PHOTOS COURTESY LAVA JEWELRY
Lana Jewelry designer Lana Fertelmeister layers pieces from her Spring 2007 Elements Collection. She's known for sleek, modern geometric designs. CLICK FOR LARGE
Jewelry goes hand-in-hand with bare skin in making a bold, sexy statement
With just a few days remaining until Valentine's Day, the timing couldn't be better for Neiman Marcus to host a Lana Jewelry trunk show with an appearance by designer Lana Fertelmeister. Her line was born out of a love story, after all.
LANA JEWELRY TRUNK SHOW
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday
Place: Neiman Marcus
Fertelmeister already had a successful career as a fashion designer in her hometown of Chicago when, on a whim, she created a nameplate necklace with her boyfriend Rob's name on it as a symbol of affection.
"I started wearing it out and everyone wanted one," she said by phone from her Chicago office.
With several requests for nameplates and jewelry utilizing individuals' initials, it didn't take her long to switch careers and graduate to fine jewelry.
"It took off much quicker than anything I had done with clothing," Fertelmeister said.
About seven months after getting started, she said, "I went to California to Fred Segal, where they picked up my line. Cameron Diaz bought a pair of my earrings four weeks later, and the rest is history."
Shown here is a La Bella necklace of interlocking circles.
Diaz wore the earrings to the premiere of "Charlie's Angels" in 2003, and other celebrity purchases followed. Among stars who have been spotted in Lana Jewelry designs are Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rachel Weisz and Katherine Heigl.
That's not to say it was easy. Even though she had a sales structure in place for her clothing business, she hit the pavement herself to sell the jewelry, to avoid mingling the two enterprises.
"I didn't use any of my clothing contacts. I started totally from scratch," she said. "The worst that could have happened was to hear people say no, and you move on. Luckily, they didn't say no."
IT'S EASY TO understand the appeal of her fine jewelry, made at home in Chicago, utilizing classic combinations of yellow, white and rose gold and diamonds, in striking geometric shapes. Prices range from $175 for small upside-down hoop earrings to $5,000 for a necklace.
"It can be worn on the red carpet, but Sandra Bullock was also photographed wearing it on the beach. It's versatile. It's meant to be worn, not put in a jewelry box."
Oasis earring with diamonds at $1,975.
Even though marketers understand that celebrities like Diaz and Bullock offer a shortcut to consumers' hearts' desire, Fertelmeister says, "I don't fixate on that part of the business because every person who buys my jewelry is a celebrity to me. I'm still shocked and surprised when I see them in the grocery store or walking down the street. I'm humbled and amazed by it. I never want to be that person who acts all high and mighty, and that shows in my jewelry."
That's why, even at the peak of awards season, she can allow herself work and vacation time in the isles. You won't find her clamoring to gift or push her jewelry on celebrities accustomed to receiving free merchandise, so whenever you do see a star in her jewelry, you know she or a loved one spent their own money on it.
"I think (celebrities) truly love to shop, but they're told what to do and what to wear so often that when they do see something they like, it's liberating for them to think, 'Let me buy this for myself,' and hopefully, they buy Lana Jewelry."
Lana Jewelry's offering for spring is the Elements Collection, with pieces such as Oasis and Luster necklaces and Nova earrings representative of the four elements of water, fire, air and earth.
Nova necklace, about $1,170 in yellow gold, from the Spring 2007 Elements Collection.
As for what's next, Fertelmeister's anxious to make her first trip to Hawaii because she's noted over time that her jewelry works well in tropical places, such that she's trademarked the phrase "Just Add Skin" to capture the spirit of jewelry and bare skin, each enhancing the other.
"First and foremost, I'm attracted to things that are sexy, uninhibited and colorful."
She's so certain that she'll find inspiration here that she plans to design her fall collection during her stay. "I always design my collections in sunny places like Miami and L.A. How could Hawaii not inspire me?"
And yes, even if the beaches, sunshine, tropical flowers and mai tais don't do the trick, Rob will be by her side.
"It's always nice when you meet somebody who sees something in you that maybe you don't, and he's that person for me," Fertelmeister said.
As for the idea of eventually going back to clothing design, she says, "Never say never. But the wonderful thing about jewelry I realized from the start is that I'm selling to everybody. There's no size, no color barrier. Through jewelry I can make so many more people happy, and I love that."