Belle of the Fall: Top 2012 Style Trends That Jewelers Need to Know

From gobstopper-size baubles to eye-popping prints to Fabergé-style embroidery, fall fashion is all about bringing back the flash.

Jil Sander returns! But wait, Raf Simons is dropped. And Stefano Pilati gets traded for Hedi Slimane at YSL? Fall 2012 was the sort of season where, with so much action on the sidelines, the actual collections could easily have been an afterthought. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. In fact, despite all the off-the-runway drama, the fashions stood out—fantastically so. From a glamorous overdose of embellishments to dazzling prints, the clothes caught our attention again and again. And for all the season’s myriad messages—power pantsuits, luxe ladylike looks—there seemed to be one central statement: This is no time to be shy.

Herewith, a breakdown of the season’s major themes—and how they’ll impact jewelry trends to come.


When Oscar de la Renta sent out his models dripping in gobstopper ­jewels, both real and trompe l’oeil, few could have guessed how prescient that collection would be. Sure, New York fashion week had seen some nods to glitzy indulgence, such as Marc Jacobs’ pilgrim shoes with rhinestone buckles and Chris Benz’s dressed-up pearls. But de la ­Renta’s show was an all-out reverie of jewels. It wasn’t just about pushing a glamorous agenda; it was about putting the spotlight on bijoux.

As the fashion caravan rolled on to other cities, designer after designer followed suit. In Milan, there were gilty baroque pilings at Dolce & Gabbana, while Paris brought massive Marie Antoinette–­worthy baubles at Lanvin, and, of course, Chanel’s crystal extravaganza, complete with Lesage-embroidered crystal “eyebrows” on the models and a towering stalagmite-like backdrop. Karl Lagerfeld’s clothes only mirrored the setting, with semiprecious stones cascading up sleeves and across necklines, a hyper-embellishment M.O. repeated elsewhere at Prada and Louis Vuitton. This is the jewelry industry’s time to shine.

Or is it? With the bejeweled attitude sweeping ready-to-wear, the consumer may pull back when it comes to her accessories. After all, will she be reaching for her jewelry box when she’s wearing, say, a Prada dress covered in glittering doodads?

Amanda Gizzi, director of communications at Jewelers of America, says that women who “are going to let the clothes do the talking” will be the exception, not the norm. “This opulent trend will inspire a bigger trend in accessorizing,” she explains. “It’s about bringing flash back, and the majority of people will be doing that with their jewelry. This is the time to catch their attention.”


An interesting offshoot of the opulent trend was a renewed interest in craftsmanship—of the luxury sort, not the folksy arts-and-crafts kind. Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, for instance, certainly had extravagance on the brain with his collection inspired by a Fabergé egg Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor. But talk was as much about the show’s sexy excess as the extreme quilting, needlepoint, and seed-bead embroideries that went into the clothes.

“This desire for something handcrafted is going to carry over through 2013,” says Gizzi. “People had to cut back during the hard economic times. They’re ready for something different.”

For Roseanne Morrison, fashion director of the Doneger Group, the return to intricate and artisanal design points to a larger ­jewelry trend rooted in historical references and antiquity. “We’re seeing intaglios, cameos, Roman styles, Etruscan jewelry,” Morrison says. Perfect case in point: Delfina Delettrez’s Paris presentation, which featured mini-mosaic necklaces and marble-column earrings inspired by ancient Rome.


Sometimes, a fashion trend offers an obvious clue to jewelry designers. Other times? Not so much. A perfect example of the former is fall’s emphasis on plumped-up proportions, best seen at Comme des Garçons (those flattened paper-doll silhouettes), Jil Sander (gracefully oversized coats), and Alexander McQueen (frothy exploding shapes). The lesson for jewelers: Play with scale and don’t be afraid to get demonstrative—like Riccardo Tisci and his hefty earrings at Givenchy. “Big and bold are the buzzwords,” says Elizabeth Kanfer, Saks Fifth Avenue’s fashion and co-branding director of accessories. “We are taking the approach of minimal-meets-maximal—streamlined design with an emphasis on big sizes and interesting colors at all price points.”

