71 ?5th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Australian designer Nora Kogan’s path to owning a shop in Brooklyn is as twisted as one of her signature pieces. Born in Odessa, Russia, and raised in Melbourne, Kogan lived in Austria, Italy, and Japan (with summer visits to the Moscow countryside) before settling in New York City in 2001. “My jewelry reflects my eclectic upbringing,” she says. “It shows a connection to my Russian past…to folkloric passions. But I also love medieval jewelry, the refined Japanese aesthetic. And I’ve always been taken with surrealism.” Her Park Slope space, which she’s co-owned since 2009 with longtime partner Karen Mancuso (left, with Kogan), is a fitting reflection of her singular style, with kangaroo skins, vintage jewels, and Brooklyn graffiti coexisting in gorgeously imperfect harmony.
Kogan likes to display her jewels using offbeat props. Disembodied hands are a recurrent theme, from sleek black hands by U.K. designer Abigail Ahern (strung with necklaces at the back of the store) to the lovely, worn hands salvaged from crumbling saint statues in the Philippines that showcase rings in various cases. “I collect hands,” says Kogan, who loves scavenging for display pieces—and vintage gems—all over the world. “I only carry my own pieces and vintage.… It’s really all about one-of-a-kind jewelry where I don’t repeat myself.”
Girls in the Hood
Kogan made a very deliberate decision to stay in Brooklyn and not decamp to the big city. “I’ve always lived in Park Slope; I’ve always had a studio in Park Slope,” says Kogan, who found the St. Kilda space on Craigslist. “I wanted to walk to work with my dog.” The local factor isn’t just cosmetic: All of Kogan’s pieces (save the vintage ones, of course) are manufactured in New York. “All our contractors are here, and we don’t import anything except for the stones,” says Mancuso. “That’s really important to us.” While the jewelry—which ranges from $150 for a silver wedding band to $45,000 for custom pieces—may be mostly homegrown, St. Kilda’s clientele is not. “We have fans all over America, as well as South Africa, England, Australia, Sweden, and France,” says Kogan.
Snakes, scorpions, and owls all make special appearances in the designer’s pieces. (“It’s funny, because she’s deathly afraid of snakes,” says Mancuso.) “Snakes are a huge motif in my jewelry. I just love the imagery…as an inanimate object,” Kogan says. “I feel like jewelry is such an emotional possession. It’s emotional whether you’re buying it for yourself or you’re giving it to someone, because you want to convey a strong feeling. That’s why I try to make each piece really special.”
Drawing Them In
“I’m always buying random things here and there,” says Kogan, whose window displays feature everything from scattered rocks to vintage Victorian urns to Martin Margiela feather pens. “Some arrangements are all about color; others are about the season.” It seems to be working: “Joggers come in in their sweatsuits and spend thousands of dollars,” says Mancuso.
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