The Earrings That Got Me into Bergdorf's
Because I came to designing jewelry not through a fashion channel—I was an artist—I wasn’t as keenly attuned to fashion as some may assume. I wore a black turtleneck for about 15 years. So when you ask, “What were you wearing when …?” well, that’s not hard. I was probably wearing a black turtleneck.
For many years, that was my uniform: jeans and a black turtleneck. It was a perfect canvas for designing jewelry; one that illustrated the simplicity [of my work] that, for the first several years, was exclusively in gold.
When I first went to Bergdorf Goodman to present my collection, I thought I was just going to show six things. I hadn’t really pondered the possibility that they would say, “Where’s your collection?” I was underprepared for the fanciness. Even though I knew I was going there it hadn’t totally registered. I was quite young and not from New York. I wasn’t as aware that Bergdorf’s was the pinnacle of fashion and retail that I then discovered.
VIDEO: 12 Irresistible Velvet Pieces for the Holidays
I hadn’t considered my outfit that much. [The Ippolita Jet Set Earrings in gold] were not a conscious sartorial choice. There are not a lot of things that have volume but at the same time are delicate, like these earrings. To me they complete every outfit. It’s been interesting to me even as I’ve designed thousands of things since then, how there’s something fundamentally right about the shape, how they link together, the simplicity, and the femininity of it. They are big and little at the same time. I felt just dressed up enough.
When I left the meeting, I realized I had received the validation that I had an idea worthy of pursuing. Simultaneously, I was nobody, but here I was walking out of Bergdorf Goodman with an order in my hands.
When I think of what I wore at specific moments in life, I think, "What was I wearing when I had my daughter?" You know, these critical moments in one’s life. And I honestly couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember anything about [the fashion from] those moments. But I could remember moments that were meaningful for putting a stake in the ground from a professional standpoint; my personal development.
It’s crazy that in 20 years I haven’t changed my earrings. There’s something very fundamental to me [about the Jet Set earrings]. For me, they work as a reminder about sticking to your guns, about what’s important to you and your aesthetic outlook.