Fashion Facets

Trophy Pearls

A group of leading fashion editors from the trade and consumer press recently awarded Robert Lee Morris of New York the Grand Prix in the North American edition of the inaugural Tahitian Pearl Trophy competition. The contest, sponsored by G.I.E. Perles de Tahiti, is the first to feature Tahitian pearls as the central design element.

Morris’s entry was a seven-strand torsade necklace featuring pearls interspersed with pale coral tubes and Morris’s signature white gold water-stone shapes. His inspiration for the design came from his mother, a 1940s fashion model who was an ardent lover of coral jewelry, and his wife, who has a penchant for dark colors like gray and charcoal.

In addition to the Grand Prix winner and an honorable mention, the judges chose first-, second-, and third-place winners in each of three categories: less than $1,000 retail, $1,000-$5,000 retail, and more than $5,000 retail.

First prize in category 3 (more than $5,000 retail) was awarded to Ella Gafter of New York-based Ellagem. Gafter is renowned for her opulent, super-luxurious pearl creations and recently began to work with Tahitian pearls. Her winning entry, a necklace called “Moonlight Dew,” is platinum and mother-of-pearl with seven Tahitian pearl drops.

Christianne Douglas, chief designer of London-based Coleman Douglas Pearls, took first prize in two categories. Both winning pieces were fine platinum chains done in a “figure 8” style with a single Tahitian pearl at the juncture. Douglas’s “B-ring,” meant to be worn across the entire hand, was the winner in category 1 (less than $1,000 retail), and a larger body piece called “Tahitian Embrace,” worn with the juncture at the center of the torso, was the winner in category 2 ($1,000-$5,000 retail). Her American representative and distributor is NOA Gallery, based in New York.

Other prize-winning designers included Link Wachler, a designer for David Wachler & Sons of Birmingham, Mich., who took second prize in category 3 for a futuristic ring of platinum encasing a faceted Tahitian pearl. New York-based Irina Pantaeva garnered third prize in category 3 for a necklace of four Tahitian pearls set on a platinum wire with a centerpiece of three diamond snowflakes and one large Tahitian pearl drop. The necklace, in tribute to her birthplace, is called “Siberian Rhapsody.”

Husband and wife Robert and Deanna Wander of Hawaii both were honored for ring entries. Robert’s “Glacial Tide,” featuring a peacock-hued Tahitian pearl set in white gold and blue topaz, received second prize in category 2. Deanna’s “Eclipsing Sun,” featuring a Tahitian pearl on a platinum band, placed third in category 1.

Michele Bolduc, a designer for Rhode Island-based jewelry manufacturer Imperial-Deltah, placed third in category 2 for “Natural Wonder,” a necklace with six Tahitian pearls set on half-moon-shaped white gold wires. New York-based designer Jane Bohan placed second in category 1 for a ring with a Tahitian pearl set on a leaf-shaped band.

Yupadee Kobkul-Boonsiri, a model maker and the chief designer for Grunberger Jewelers in Stamford, Conn., received an honorable mention for an innovative reversible woven and hand-forged Tahitian pearl and platinum necklace.

Winners of the North American contest and competitions held in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, China, and Japan will be featured at jewelry exhibitions throughout the year and automatically entered into the international Tahitian Pearl Trophy competition, which will be judged in Paris in May. The awards ceremony will take place in Paris during fashion week in October.

Perle Utopia Finds Success

The U.S. launch of Perle Utopia, the first-ever branded pearl, enjoyed overwhelming success, according to the Gaia Group, which markets the pearls. The pearls made their debut on a special tour to five select Neiman Marcus stores in the fourth quarter of 1999.

Stefano Marazzato, international sales director at the Gaia Group, took the collection to Neiman Marcus stores in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Denver; Dallas/Fort Worth; San Diego; and Palo Alto, Calif. The collection consisted of 40 Utopia pearl strand necklaces in various shapes, sizes, and colors, including white, silver, and gold. Retail prices ranged from $22,000 to $400,000. The tour also showcased Utopia One solitaire necklaces and selected pieces by designer Henry Dunay, who’s working with Utopia pearls in the United States.

“Neiman Marcus is very excited by the reception to Utopia pearls and the interest in branding,” said Patti Mitchell, pearl buyer for the store. Utopia pearl jewelry is available at Neiman’s Precious Jewels salons nationwide.

