Trade Show Shenanigans

Petals, Pavement, Paper, and Plastic: BIJORHCA Paris Brings Beauty Back to Basics

Paris, France is otherworldly. Think about it; if you’ve never been there, it’s as foreign to you as a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons though thankfully not quite as cold, (at least in September). Known as the “City of Light,” Paris isn’t just a place on a map, but rather a genre; an attitude, an emotion, even. Feeling Parisian means one is serious about work but curious about life. It means one dresses the part of a runway model but makes love with the ferocity of an untamed beast. It means deliberate kisses on both cheeks, ice in your 2 o’clock glass of rosé, and never, ever wearing flip flops in public. Paris isn’t easy for the rest of the world to figure out nor does it wish to be, which is why the surprises that Paris presents us with are ones we mortals value, learn from, and not soon forget. And the BIJORHCA jewelry show was the perfect paradigm of the city’s glorious yet unexpected delights.

After landing at Charles De Gaulle airport and going through what felt like a year’s long line at customs, I was greeted by fellow American jewelry blogger Matthew Perosi, who graciously accompanied me on the shuttle bus to Porte de Versailles expo center – Paris’ largest – in the 15th arrondissement. BIJORHCA selected one blogger from the United States to send to the September show but they got a Buy One/Get One deal as Matthew lives in Bordeaux six months out of the year and decided he’d take the train over to Paris to accompany me for a few days. Upon our arrival we were met by Pauline Royer (our contact for the show) as well as Show Director, Aude Leperre, and Artistic Director, Richard Martin, all of who were impeccably dressed, stunningly kind, and gorgeously French. This is not the surprise I spoke of earlier.

Matthew and I settled ourselves into the press room so that I could get an espresso or six (I can’t sleep on planes) and so we could come up with a game plan for how best to tackle the show in the amount of time we had over our three days. Prior to my friend Jen Heebner telling me about BIJORHCA last year I was frankly unfamiliar with it, as I largely write about jewelry found in traditional jewelry stores or high-end boutiques. Fashion and contemporary jewelry just wasn’t much on my radar leading up to this year when I started a new InstaSeries, #50DesignersofJewelry. Researching designers for the social media series (which I was waiting to complete until after this trade show in case you were following along and wondering what happened) developed and grew my interest as it pertained to the creativity of contemporary jewelry designers, and I assumed that being at BIJORHCA was only going to enlighten me more. Now that all is said and done, however, I have to admit that “enlighten” isn’t severe enough a word. Let’s just say I had a complete and utter rebirth regarding what I feel about the jewelry industry now; about where it needs to go, and how open-minded it has to get if it wants to survive for generations to come.

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

The first booth I visited belonged to French designer Marion Fillancq, who started designing jewelry by using crushed mirrored glass, before venturing into her current designs which are made using prehistoric methods. Her pieces often contain uncommon center stones such as flint, and her metal of choice is brass coated in gold or silver. But the thing that grabbed me most was her tag line: “Brut & Chic.” If that mantra alone doesn’t make your ears perk up, I’m not sure what will.

Marion’s designs set the tone for what was to come in terms of nontraditional materials and everyday elements we would soon discover. Spanish design house Testone creates organic masterpieces in the form of brooches and pendants, by overlaying leaves and plants found in the wooded areas of Spain with a variety of non-precious and precious metals. French jeweler Le Côté de Guermantes (meaning, “time regained” [and also a novel by Marcel Proust]) makes necklaces and other items out of bronze and the pages of old, worn books; some in French but some also in English like the ”Pride and Prejudice” piece I nearly purchased for myself. Dutch designer Parsifal forms brightly-colored poppy flowers into lapel pins by immortalizing them with a clear coat of resin (and displaying them brilliantly in a rainbow pattern), and the husband and wife team of Christian and Malene Storm of Danish company Dansk Smykkekunst go out of their way to create affordable and fashionable jewellery and accessories by using a base material of copper overlaid in 14K gold, 925 silver, rhodium, or hematite. But the other important thing to know about Dansk Smykkekunst’s designs (as well as many others I saw) is their attentiveness to sustainability and green processes as well as their desire to keep their products as chemically free as possible. This is what many European and South American countries do that the United States struggles with, at least for now. Fairmined gold, ethically-sourced gemstones, and sustainable materials are going to be talked about and used more and more in the very near future and the companies who are already on board are going to reap the benefits of being the early game changers.