A harder trend to parse was the head-to-toe pattern play that appeared in heavy rotation everywhere from Marc Jacobs and Rag & Bone to Giambattista Valli and Miu Miu. “Prints are always hard to pair to jewelry trends,” admits Gizzi. “They’re harder for people to easily accessorize.” The key here is to go for the ­counterpoint: ­monotone jewelry. “It’s about taking one color, going with it and not having a busy mixing and matching [effect].” 

As for fall’s emphasis on orderly patchworked prints—e.g., Dries Van Noten’s clean chinoiserie graphics—there are other cues for the industry here, too. “The strong statement that’s coming out of this is the geometric story,” says Morrison. Meanwhile, Kanfer chimes in with another approach: “The interpretation for jewelry designers will be through the use of color-blocking and combining metals and stones for a more obvious and dramatic statement.”


The collections pulled us into a number of directions when it came to a color palette. There were the cosmetic shades, including the soft blushes and nudes seen at Jil Sander, a whole host of rich jewel tones (Alberta Ferretti and gem-happy Chanel), and a decidedly darker trend centered on oxblood reds, which popped up at collections as varied as Alexander Wang, Etro, and Chloé. If Christopher Kane’s take on crimson was a bit brighter—on those lovely moiré sheaths, for instance—the inspiration was just as grim: He chose that particular tone because it resembled a vial of blood (and the moiré, no kidding, for its likeness to a coffin’s interior).

“We’re seeing colors that are holdovers from the season before,” adds ­Pantone consultant Leatrice Eiseman. “I think people are being more mindful of what they’re buying, so there’s less of a seasonal bias where color is concerned.” And what of spring’s vogue for Pantone’s color of the year, Tangerine Tango? That’s still going strong. Just look at the designs at Haider Ackermann and 3.1 Phillip Lim. (Points to Kenzo’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim for creating the most whimsical rendition: earrings made from resin-covered orange slices, done in collaboration with Delettrez.) Other key colors, according to Eiseman, include strong cobalt-like blues (Stella McCartney) and French-roast browns (Givenchy). Meanwhile, in the watch arena, Kanfer notes that the trend is turning to icy pastels. “Shades of pink and mother-of-pearl are beginning to look new and directional,” she says.


Talk to Morrison, and it’s clear that Kate Middleton’s shadow loomed large over the fall runways. It’s why, when asked about the top trend of the season, the fashion director plays the lady card. “It’s overriding everything,” says Morrison, adding that the ladylike look will also have a wider audience because it’s one of the more translatable themes, easily filtered down from the runway to the streets. Not only that, but the style happens to converge nicely with other leading trends such as opulence and prints—and neckwear.

In fact, the necklace was the big news on the runways, mostly because of the pretty and posh tack. (See “Fall 2012 Fashion Week: We’re All Choked Up!,” JCK, March 2012.) While styles ranged from Derek Lam’s simple chain-link chokers by sculptor-cum-jeweler Thomas Bliven to the arty mobile-like pendants at Rochas, the headline act really belonged to all the bejeweled bib and collar necklaces by de la Renta, Elbaz at Lanvin, and the rest of the opulent crew.

But the ladylike statement also gives us the return of the brooch. Tory Burch had them. Bottega Veneta, too. And those enormous sparkly “buttons” at Louis Vuitton? Yes, all brooches. As for those womanly peplums that were virtually everywhere—Sacai’s Chitose Abe even had ruffly double-layered peplums—Gizzi says the earring will be instrumental here. “Because so much attention is being drawn to your waist and hips,” she explains, “earrings are going to bring the attention back to your face.” The must-have silhouettes: long dangling styles (see The Look), multi-stone clusters, and climbers.

Interestingly enough, designers went mad for the precision-cut pantsuit this season, too. Miuccia Prada led the way, both in her own collection and at Miu Miu, with tailored separates that also flaunted many of the above trends, from over-embellishment to jewel tones and all-over prints. Conveniently for jewelry designers, the takeaway from fall’s contrasting male-female stance is the same, actually. “You want to go pretty and feminine with your accessories,” says Gizzi, “to soften and draw femininity to the menswear look.”

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