CDG Opens Membership

The Contemporary Design Group (CDG) has simplified its membership requirements to encourage a more diverse association drawn from a wider spectrum of the jewelry industry. Membership is now open to anyone actively involved in the business of creative jewelry design, including jewelry craftspeople working in all types of media; jewelry designers and wholesalers, regardless of participation in trade shows; and designers who work for larger manufacturers. CDG also offers affiliate membership to individuals, businesses, and organizations that are actively involved in the support of designer jewelry.

Nancy Zausmer, CDG president, calls the decision to simplify membership requirements a response to demand from members who find themselves or their businesses expanding into new areas, such as retail, craft, or manufacturing.

CDG offers its members a variety of benefits, including discounts and programs to help them expand their businesses or individual careers.

For more information about becoming a member, contact Lydia Halebian at (949) 756-1140.

DESIGN DISCOVERY

Daniela Vettori

Daniela Vettori’s 16th-century home in the heart of Vicenza is a magnificent specimen of the famous Palladian architecture found all over Italy’s Veneto region. (Another example from the hands of 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio is the Villa Rotunda, which stands on the grounds of the Vicenza fairgrounds, next to the exhibition halls where the jewelry shows are held.)

It’s no wonder, then, that Vettori’s 18k gold jewelry designs are a perfect blend of ancient design principles and modern execution. The Daniela Vettori Collection is rendered entirely in yellow gold, using what she terms “old world” techniques. From her native Vicenza, located in the part of Italy known as the “cradle of the Renaissance,” it’s easy to see how Vettori defines these techniques. Each piece, be it a ring, bracelet, necklace, earring, or pendant, is created entirely by hand and is as much a small sculpture as it is a piece of jewelry.

The spaces where Vettori lives and works combine the same sense of old and new that she brings to her jewelry. The materials she uses in her small retail shop and for her displays—concrete, wood, and brass—evoke feelings of age, while the high ceiling and spare furnishings give the ancient building a modern, minimalist feel. Likewise, with its modern, handcrafted look, her jewelry has the kind of distinctive style that is found in the best contemporary American designers’ works, while its curving, sinuous lines are pure Italian.

Not surprisingly, the combination has been well received in this country. Vettori made her U.S. debut in July 1998 at the Jewelers of America show in New York. She made her JCK Las Vegas Show debut last June. Her jewelry has been featured in a number of trade and consumer magazines, and she was invited to the first Italian jewelry awards ceremony at the New York Public Library in July of 1998.

Daniela Vettori’s jewelry is distributed in the United States by Termine & Winer, P.O. Box 294, Boston, MA 02117; (617) 325-4764, e-mail: TWJewels@aol.com.

DESIGN DISCOVERY

Barbara Taylor Fouts lifelong appreciation for art, high fashion, and exquisite gems has come full circle in the multifaceted career of Barbara Taylor Fouts.

It all started at the age of 10, when she won an art scholarship for a painting of a Madonna. After youthful studies at the prestigious Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City, the designer spent two years of her early adulthood in Turkey, where she explored the art of ancient civilizations. Her earliest creative outlet was designing one-of-a-kind clothing made from the exotic fabrics of the region. Next came ceramic sculpture and, finally, studies in jewelry production and design.

Her current company, named Barbara Taylor Fouts—Gold for Couture, uses her experience in fashion and sculpture to best advantage. She treats her precious material of diamonds, exotic colored gemstones, platinum, and high-karat gold much as she would a colorful swath of silk or a length of softest cashmere. Each is constructed to provide maximum enjoyment and versatility for the owner. Jewelry can be worn a number of different ways and recombined according to the whims of fashion.

Beyond its singular expression of color and form, Fouts’s jewelry begins in an unusual way: She creates pieces without drawings or sketches—simply by using her imagination and modeling wax. Her collection includes bold, dynamic designs featuring a range of colored gemstones and pearls. Each ensemble, and sometimes each piece, has a specific name or theme, including Galaxy and Topkapi, as well as Basic Couture.

Fouts introduced her work to the trade just a couple of years ago and sells to selected fine jewelers and galleries; she exhibited her growing collection in Tucson in February. Most designs range from $2,000 to $40,000 suggested retail. Barbara Taylor Fouts, 3527 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA 94549; (925) 283-1881, fax (925) 283-1820.