eye4style Interview - Wendy Brandes

I met fine jewelry designer Wendy Brandes recently after two happy coincidences - namely, a mutual friend and her upcoming collaboration with Christian Francis Roth. In case you haven't heard, Wendy's doing the jewelry for CFR's runway show this season and she also had a hand in his very clever invitations. The collection will be dubbed Francis + Wendy and based on my little sneak preview, it's edgy and smart (but I'd expect no less of those two.)

Anyhoo - I had the pleasure of asking Wendy a few burning questions for eye4style readers and here's the scoop:

You became a jewelry designer after being a successful journalist for years - what inspired such a dramatic shift?

It's the classic story -- I started designing pieces for myself becauseI couldn't find exactly what I wanted elsewhere. I tend to think of my wedding and engagement rings from 2001 as being my first designs (you can see them here and here), but those were just my first major designs. I had started making smaller pieces long before that -- redesigning my mother's old opal cocktail ring into earrings and a necklace, and making a pair of plain, big, gold hoops. Believe it or not, there was a time in the '90s when you could not find a pair of big hoops! When I went to a very nice store, which I shall not name, and asked for a pair, the saleswoman snootily told me, 'No one's wearing those.' A year later, big hoops exploded and everyone was wearing earrings the size of dinner plates. I still have my original pair and they're tiny compared to what followed.

Describe your design aesthetic in 5 words or less.

Casual luxury. Big, bold, playful.

Do you have a 'signature style'?What is it?

'New Yorker.' Whenever I'm in L.A. (visiting Roseark,the boutique that carries my jewelry), people say, 'You must be from New York.' I'm not sure what gives me away because I try not to wear head-to-toe black there.

In magazines,there's a lot of talk about classics like diamond studs or a pearl necklace. What types of jewelry do YOU think are most essential for building a wardrobe?

The classics bore me to tears! There's no design to them, and they say nothing at all about the wearer. Of course, some people work in such conservative environments that that's all they can wear. For those people, I'd suggest doing a twist on the classic pieces. Instead of plain studs, wear petite diamond flower earrings. I'd take the drop off my Mignonette Earrings and just have someone wear the diamond part. Instead of pearls, try big white beads like my white agate Wilma Necklace. Do something a little creative, a little humorous -- something with personality.

Is there a common mistake that women make with jewelry? What is it? How can they correct it?

People wear their jewelry 24/7, exposing it to the worst possible conditions (sand, chlorine), and then agonize over every little scratch. A more realistic attitude is to expect some wear and tear, but to reduce the likelihood of that by removing your jewelry when you go to the beach or pool. You don't need to wear a beautiful ring while you're dragging a heavy suitcase through the airport, working out or doing the laundry. Ladies, if you take off your engagement ring for anafternoon, it won't undo your marriage! Just don't leave it by the sink. For more information on caring for your jewelry, click here. For information about cleaning it, click here.

Lastly - what are your favorite online shopping destinations and why?

I collect certain vintage designers --Ossie Clark, Stephen Sprouse, Patrick Kelly, Clovis Ruffin -- so I'm always checking out vintage sites including shrimptoncouture.com, poshvintage.com and swankvintage.com. I just got a one-shoulder Clovis dress from Shrimpton Couture. Vintageous.com is another vintage site; it often has beautiful ombre and two-tone tulle gowns.

For current fashion, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman have a huge selection of top looks, and their sales are excellent. I can spend hours browsing Yoox.com for bargains. For shoes, Zappos has great selection and great service, including a 365-day return policy. And don't forget eBay!

A few of our fave designs from Wendy B.:

This rock crystal and onyx Owl Pendant is fabulously whimsical. Love, love, love. $5,500.

Tuck a bit of fabric or cotton soaked in your favorite fragrance in the 18k gold and diamond Mia Scent Locket. Note - this is an absolute dream for anyone who has fragrance skin sensitivity. $6,750.

The lovely rock crystal, ruby and 18k gold Lady Jane Necklace was inspired by the unlucky Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for just 9 days. $5,000.

To learn more about Wendy Brandes, visit her website and her fun blog.


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