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

While the majority of the brands exhibiting at BIJORHCA were from Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa, there were also a handful of American designers showing their wares and having successful shows. I accidentally stumbled upon Sarah Cavender’s booth as I was leaving the press lounge and saw what I believed to be a necklace created out of some sort of fabric. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I went to touch the piece and it didn’t move. I was astonished to find out that it was made of brass mesh screening – a material that Sarah treats and folds into flowers, bugs, and other earthly shapes. Her degree from Philadelphia’s College of Art (where she majored in sculpture) had allowed Sarah to experiment with brass, bronze, and other metal wires until she developed a unique process working screen into various nature-inspired representations. Her creations consist of not just jewelry, but of belts and handbags as well. Her work was some of the most extraordinary I’ve seen in all my years working with metalsmiths and I look forward to watching how her brand grows.

Also from the States was Texas designer Claudia Fajardo, whose designs are brightly hued and border on a Native American vibe. Claudia uses glass beads and gemstones for color and contrasts them with hammered and satin finishes on her metals.

I noticed that acrylics like Lucite or Plexiglas played a huge role at this year’s BIJORHCA show, showing up in the form of everything from bangle bracelets to whimsical brooches to clutch purses. And while the artistry was awe-inspiring (and occasionally giggle-inducing), I couldn’t help but think back to that scene from The Graduate where Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin that he wants him to think about one word… just one word: “Plastics.” Companies like Jean Marie Poinot from France and Aramez out of Brazil are making playful acrylic accessories in the spirit used by a master metalsmith and it was clear that buyers were taking their work seriously, because both of their booths were flanked by onlookers.

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

On a fun note (and I use the word “note” with all puns intended), it was a real treat to meet Allouche Ingrid, head designer at French jewellery brand Sing A Song, which makes men’s and women’s jewelry out of guitar strings and other parts of musical instruments (bonus points for their booth refrigerator which was a converted rock-n-roll stage speaker). Also glee-inducing were the designs of UBU Paris which played with elements such as buffalo horn, tin, resin, and enamel to create oversized baubles and eye-catching adornments. Spanish design house Ceraselle brought change to the table (literally) with convertible leather and button necklaces in colors brighter than Lady Gaga’s wig collection, and French designer Mere Guy utilizes hand-painted pasta… yes, I said PASTA… in their earring, pin, and pendant designs. The level of creativity in both materials and formats used was remarkable in my opinion, and even something as simple as a ribbon bracelet imprinted with fun sayings (like those we saw from the brand Lucky Team) stood out to me simply because it wasn’t something I was used to seeing. There were also a few brands using a process that would mold crushed or powdered gems (such as turquoise and pearl) mixed with resin or polymer into dramatic, vibrant “stones” that they then used in a variety of jewels. Uno de 50 was one such brand using this process, and Daniel Espinosa was another. In fact I felt that Daniel’s jewelry came across as brave and bold in more than one way. His use of a bronze base with 22K gold overlay allows his pieces to be affordable but in no way do they lack fine craftsmanship or detail. His collections draw inspiration from his Latin roots and religious beliefs and his creativity flows as freely as the forms many of his items take.

A couple of other standout jewelry designers I found exhibiting at the show were Brazil’s Léia Sgro and Greece’s AposTolos. Sgro hails from South America but has lived in London, Vienna, Boston, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rome, among other cities. Her designs are not just nature inspired, but also nature created, as she uses wood, leaves, and plants alongside precious metals and Brazilian-mined stones to form her wearable yet very feminine jewels. Apostolos Kleitsiotis draws his design inspiration from the sea and uses age-old Hellenic jewelry making traditions, precious metals, and gems to sculpt contemporary masterpieces worthy of Amphitrite, herself.

