Deborah Pagani is the impossibly-stylish mom-of-three, whose dinner party conversations include tales about her stint working as a celebrity colorist in the ‘90s under masters such as Oribe Canales. Taking inspiration from her own timeless style icons, she pivoted her career and launched her eponymous fine jewelry brand in 2008. But once a hair obsessive, always a hair obsessive. Pagani created her popular line of elegant everyday hair accessories last year (elevating toggles and bobby pins to a whole new level.) Now, she’s debuted The Bow Pin: the limited-edition Blaire Waldorf-meets-vintage Chanel hybrid you didn’t know you needed in your life. We caught up with her to get the 411….
Tell us about your stint in the hairstyling industry. What was it like to work for legends like Oribe and Rita Hazan?
I really grew up in that industry—I started when I was 18. My first boss was John Sahag, a real gentleman, but with a rock and roll edge and also extremely demanding. That time really set the groundwork for me. Everyone had to be on time, extremely put together, and never want to go home. It was a challenging experience, but I learned so much from him: elegance, etiquette, and edge. Working with Oribe was way more of a party and way more glamorous. I worked with Rita at Oribe, and when she decided to open her salon, I was her first employee. We’re great friends to this day. She still does my best blond!
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You launched in 2008. What was your offering like back then?
I always wanted to be a designer of some sort, and I fell in love with jewelry after designing some pieces of my own. My hair clients loved my pieces and started asking how they could purchase them. When I found out I was pregnant (and that was at the time when Brazilian Straight perms had formaldehyde in them), I felt I needed to step away for the health of my baby and it was the time to take the chance and start my own jewelry business. My first collections were influenced by classic Americana and Art Deco design, and I’ve always had style icons like Anna May Wong, Grace Jones, Jackie O, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and Tina Chow in mind—designing what I think they would wear today. The “Pill” motif that I debuted in 2016 as part of my Americana collection has remained a signature over the years, and I’ve adapted it to many different designs, most recently a convertible chain necklace.
Did you always know you’d work for yourself and create your own brand?
What’s your earliest memory involving jewelry?
I’m half Cuban and half Italian and European. In both cultures, they are always giving little girls jewelry as babies. It’s definitely in my DNA to love jewelry, and I still have the name plate bracelet and charms that my grandmother gave me. During the revolution in Cuba, everything of value was taken by the government, particularly gold jewelry. My grandfather had a little gold charm that he hung from his belt, and it luckily went unnoticed and was the only piece of jewelry my grandparents were able to bring from Cuba. I loved the medallion (the one he kept hanging from his belt when he came to America) and it inspired the first piece I ever designed. I still wear it today and everyone asks me about it—it has a talisman-like feeling which is so powerful, especially in today’s world.
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Tell us about the Hair Objet. When did you launch this style and how has it helped build your brand?
I launched Hair Objet in April 2019. The idea for the line was sparked by my endless search for a hair pin that stayed secure without bending, but also felt really luxurious and chic. I realized that this was something I could do myself, and thus my best-selling Sleek Hair Pin was born. As part of that first collection, we also launched our Hair Cuffs, which are elastics that double as bracelets; mimicking the look and feel of fine jewelry. I worked for over a year in development to perfect the four metals, so that the pins and cuffs would compliment, not compete with your jewels. I had always wanted to add something to my line that was accessible to a wider group without being demi fine or costume—those markets are oversaturated, and I didn’t want to take away from the fine jewelry. Hair Objet was the perfect way to fuse my years of experience in hair styling and jewelry design to fill a void in the market for super luxe hair accessories that look and feel like jewelry.
Does the line have any famous fans?
Hair Objet has diversified the brand’s offering, allowing me to bring my design sensibility to a wider audience, without compromising on quality or design. Makeup artist Gucci Westman—a woman I’ve long admired and whose Westman Atelier products I LOVE—wears her pin almost every day and it’s always really special to see that. Other fans include Julianne Moore, Lucy Hale, and Lala Anthony.
Tell us about The Bow Pin! What are the influences behind this new launch?
Oh this is fun! The Bow Pin is inspired by ’90s Chanel runways and Gossip Girl’s resident bad girl Blair Waldorf. I’ve always been fascinated by the American socialite and her stereotypical private school uniform, and how she injects her personal style in an otherwise boring uniform, with her accessories. With details like coated tweed and frayed edges, the Bow Pins have that uptown-meets-downtown feel. I love a bow, but I’m not crazy about the fact that when you tie it up, you’re kind of married to that style all day, or that it ends up lying flat. Combining the silhouette of a bow with the ease of the pin, lets you take it up and down all day without getting kinks in your hair (pro tip: wear the pin for a few hours, and you’ll end up with amazing beach waves.) The bows are limited-edition and come in four fabrics—there’s something for everyone, but I can also totally relate to the woman who needs all four!
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We hear you’re homeschooling at the moment. That’s got to be pretty crazy alongside running the business?
I was fully home-schooling March through June and that really brought out some tears and lessons. Thankfully my kids are in the “hybrid” model right now, which makes life less of a juggling act! My daughter is 12 and can navigate on her own for the most part, and I home school my twin boys on Fridays.
What does an average day look like for you?
I wake up around 7am and check production emails for both Hair Objet and fine jewelry. But I never answer before caffeine. I take my LivOn labs Vitamin C and Be Hive of Healing tincture, followed by coffee. My kids eat and I get them ready for their day, and then I move onto a bit of an extensive routine, because, after being in the beauty industry for so many years, I never feel fully dressed without proper skincare and a little bit of glam! A lot of my must-haves are from Goop, like their dry brush and Himalayan salt scrub shampoo, and Westman Atelier makeup. I also love all things Necessaire. After all of the glam, I get dressed, down my daily smoothie (which is an ever-evolving nutrient-packed concoction), and then it’s time to work. Every day is different, but there’s always some combination of virtual client appointments, designing, checking on production, content creation, liaising with my PR office, and helping my kids with homeschooling on the days they’re not in the classroom. Now that lockdown restrictions have eased a bit, I try to end the day with dinner outside with girlfriends or a date night with my husband. Going out feels really special now—I’ve really missed dressing up, so I get super decked, even for an hour cocktail. All masked up, of course!
Are you the master behind the @deborahpagani Instagram account too? We love your mix of content. And Chrissy Teigen even follows you!
Yes, I am and I love it! It’s a great way to connect with clients and admirers of the brand, and give them a behind the scenes look into my work and life. It’s proven to be a completely essential tool, especially in COVID, as the business’ lifeline.
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What’s next for the brand?
So many things, I hope, but my focus is to continue growing Hair Objet with more limited editions like the bows, and hopefully expand into other related categories in the future. We also have another cool launch coming up in November—so keep your eyes peeled!