The JA New York show might have been a hot one due to the unfortunately timed heat wave, but it was a little too chilly on the retail side, or at least that’s what I heard from the majority of the young, independent brands with whom I spoke.
Blame the heat wave, blame the upcoming presidential election … whatever the case, the show felt quiet.
Conversations with buyers were happening, which is hugely important to brands, particularly the up-and-comers who need to form relationships, but orders seemed few and far between. Hopefully, conversations will continue now that the show is over and turn into something fruitful.
If I were a retailer, here are five brands from the show’s New Designer Gallery that I’d definitely be getting to know.
Solomon isn’t a newcomer, but this was her first venture into the trade show world. What I like about seeing her pieces in person is that it becomes obvious how the rough, primitive quality of her handmade jewelry is so deliberate, referencing her Native American influences. The aesthetic has a childlike innocence, which is echoed in the themes of her work: peace, love and happiness– essentially everything the world could use a little more of today.
I’m particularly charmed by her ID bracelets. She’s taken the classic piece and imbued it with the Elisa Solomon spirit. The result is the opposite of the generic, overly manufactured ID bracelet, as each bracelet feels elegant and individual, like an heirloom. There’s so much attention to detail that even the back of the ID is set with melee.
My personal favorite is the dog ID tag, which Solomon created in honor of the beloved German shepherds she’s had over the years. The tag is in the shape of a dog bone and meant to be engraved with a furry friend’s name. I desperately want one so I can wear my heart on my sleeve– a bracelet with my pup’s name– Picasso.
The work of designer Roman Drake of Santi Rom is of such a refined level that I’m surprised I’ve never come across him before. The L.A.-based designer has spent decades working in other mediums and it shows. Now he’s producing his collection of Byzantine-inspired jewelry.
The quality of Santi Rom is exceptional. The pieces feature a beautiful matte finish, and Drake likes to leave tiny wisps of fingerprints in the gold so his customer can literally feel its hand-made ethos.
Drake has beautiful stacking rings that are perfect for an entry-level purchase, plus exquisite stone-focused, larger pieces for the serious customer.
Rebecca Fragola of Adriatic Jewelry emphasized to me at the show that it’s important to see her jewelry worn, as opposed to just behind a case. For a brand that focuses on simple, approachable design, I could not agree more.
Adriatic Jewelry’s collections are minimal and modern. They hit exactly the right line between wearable and eye-catching that makes them a great option for a wide variety of women. Plus, in lieu of diamonds, Fragola opts to use white sapphires to keep prices down. I can definitely picture self-purchasing millennials as Adriatic Jewelry’s key customer.
Adriatic Jewelry is all about layering with designs versatile enough to go with everything and become a daily staple.
Emilie Shapiro is a true stone lover. She has an eye for picking interesting, rough gemstones and bringing out the best in them, through tactile gold settings and organic-looking halos.
Her time at brands like Pamela Love is apparent; it’s clear Shapiro is interested in the same earthy design themes, but Shapiro’s work is completely her own. It’s exciting to see a young designer with such an inherent point of view.
Her dream-catcher necklace and earrings, in which opals were surrounded with rubies and framed with dangling pieces of gold instead of feathers, were my favorite of all of her pieces.
Alexis Kletjian was voted the Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year at the show, an award which she seemed very surprised and very humbled to win, which makes her all the more endearing.
Kletjian has partnered with Insta-popular cutter Jean-Noel Soni of Top Notch Faceting on a number of pieces, one of which was catching the eye of many a visitor at her booth.
Kletjian has a knack for color, creating vibrant bangles, pendants and rings with an array of colors that pop. I’m sure the award is just the beginning of continued recognition for the designer.
I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing a lot more from this fresh cop of design talents, at future trade shows and in the media, and particularly in retail store showcases.