(NEW YORK) Jewelry designer, and former FGI Rising Star finalist, Nicole Romano is known for crafting stunning pieces that marry vintage and modern edge. But how did it all begin? With heaps of raw talent and a little help from Linda Fargo, Nicole Miller, and Patricia Field. BY PAIGE REDDINGER
You went to RISD for fashion apparel design. How did you end up in jewelry?
I always kept a small line of accessories in my collection with pieces I just came across in my travels. Then some buyers began looking at them and placing orders. With the demand increase, the growth was organic and kind of grew into what it is today. My family is from Italy and had always been in the jewelry business so it was always surrounding me.
You source a lot of your materials from vintage stores. What’s been some of your coolest finds?
The coolest thing I found was a box of frosted glass stones, in the most beautiful color that I’ve never seen anywhere else. They were in the original packaging and stamps from the 1930s. It had the original rope that tied the little box together, too. I didn’t want to unwrap it because it was so beautiful.
Where do you go to find these vintage pieces?
Being from Rhode Island, there’s so many old jewelry factories dating back to the 1800s. You could spend hours, getting your hands dirty digging through decades of materials that have never been touched.
You can just walk into the factories and make purchases?
If they close down, they’ll sell anything from machinery or tables to anything sitting on the shelf. It’s just about digging through things. I also use a lot of Swarovski crystal, which is not a vintage element, but it is beautiful. Mixed media is the best way to describe the types of materials that I gravitate toward.
Do you have any favorite vintage jewelry designers that you admire?
Yes, Tony Duquette designed these unrestricted, bold pieces that I love.
So where do you find inspiration other than Tony Duquette?
It could be an interesting person from history or just a pile of material that I throw down on my work table. The way things fall inspires me. This season’s collection was inspired by the Chinese empress, Dowager Cixi. She used to roll her face with jade at least once a day and eat pearls!
Patricia Field is one of your mentors. How did you meet her?
I met her at a fashion awards party. I introduced myself to her and she complimented my designs that I was wearing. She invited me to her store for an appointment so that she could see the line. When I arrived, she was having her hair done in the back by a drag queen. I presented my whole collection to her and at that moment she bought pieces for herself, the store, and Sex and the City.
Did they end up wearing any of your jewelry in Sex and the City?
Oh yeah! It was featured throughout the series starting in 2002 or 2003 before I even had my own company. I worked with her all the way through both films. We would have fun Greek dinners in Astoria and talk about what she was working on next. It was exciting, and as you know, she basically follows no one.
What pushed you to eventually do a full line?
Pat mentioned my name in Vogue. It pushed me to start my own business. Before that, I was still fresh out of college and didn’t know I was going to pursue that road or if I was going to work for a designer.
Tell us about your collab with Nicole Miller.
I did my senior thesis with her at RISD and worked with her for a season. When I started my company, she was always very supportive and helped me start my business. To this day she is a friend and a huge supporter. I did a collaboration with her and my pieces are sold in all of her stores.
Where else are your pieces sold?
They’re at Bergdorf Goodman, Moda Operandi’s trunk show, and Sebastien James, which is a great store that just opened in Miami.
How did you get your foot in the door at Bergdorf’s?
I was a finalist in accessory design for FGI’s Rising Fashion Stars Awards and Linda Fargo was there. Of course, I knew who she was and I introduced myself to her. It was wonderful to meet her and that’s ultimately how I ended up there. The collection actually sold out recently; I’m about to send them my next delivery.
You used to have a shop in The Plaza. Did you meet anyone interesting?
Before it became a full-fledged food court, I met so many interesting people there. Mary J. Blige once walked into my shop, so you never knew who would be strolling around. It is The Plaza, so it’s definitely a crossroads for all types of people.
You’re a dedicated supporter to the USA made campaign. Is it hard to stay stateside with all of the cheap production abroad?
For my brand, quality is foremost. So I never want to risk jeopardizing that. Beyond quality, it means jobs. Especially in Rhode Island, I see this huge infrastructure that’s already here… and the capabilities are already here. So, how wonderful would it be if we could bring this back to life?
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
I want my pieces to be timeless and always remain in somebody’s wardrobe. With that being said, I will be branching out into other areas. Along with my ready to wear and jewelry lines, I’ll be branching out into footwear and handbags!
Price: $74-$495. Available at Nicole Miller and in store at Bergdorf Goodman, Sebastien James, Les Pomettes, and Patricia Field.
Follow Nicole Romano on Twitter and Facebook: @nicoleromanonyc