There’s Just One Word to Describe This Trend: Plastics

There’s just one word for one of the big jewelry trends this season, and please indulge me as I quote from the wonderful 1967 film “The Graduate”:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Usually it’s rare to find plastic jewelry on the fashion world’s radar screen except as an incidental blip, but this season, largely as a continuation of the interest in stacked bangle bracelets, the vibrant hues dominating fashion, and no doubt also in part due to the financial pressures on consumers who love their jewelry, plastics are huge — sometimes literally.


The March 2012 issue of Town & Country quotes Mr. McGuire’s recommendation to Benjamin Braddock and provides a brief history of “Plastic Fantastic”: “Decades before Mr. McGuire staked such high hopes on synthetic resin, there was a true believer named Leo Baekeland working out of a lab in Yonkers. The early plastic he developed around 1907, named Bakelite, proved popular for industrial use in brake pads and wire insulation because it was resistant to heat and electricity. But it was its lightness that caught jewelers’ eyes and made it possible to stack bangles by the dozen on both arms. Bakelite was back in multiples in spring runways at Carolina Herrera and Duro Olowu, making Mr. McGuire a kind of cinematic Oracle at Delphi, and Mr. Baekeland the season’s most unexpected design hero.” The photo caption reads: “Vintage green Bakelite bracelets and a yellow-striped Bakelite bangle from This ‘n’ That . . . and a bordeaux gem-studded Bakelite cuff from Mark Davis . . . are piled on with many, many others.”


The April 2012 issue of Lucky looks to Bakelite as inspiration for its report on the accessory trend it calls “Bold as Bakelite: Its heyday was 70 years ago, but the pretty plastic’s vibrant spirit lives on in these retro-inspired pieces.” The jewelry designs pictured  incorporate not Bakelite but other currently utilized plastics: a necklace incorporating black ribbon and animal-horn detail from Marni; plastic and crystal drop earrings from Prada; an acetate cuff from Bellissima; a glitzy brooch from Joli Jewelry, and a set of resin bangles from Pono by Joan Goodman.

The April 2012 issue of More magazine chose plastics as the subject of its major fashion report of the month, with eight pages of pictures of plastic jewels. Along with one transparent Lucite ring from Cara Croninger, the examples are colorful mixes of plastics, sometimes combined with other materials such as stainless steel, wood or leather. Here are four examples of the trend that appear in More:


Acrylic and stainless steel cuffs from Adeen.


A pair of necklaces from Sandy Hyun: to the left, a necklace of Lucite, wood, glass and stainless steel; to the right, a necklace of Lucite, sterling silver, glass and Swarovski crystals.


A trio of plastic brooches from Missoni.


A floral necklace of plastic and leather from Marni for H&M.

 More magazine advises its target audience of women over 40: “This season, the most stylish–and budget friendly—accessories are made of plastic. Who knew synthetic polymers could be so fashion-forward?”

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