Local jewelry designers woo Anthropologie … and maybe Madonna
One afternoon in the summer of 2009, good friends Jane Farrar and Laamie Young sat themselves down on the floor of Farrar’s house in Santa Cruz, and spread out beads, buttons, leather fragments, gloves, and a mishmash of craft-related stuff, as well as a bottle of Prosecco. And then they got to work. Hours later, they had crafted together an über chic cuff bracelet that was remarkably original, encompassed by a brooch, slabs of leather and more. Neither had any idea that the day’s creation would be the beginnings of a potentially successful jewelry line, and that the names “Anthropologie” and “Madonna” would become a natural part of their lexicon just six months down the road.
And so the story of following your dream and trusting your path unfolded. Inspired by what had been an enjoyable craft session, the friends began making more cuffs, and added necklaces, earrings, and gloves to their cache of romantic, vintage, sometimes punk-inspired, cutting-edge collection of accessories. And then fate began to intervene.
Not long after their creations were underway, the women attended a picnic with some friends where they brought their new creations for everyone to try on. People were enamored with the charming designs. A friend asked if she could pass on the accessories to a fashion designer she knew. A week later, their pieces were being featured on a New York runway in a fashion show. How’s that for things falling into your lap?
As women in their mid-thirties, who already had artistic and career interests underway, this quick transition into the fashion world came as a remarkable, exciting, and welcome surprise. But that was just the beginning. With interest in their products hitting a quick crescendo, they scooped up the opportunities being handed to them, got a business license, Farrar’s husband launched a website for them (blankversejewelry.com), and the women took care of the requisite details to become an official company: Blank Verse.
Then Daily Candy (an online blog of what’s what and who’s who in fashion and culture) discovered their accessories and did a write-up. Their products got into a store, Eco Citizen Boutique, in San Francisco, and another store, Kaight, in New York. The prestigious fashion publication, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), will be running an upcoming spotlight article on their accessories. And then, of course, there’s the women’s clothing/housewares/accessories store Anthropologie that offers a romantic, vintage, sometimes French/country-inspired, bohemian line of products. A rep for Anthropologie got a look at the Blank Verse jewelry at a trade show, tracked down Farrar and Young, and offered them a contract with the fashion forward company. The ladies designed 60 glove pieces (with the fingers cut off, called glovlettes), which are accessorized with beads, lace, etc., for the New York and San Diego Anthropologie stores. These one-of-a-kind glovlettes sell for $200 in Anthropologie stores.
The women describe their work as “antique, sort of collage, and painterly,” and that’s a pretty good description. “It’s repurposed,” they say. “Taking pieces that had one life at one time and putting them in a new environment so they have a new, fresh look.”
This artistic approach stems from their backgrounds: Farrar, who grew up in a small town in Mexico, had dabbled in clothing design, and Young had a history of creating jewelry. Together, the two merged their interests and created Blank Verse, a mixture of fashion and art.
This is even seen in their work studio on the Westside of Santa Cruz, where the music of the band Iron and Wine plays in the background, and a treasure chest of buttons, lace, gloves, beads, and the like, are all strewn upon a table. Even the mess of crafts presents an eye-catching display. As for how the women are reacting to their newfound fashionable success, Farrar says, “It’s pretty incredible. It’s so unexpected, a treat. We weren’t looking to be discovered. We were just doing something we loved and it serendipitously matched up with a look that is very popular right now.” Young echoes her sentiments and adds, “We’re both in awe and incredibly grateful.” And together they recognize that the days of six months ago, where it was all fun, play, and dress up, are over. Now, they’re businesswomen. But even still, it’s not without the ‘wow’ factor. Like when a model recently wore their accessories in a photo shoot, and the photographer that day just so happened to also do photography for Madonna, and offered to pass on an original Blank Verse necklace to the Queen of Pop.
But even with all the hoopla surrounding their new line of accessories, these Santa Cruz women plan to keep things simple and create their fashions by hand. But if a major fashion house decides to hire them … well … they’re letting fate have its way. And so far, fate has been quite good to them.
For more information, visit blankversejewelry.com. Accessories and jewelry sold locally at Cameron Marks, 402 Ingalls St., No. 7, Santa Cruz, 458-3080.