Everyone has to start somewhere. For example, Barneys New York founder Barney Pressman funded his first store in 1923 with the $500 he raised by pawning his wife’s engagement ring. In this column, we talk with the fashion industry’s luminaries about how they got their businesses off the ground. In other words: the Big Bang, or how it all began.
This week, we give a round of applause to jewelry designer Dana Lorenz of Fenton and Fallon. The mastermind behind these sister jewelry lines has always had her foot in the creative sphere, working for fashion bigwigs like Gucci and Donna Karan before launching her Fenton line in 2006.
To calm the clamor of her cult following, the School of the Art Institute alum created the more price-conscious and eccentric jewelry line Fallon two years later.
Soon, everyone was knocking at Lorenz’s door for the elegant, bold and unexpected elements she effortlessly fuses together to create one-of-a-kind designs. Countless designer collaborations (Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, and Opening Ceremony) and a nomination for the 2010 CFDA Swarovski Accessory Designer of the Year Award came next.
Barneys New York: Have you always wanted to design jewelry?
Dana Lorenz: I’ve always known I wanted to design, but launching my own business was a spontaneous sequence of events. I was creating elaborate pieces for friends and Alexandre Plokhov from Cloak took notice at a club one night and asked if I would reinterpret pieces for his men’s show. It was the season he placed for the CFDA Fashion Fund, so everyone was watching. After that, Vogue and Barneys took notice of my collection.
BNY: We knew we had good taste!
DL: I can say this now, but I had an appointment with Barneys before I officially had a full assortment! I created the collection in the weeks prior to the appointment, so that first season was all bespoke and limited edition pieces, full of feathers, fringe and moody stones.
BNY: So after designing that first collection, how did you get the business to thrive?
DL: I began by selling to a few key stores out of my apartment, which my parents still paid the rent for. The business grew very organically with Fenton, and then Fallon exploded and was the catalyst for the overall growth.
BNY: Where do you get the inspiration for your collections?
DL: My collections are always rooted in my childhood: a punk attitude mixed with that uptown, eccentric deep inside. You have to figure out that you don’t want to be anyone else but a better you.
BNY: Who were your biggest cheerleaders in those early days?
DL: I am so grateful to everyone who took a chance on my work. Barneys was an integral part of my success, as was Valery Demure in Paris, and stylists Karl Templer, Patti Wilson and Edward Enninful. Most of all, my parents—I’m still their 12-year-old little girl, and they’ve been there through everything.
BNY: Any regrets from that time?
DL: I think the mistakes I made were made for a reason—to learn. But I wish I knew then to invest in Apple in the ’80s!
BNY: At what moment did you know you had “arrived?”
DL: I feel like I am still “arriving!” But there have been times where I have really felt pride in my success. Seeing images of First Lady Michelle Obama in my pieces and getting an email from Anna Wintour (congratulating me on my CFDA Fashion Award nomination) are moments I’ll never forget.