One of the things I love most about Wendy Brandes is her unique sense of style. If you want to see someone demonstrate how to model the same dress three times over the course of 10 years (or more), and make it look amazing, different, and fresh every time, she’s your woman. And in this era of sustainable fashion where shopping vintage and thrift and even just your own closet is more than encouraged, we need more of this sort of influence in our lives.
Brandes shows what it is to be an individual attuned to her own sense of style, and, because of that, she stands out as a leader. She isn’t going to dress a certain way simply because it’s popular—she’ll do it because she likes it. “Never is the next new thing” became a tagline of hers, and it has often rung true: Sometimes we see something so off-the-wall and think, I’d never wear that. Then it comes parading down the runway, the street, or the hallway at the office, and suddenly we’re into it. Brandes doesn’t wait for that validation—ready or not, here she comes.
That those such as Brandes are able to harness their individuality through style is worthy of mass celebration, and it’s not done often enough. That I can count on one hand the people who come to mind who are celebrated by the fashion and jewelry industries for their individuality—Iris Apfel and Lady Gaga—is unfortunate.
But Brandes is doing just that, by honoring often-ignored demographics in her Immortal Style campaign. Having previously worked with models Tina J (from Sudan), Uganda-born Tricia Akello, as well as Grace Kim, the designer has selected Judith Boyd, the 76-year-old woman behind Style Crone, to carry her latest efforts.
In a series of photos, Boyd, who displays a deep love for absolutely incredible hats (seriously, you’ve got to see these) and eye-popping jewelry on her own website, is photographed wearing jewelry from Brandes’ Carpe Diem collection, as well as some of her other one-of-a-kind pieces.
The choice of jewelry was a deliberate one. If a feeling of contrasts comes to you when imagining a very chic woman of advanced age wearing skull jewelry, you might not be alone—but let your mind be changed. “Certain jewelry themes I work with—like skulls and snakes—are often stereotyped as ‘punk’ or ‘young’ when they’ve been a staple of jewelry designs for centuries or even millennia,” writes Brandes on her blog. “To personify the history and majesty that fuels my work, and to show that jewelry is for everyone, I knew I had to work with Judith.”
The images are beautifully done—and “99 percent unretouched,” according to Brandes’ blog. Truly, I’m not sure a more “conventional” choice of model would carry this off anywhere near as effectively. I feel moved by these images—inspired to figure out just exactly what my own elusive brand of style is. And I really want those earrings.
More like this, please.
We don’t need more of this because it’s cool or trendy or attention-getting. We need more of this because it’s true and representative and beautiful. We will not move away from the “typical” beauty standards we’ve come to rely on, and, honestly, I think that’s okay, because all beauty should be celebrated. It can only be okay when we begin to spotlight the “real” and “unconventional” enough that those words don’t even factor into the description anymore.
I just made this a whole thing about changing the standards of advertising for the industry, when, knowing Brandes, there’s simply no other way to do things in the first place.
And that’s how it’s done, ladies and gents. Brava, Wendy.
Top: Judith Boyd wears custom Wendy Brandes wedding rings (sold) and Carpe Diem Crowned Skull drop earrings in 18k yellow gold with 9.54 cts. t.w. black diamonds, 0.07 ct. t.w. tsavorites, and 0.72 ct. t.w. diamonds, $16,000.