But the jewelry design house that affected me most out of all those that I visited had to be Portugal’s Mariadovale. Sisters Alexandrina, Sandra, and Júlia Saraiva each plays a role in the designs their company creates, and the thought process that goes into every one of their collections goes beyond whether or not their pieces are going to sell, and into the realm of wanting the wearer to understand the depth, meaning, and sometimes satire of their creations. In other words, these are not your grandmother’s jewels, so don’t expect rubies, pearls, or platinum. These are your granddaughter’s jewels; jewels for the future, so expect concrete, a story, and an entirely different type of worth. Not quite sure I mean by this? Then let’s look at a segment of the company’s bio from their website. It states, “Each piece of work is designed and produced having a classical approach where forms, themes, and trials are deconstructed and evolve against the concept itself. The concept is the core of each collection, approaching each strand and its respective conceptual unfolding. The motto of the collections appears based on values, feelings and experiences, and aims to call attention not only to daily problems but also to more profound levels of perception like enhancing a satirical view and focusing on dubious content of dogmatic truths – wishing to socially provoke others by those who are wearing each piece of Mariadovale work.” Like I said… not your grandmother’s jewels and not even your grandmother’s jeweler, and for that I’m quite grateful.

The design team at Mariadovale opened my eyes like never before. Their use of concrete (fittingly enough in their collection called, “Concrete”), stone, and metal as a representation of how our lives are bound by the cities in which we live nearly brought me to tears, but the meaning got even deeper when they showed me how the concrete is rough on one side, representing struggle, and yet smooth on another, representing ease; much like the struggles in our everyday lives, and yet both sides seemed to create something beautiful and unique. But it was their “Stone” collection that genuinely shook me to my core as the collection stemmed from words, and as you can tell by the 2,000+ of them in this blog post, words are where I live. When I asked Mariadovale’s marketing director about the collection, he returned my question with a question… “Have you ever heard of Fernando Pessoa? He was Portugal’s most famous poet. He wrote a poem called, ‘Stones in Life’ and it pretty much sums up what this collection is about.”

It reads (translated into English):

To be happy is to recognize that life is worth living, even with all its challenges, misunderstandings, and its periods of crisis.

To be happy is to stop being the victim of problems and being the author of your own story.

To cross deserts outside of yourself, and to find the oasis inside your soul.

To thank God for each morning for the miracle of life.

To be happy is not to be afraid of your own emotions. It is knowing how to speak about yourself.

To have the courage to listen to a “no.” To have the strength to receive a criticism, even when unjust.

Stones in the road? I save every single one, one day I´ll build a castle.

I would like to thank those responsible for selecting me to attend this season’s BIJORHCA Paris show. Not just for their help, their kindness, their welcome, and a really nice hotel room, but also for enlightening me and for broadening my horizons in a way I never thought possible.

To the brands mentioned above and all others I visited during my three-day excursion, thank you for taking the time to educate me and I wish you all much success in your futures. I truly hope we do meet again someday.

I will end this lengthy post by sharing something that I wasn’t aware of until my arrival at the show: BIJORHCA is actually an acronym.

BIJ meaning bijou, or, jewel

OR meaning gold

H representing horlogerie, or, watchmaking

CA meaning cadeaux, or, gifts

And while I touched on the jewels, gold, and potential gifts in this piece, I will be talking about the watchmaking I saw and watch brands I sat down with in a post coming soon over on my watch blog, WhatsOnHerWrist.com.

Thanks, as always, for reading. À bientôt.

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Red Carpet Radness

Not Much More than Bore and Snore: My 2014 Emmys Red Carpet Recap

The Emmys are long over, and the verdicts are definitely in: too many red gowns, too many white gowns, too few fabulous jewels, too many wins for Modern Family. But hey, other than that they were great! (Sarcasm.)

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Who here wants to Polka? Suddenly I’m hungry for Kielbasa.

