents for inspiring her “edgy but classic” sensibility. Her paternal grandfather was a silversmith who made her a monogrammed rodeo belt buckle when she was in high school. Her maternal grandmother wore a ring adorned with a gothic L, a lettering style she now offers. “After school, I would watch my grandfather work, and I kept all of my grandmother’s pieces,” she recalls. “I didn’t realize at the time the influence they would have on my career.”
In building a business heavily skewed toward custom fine jewelry, Fisher adopted what she laughingly calls “a strange business model” of selling mostly online and through her showroom. “Certain people thought I was crazy, but other designers said, ‘You’re a genius’ because I don’t have millions of dollars in jewelry out on consignment.” Her website includes a new “customizable jewelry builder.”
14k gold mini lips charm with pavé white diamonds; $2,400
Fisher rejects the notion that customers shy away from purchasing jewelry online. “Ninety percent of our income is from consumer Web-based sales,” she says. “The best [sales tool] is putting out a good product. We keep a wish list for husbands for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or Hanukkah. There are so many ways to use lettering and motifs to signify rites of passage.”
In 2011, Fisher expanded her collection to include lightweight gold-plated brass at half the price of her 14k items. She doesn’t mind explaining why: “During the recession, magazine editors were asking us to create statement pieces in gold. I didn’t want to spend the money, so I played around with casting larger pieces in brass and polishing them. We soon realized that our customer wants things bright and shiny, so we started plating them in gold.” She agreed to her first store placement when Barneys asked to sell her brass jewelry, which is also available at Net-a-Porter.com.
14k gold diamond dagger earrings; $16,000
Big changes are now on tap at Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, propelled by her selection as one of 10 finalists in the 2012 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. Fisher recently got to display her pieces at a special “Americans in Paris” Fashion Week showroom visited by the queen of Vogue herself, Anna Wintour. “When I was young, I plastered my bedroom walls with Vogue covers, including Anna’s first cover,” says the still-in-awe designer. “And now, to have her look at my jewelry and say that my aesthetic has evolved and matured? That kind of feedback is incredible.” Also incredible: seeing Cate Blanchett lounging in a sea of gold jewelry on a double-page Vogue spread, with Fisher’s gorgeous chain link ring on her finger.
14k gold burnish white diamond Love ID bracelet; $2,800
Fisher makes no secret of the importance of editorial coverage, celebrity placement (through stylists such as Estee Stanley and Rachel Zoe), and social media. “I was a business marketing major. I am going to make damn sure we’re being seen and noticed,” she says. “I time those Instagrams! At the end of the day, no one is going to promote this business better than I can.” Her company’s slow and steady growth helped prepare her for the onslaught of attention that came with the CFDA recognition. “Some designers get famous but don’t know how to run a business,” she adds. “We built our infrastructure, and now we’re starting to see the benefits.”
14k gold sharred earrings with pavé white diamonds; $2,900
After almost a decade in business, this summer Fisher is finally opening a flagship store on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street in New York City. The focus, as always, is on custom orders, “but we’re carrying many more single initial charms and burnished bracelets with different words—more options for people to walk out with something.” She’ll also debut a 12-piece Jennifer Fisher for J. Crew collection, featuring her famous dog tags and other charms in 10k gold.
All of Fisher’s jewelry is made in America “and will continue to be that way,” she says proudly. “I see a lot of designers who compromise quality by going overseas to hit a price point, and I refuse to do that. Everything is made in New York City and plated in Rhode Island.”
Brass XL flat chain link cuff; $1,085
Going forward, Fisher sees her designs becoming “more minimalistic, feminine, and yet modern. My style has changed, my clothing has changed, and I want to give my jewelry a subtle softness.” But her primary goal is to see her work on the street every day, whether it’s her 7-year-old daughter wearing a tiny charm necklace or a 70-year-old in a simple choker. “I want to make pieces that girls keep in that dish by their bed and never put away. Not the ones they wear once and go, ‘This is too trendy. I have to wait six months to wear it again.’ I want to be on daily rotation.”