N.Y. Catwalks Champion Athletic Wear, Prints, and Color

Jewelry designers browsing the shows at New York Fashion Week, Sept. 8–15, for inspirational cues may have come up a bit empty—at least at the start. The big buzzword seemed to be minimal. And not minimal as in clean contours and streamlined silhouettes, but minimal as in where-the-heck-has-all-the-jewelry-gone?

Of course, not everyone went the barely there route in the accessories department. The collections saw a small contingent, led by Donna Karan and Michael Kors, who zeroed in on an all-out nature vibe. She found inspiration in tribal Haiti (great fringed bracelets and necklaces fashioned from wood); he in the safaris of South Africa, which explains the chunky necklaces with animal-teeth accents. A few others made statements with ultra-long, multi-strand neckwear à la Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, and Tory Burch.

But the majority stripped back on the baubles, sending jewelers a power­ful message: Now is the time to get creative. For instance, when designers such as Kimberly Ovitz and The Row’s Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen pulled back and went ethereal—evoking a light, layered, almost Japanese-like deshabille—they opened the door for more feminine and delicate jewelry. “Shine is key here,” says Janet Goldman, CEO and founder of New York City’s Fragments showroom and boutique.

Regarding the athletic look seen at Alexander Wang—in his NASCAR- and BMX-inflected collection—among many others, Goldman adds that it’s all about “tiny token jewelry” that’s comfortable and easy to wear. Think charms, initials, small circle pendants, and studs.

Then there’s the trend front-runner: dizzying and dazzling colors and prints. Designer after designer reveled in that kaleidoscopic celebration. Joseph Altuzarra went wild for Hawaiian florals while Thakoon Panichgul turned his show into a terrifically loud and vivid mash-up of Bollywood and the Wild West. And though they chose not to accessorize on the runway, there’s a takeaway here for jewelry designers and retailers: “We’re going to see a real trend for color,” says Michael O’Connor of marketing firm Style & Substance Inc. “We can expect more not just in terms of brightly ­colored gem­stones but colored metals, too.”

A rather intriguing motif emerged as a result of these splashy palettes and patterns: wide stacked cuffs and bangles à la Nancy Cunard. The look is a smart way to mirror the mix-and-match feel of the clothes without the visual overkill. One stylish example: designer Carolina Herrera, who accessorized her graphic red and black dresses with coordinating wrists full of bangles.

O’Connor also advises jewelers to embrace volume. “Jewelry needs to become larger to keep up with the proportions we’re seeing in full skirts, wide pants, and wide lapels,” he says. “With gold and platinum, that’s going to mean more negative space and openwork.”

One innovative way to heighten the drama without amping up size is movement. Just look at Jason Wu’s swinging chain earrings (a collaboration with Tom Binns) or Jen Kao’s chandelier-style designs, which made a big impact despite their finespun feel. “Dangling earrings are like the stiletto heel,” says Goldman. “They make everyone look and feel amazing.”