Re: fashion – Whose idea was it to make the Emmy’s look like the Polish flag? Since when was Poland ever fashionable? It gets crazy cold there. Loads of snow and kielbasa, plus hats, coats, and scarves, which is not usually what I think of when I think “awards season.” And while I adore the color red – seriously, it’s been my absolute favorite color since before Pantone existed – somewhere I felt like some new style council co-sponsored by Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Lucifer, himself, must have gotten all of the stylists together and promised them a lifetime supply of colored pencils and freedom from eternal damnation if they dressed their clients in the crimson hue. I mean, I, unlike most, get it. The color is attention-commanding. It screams of power and of sensuality. It beckons the eyes of those present to stare longingly and wantonly at the person brave enough to don the color in such a public forum. Like I said, I get it, but there is such a thing as overdoing it, and on this particular red carpet, it felt evilly overdone.

EMMYpost3Yet, almost as if the Archangel Raphael (as in, celebrity stylist Karen Raphael) saw what Beelzebub was planning, he decided to swoop in from his perch on catholicmatch.com’s website to give that little devil a run for his money by shrouding the good wives (though ironically enough, she was cloaked in black) in the absence of color… white. Oh, the punny headlines, they were a plenty. My friend and #emmyjewelry event tweeter, Michael Schechter, quipped, “Looking forward to groaning at ‘Celebs Say I Do To White’ headlines…” and man, was he on the money.

Variety Magazine: “Emmy Fashion: Red, White, and Safe All Over”

T.V. Guide: “Emmys Fashions: White Hot Looks”

LA Times: “White Outfits on the Red Carpet”

TheDressDown.com: “2014 Emmys: All White, All White, All White!” (I will at least give this one a point for creativity.)

(Shaking head) Who writes this crap?

If I were one of the dozens of actresses dressed in either red or white at this event I’d have canned my stylist via text message back stage, that’s how pissed I would have been. “I can’t believe you put me in white, Phillipe! This is what I pay you to do, for fuck’s sake! You get major cash to make me stand out and now I’m a photo grid on People.com, in between Robin Wright’s backless pantsuit and Sofia Vergara’s pantyless backside. I CAN’T COMPETE WITH THAT! Were you deceased when you dressed me?? Guess what? I’m Donald Trump. And guess what else? You’re fired.”

Clearly it would have been a really long text. I’d say several “dings” worth.

But I will admit that even with the commonality of fashion color trends, there were some definite standouts. My favorites in white were OITNB’s Laverne Cox wearing Marc Bouwer with Fred Leighton jewelry (more on those jewels coming up), and Angela Bassett (she’s 56, y’all!) in a long-sleeved Elisabetta Franchi wrap dress with gold accents and jewels by David Yurman. In red(ish), I adored Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Carolina Herrera with Lorraine Schwartz jewelry even though I was disappointed in her for forgetting who designed her clutch. She’s usually the one I depend on for those things. (Gives disapproving look.)

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A few (a very few) of the pieces that stood out at the 2014 Emmys

Re: jewelry – Whether you loved or hated the jewels on the carpet there is one thing we can all agree on… there weren’t a lot of them. Or, better yet, there weren’t a lot of them with umph. Or there weren’t a lot that stood out. Or many that were made by those who weren’t the usual suspects. Don’t get me wrong, I thank Deity every awards show for the likes of Fred Leighton, Chopard, Neil Lane, and Lorraine Schwartz, for sometimes, it seems that without them we would have no bling to gawk at, at all. And I know, I know, the jewelry often… no, always… takes a back seat to the dress and in reality there’s only a small percentage of us in this business who scream for today’s Liz Taylor of the jewelry world. Sadly, we didn’t get her on this red carpet, but I’m optimistic that we may see her in the near future.

So what did we see Monday night? Well, we saw yellow gold in many forms, which I’m sure made several people in this industry very wealthy happy. We saw it take the form of a Fred Leighton salamander on the back of Kristin Wiig, as well as an Ana Khouri tiara in Michelle Dockery’s hair. We saw it plentifully donning Christina Hendricks’ ears, wrists, and fingers via designer Neil Lane, and we saw it by Lorraine Schwartz surrounding gorgeously classic canary yellow diamonds on Lucy Liu. We also saw several platinum pieces like the fabulous ninety-five carat Chopard diamond necklace on Kate Walsh (though it would have stood out more on a lower-cut gown) as well as on Laverne Cox in the form of Fred Leighton diamond earrings, bracelet, and Art Deco brooches sewn into her dress. Other stars wearing platinum were “Pregnant” Panettiere, “Matthew Was Supposed To Remember Who Designed My Dress” Alves, and “I Can’t Pronounce Anyone’s Name Tonight” Stefani, which is the perfect segue into my next category…

