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Designer Paige Novick On Her Foray Into Fine Jewelry

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Jewelry designer Paige Novick has managed to create a booming business during the recession thanks to costume pieces at affordable price points and a successful trunk show at Bergdorf Goodman. Now Novick has entered the increasingly popular realm of fine jewelry with her cleverly titled collection called Phyne. Thanks to collaborations with high-end luxury boutiques like Claire Distenfeld‘s Five Story and major retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, where it launched last November, Novick is making an even bigger name for herself. What’s more? Novick’s fine jewelry price points start at just $400, but can range up to $10,000 for more elaborate pieces. We caught up with Novick over coffee at the Flatiron creative workspace Neuehouse to find out how she’s staying ahead of the pack.
PAIGE REDDINGER

How did you begin designing jewelry?
I had a handbag line called Frou by Paige Novick for about 10 years and then I took a brief hiatus to get married and have a child, but I always knew that I would come back to accessories. My mother is a jeweler, so I grew up with it, but I was never interested at all. One day I woke up and just felt like there was a jewelry moment coming and now is the time. I started to dabble in fine jewelry, but then the economy crashed.

How did you navigate the recession?
I took all of my ideas and translated them to brass and silver. I did a trunk show at Bergdorf Goodman and they picked up the collection in 2008, during the height of the recession. The collection did really well, because it was at the right price. But I always knew in the back of my mind that I would go back to fine jewelry and I was starting to feel a turn in the economy, so I created a small capsule collection in 2012 and Louis Boston picked it up right away and we were featured in W. It was a really nice fine collection and it was clean and architectural, but it wasn’t complete. I felt like if I did this, I had to do it right; so we tested the waters with Louis Boston. After that it was immediately picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue and was put in 10 stores.

What is your best seller?
The Elisabeth necklace named after my best friend, Elisabeth Noel Jones; some people think it looks like wings, some people think it looks like lips, but there is something both organic and geometric about it and I like to play with those contrasts and juxtapositions. The simplicity of the little unexpected curve and the three subtle diamonds on the chain has really become a signature. When I first designed this necklace, my son, who was six at the time, came up to me and said, ‘Is that a new necklace? It needs more detail.’ It’s funny, because he’s really a boy’s boy, but he’s very observant. He thinks like an artist and has an artist’s temperament and he said, “Put three diamonds on the side.” I came in the next day and did it and it became our hallmark feature. But now he thinks he has input on everything.

What do you think about the jewelry market today? Do you think that it is over-saturated in any way?
We have been very fortunate, because we have had incredible support from different retailers, but it’s a difficult time, because there’s a lot of beautiful jewelry out there. For me it’s about making sure that every single piece retains our DNA and if we continue to create those points of difference, we can build a brand that is really in line with who we are. I think the danger comes when you veer off to chase a trend. That doesn’t mean that we don’t incorporate trends, it just means that we do it in a way that stays true to our brand and that is very important as a designer, because you can be tempted to be influenced by retailers when they give you feedback.

Do you listen to the retailers?
You should always listen, because there is so much valuable information that I get from retailers, but you have to stay true to what you want and hope that the trends catch up with you. I love geometry and architecture and have always been known for that signature trend, but that wasn’t always a trend. As soon as you try to be someone that you are not, the consumer doesn’t want it; they are very sophisticated and savvy. Another thing that has been really fun for me are the collaborations, they allow me to be even more playful. When you are designing with another person and they are like-minded aesthetically it is very inspiring, because it becomes more of a dialogue and not just you in your head.

You collaborated with Claire Distenfeld of Five Story. What was that like?
It was an opportunity to really do something different and also branch out of my comfort zone and push past my frame. I love color, but if you see my collection you see that most of the jewelry pieces are neutral. Claire wears color all of the time and wears it well, so I thought, ‘If I’m doing a collaboration with her I have to do color.’ I had to find a way to do it that reflects who I am, but also who she is and that is more of a design challenge. Next season, I actually added a lot more color. New York and Greenwich may be black and gold, but the rest of the country likes color even when it is freezing Winter in February.

Is the fine jewelry market eclipsing the fervor for costume jewelry?
I think that costume is still important, but there are such a broad range of prices. Would you rather spend $300 on costume earrings or $400 for diamond studs?

Why is costume jewelry so expensive?
It’s expensive to manufacture, because you have model costs, assembly, plating, finishing, and the stone setting; there is a lot that goes into it. I try to do delicate light pieces that are not chunky. I do it so that I design it the way that I like it, but then try and bring down the price point. We are very conscious of that.

Is it tempting to go out of your price range?
I go out of my normal price range when I do some custom pieces. I did that for Elisabeth [Noel Jones]‘s wedding ring and engagement ring and I just did a beautiful sapphire ring for somebody and I got to pick out the sapphire and do an amazing design. When it’s something of this particular ring’s size, it is a substantial budget.

Do you do send them a sketch?
With Elisabeth’s husband, Kilian Hennessy, he knew exactly what he wanted, but he doesn’t know that much about diamonds or shapes, so I got a general sense and then brought him ones to choose from. My mom helped me with that, because that is her forte. But for the customer who wanted the sapphire ring, I did some sketches she loved it and then she picked the stones with her husband.

Would you ever delve back into handbags?
I thought about that. There was a moment when I incorporated a lot of my old medallions from the bags into my costume jewelry, but for the moment I just want to do this. As a designer it is hard to write yourself into one category, but you have to sort of put the brakes on.

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