Re: mispronunciations/forgetting who designed your free wearables – Robin Givhan wrote a fantastic article for the Washington Post last week titled “Pushing Products on Emmys Red Carpet” that put into perspective this specific topic. “Monday night, the poor, overwhelmed stars of the small screen were finding it impossible to remember all the names of the brands that gave or lent them their one-night wardrobe of fancy stuff,” she quipped, and continued with, “Model Camila Alves could not remember who designed her white, embroidered gown. And when husband Matthew McConaughey, wearing a lapis-blue tuxedo by Dolce & Gabbana, whispered the name in her ear, he only managed to remember half of it and mispronounced the half he did recall. Something with a ‘Z’, he gamely offered. Poor Zuhair Murad was sitting in his atelier weeping.”

If you were following the jewelry industry hierarchy at the hashtag #emmyjewelry last Monday evening, then you already know how these acts of “forgetfulness” bother the hell out of me. Am I supposed to have empathy for those WHOSE JOB IT IS TO MEMORIZE LINES FOR A LIVING when they just happen to… oops… not know who provided them with everything they’re wearing? And I’m sorry, but seriously, are they really forgetting or do they just not give a rat’s ass? If the Dalai Lama gave them a brooch to wear at the Emmys and someone from E! asked about said brooch (though, having someone from E! ask about the jewelry would be far-fetched, in and of itself) are we really to believe that they’d “forget” that it was from the Dalai Lama? No. I don’t believe that for a second. I believe that they’d scream it into the microphone because they would CARE enough to *remember*… and that really is where I have a problem. Big houses like Fred Leighton and Chopard have so much revenue that it’s not a huge burden on them to cloak celebrities in hundreds of carats of diamonds, yet a lot of celebrities walking the various red carpets can afford to pay for the jewelry they’re wearing, but they don’t have to. And so when a lesser-known designer comes along who has put their heart and soul (and money!) into making jewelry (or a gown, or a clutch) spectacular enough to appear in such an elaborate spotlight, it is, in my opinion, the duty of the celebrity to care enough to know the name or brand of the designer who was kind enough to dress them, in every format that dressing occurs. Yes, it gives exposure to the designer and yes, that means that it does work both ways, but let’s face it, who do you think is really coming out on top here?

I have an idea, or rather, a suggestion for the talented (and not-so-talented… I’m looking at you, Mrs. Rossdale) folks in the entertainment industry that could potentially help them not look so awkward, and frankly, so entitled, on the red carpets of the future: write your providers down on a piece of paper, a la an acceptance speech. Take a tiny yellow Post-it note and simply scribe…

Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti (so fab)

Dress: Helmut Lang (a personal fave)

Jewels: Irene Neuwirth (we want to see more!)

Clutch: Insert Clutch Maker Here (I really don’t know many)

The television world and we fickle bloggers will be thrilled that you cared enough to give CORRECTLY PRONOUNCED shout-outs to those who rightfully deserved them and chances are you’ll become our new heroine/hero. And yeah, we know that you don’t *have* to impress us, or anyone for that matter, but there’s a point where you must ask yourself what the appropriate thing to do would be, and this small gesture would potentially make you look golden to the masses, and everyone will feel better in the long run, believe me.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you, loves. On a sad note but completely related, I am heartbroken to hear about Joan Rivers’ medical situation and have so many fond comedic memories of her from my childhood into my adulthood. Funny, beautiful women seem to be few and far between in Hollywood, and those who can make fun of themselves seem to be even scarcer. The world never knew the likes of Joan Rivers and likely never will again, so I will end this post with some of my favorite and fitting quotes from The Funny Lady, herself:

“I’m in nobody’s circle; I’ve always been an outsider.”

“I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.”

“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.”

“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. Things are happening.”

And of course…

“I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

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