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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ICE Crystal Jewelry Awards at FABB 2015

It was a jewelry design competition that showcased the brilliance of six Fashion Institute of Technology students. And Bo Won Hwang was victorious—with Preciosa Crystal Components supporting her from start to finish.

Hwang took top honors at the second annual ICE Crystal Jewelry Awards, held during the 26th annual Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball, or FABB, at Pier 60 in Manhattan on May 6. Czech Republic-based Preciosa supplied the crystal for each student’s extraordinarily ornate, highly embellished creations. The company underwrites the ICE Awards, whose name is an acronym for Innovation, Creativity, and Excellence. The competition was originally created through a partnership between Preciosa, FIT, and Accessories magazine.

Jana Klapkova, Preciosa’s Marketing Communications Manager, highlighted the importance of fostering young designers. “Our aim is to support new jewelry designers who are original, who have unusual or unique designs,” she said. “Their thoughts are fresh and we like to support this next generation of creative talent.”

So much so that Preciosa has been sponsoring the event for two years now. “The idea emerged five years ago,” noted Klapkova. “And we were fortunate to build a partnership with Sherie Dolinoy, publisher of Accessories Magazine, who helped us to make this happen.

“We always find new ways of designers using our crystals,” Klapkova continued, “because they can be used in ordinary ways—but we look for designs that use the crystals in extraordinary ways.

“The aim is being fulfilled because the young designers are very original,” she said. “And also we hope they are happy to work with our crystals and that they will remember this period of time when they become well-established companies.”

Hwang was announced as winner at the ICE Awards before an audience of 767 accessories executives, and will receive $1,200. Varuna Suraseranivong was named first runner-up, which came with a $600 prize.

The Preciosa-embellished designs of all six students—Hwang, Suraseranivong, Han Lin, Kyungrim Kim, Jia Zhu, and Yuan-Hsin Chang—were on display in sparkling cases at FABB. As a theme, each competitor picked a fall-winter 2015-16 trend specified by Accessories magazine, from “Dark Romance” to “Russian Charm.”

All of the student-designers are from FIT’s Jewelry Design undergraduate program. For the competition, each student is paired with a mentor from a jewelry marketer or manufacturer. The overarching goal of the competition and mentorships is to build relationships between a new crop of promising designers and these marketers.

And Hwang has gotten off to a good start. She is an intern at Haskell Jewels, and her mentor during the competition was Jackie Canzone, Vice President of Design at Haskell, which designs, markets and distributes costume jewelry and watches.

When asked of she was happy about the win, Hwang, who picked “Dark Romance” as her inspiration, said in her soft-spoken manner, “Of course.” She joked: “I think my mentor was more excited than me.”

For her part, Canzone said, “It was great because it’s not every day a student can actually have a piece of jewelry manufactured. They usually have to make it themselves, so it’s a different experience. It was fun working with her and to win was really exciting.”

“I think Preciosa and FIT did an awesome job of organizing, said Stephan Rubin, who is President of jewelry wholesaler Stephan & Co. and mentored Suraseranivong. “So much time and energy went into it…really well done. The entire process is fabulous—to encourage young, creative people in our industry, which we desperately need to keep going on and on. She’s awesome.”

“I’m so happy, the outcome is great,” said Suraseranivong, who went with “Russian Charm.” “My inspiration is purely Russian, from flower shapes to the colors,” she said, pointing to the red tassels adorning her necklace and earrings. “I tried to make all the jewelry textured, with golden thread embroidered on.” 

“There’s no reason that Preciosa can’t be the Swarovski of tomorrow,” said Kim’s mentor Tahseen Ali-Khan, Design Director/Partner at costume jewelry manufacturer AKA Mystique Accessories LLC, paying homage to the crystals that were used. “It’s wonderful for us to find designers,” she added.

Kim, who chose “Russian Charm,” said, “It was a good experience because I designed it and the company made the piece. It is really amazing.” 

At FIT, “We have the only curriculum in the world where the makers become designers and the designers become makers,” said Wendy Yothers, Chairperson of Jewelry Design at FIT’s School of Art and Design. “So all of our graduates know how things are put together and how to create and mine an idea.” Her colleague Michael Coan, head gemologist at FIT’s School of Art and Design, added, “Many times we combine the [design and production] process. This is a first-hand experience: that they’re able to work with the industry to create the pieces of work. In other words, it’s not a fanciful sketch; it’s a working sketch that will be developed.”

The students’ pieces—primarily necklaces, earrings, and bracelets—were voted on by numerous retailers, including Macy’s and Dillard’s. Salability of an item was kept in mind by the retailers, but they also realize it’s a competition, “so it has to be something really impressive with artistry,” Lauren Parker, editor-in-chief of Accessories magazine, noted of judging the creations.

Parker added that student competitors go on to get jobs in the industry.

“Basically it’s like ‘Project Runway,’” she said. “It’s a whole job interview, where they get to show their design skills, and work with the mentor, who gets to see not just how talented they are, but their work ethic. So some of them get scooped up!”

Lin, who worked in the “Dark Romance” realm with mentor Robin Regnier, Vice President of Merchandising at NES Costume, a designer, developer, marketer, and distributor of costume jewelry, said she tried to think of what “Dark Romance” is. For her, it came down to flowers and dark gray and black tones. “It also has a little bit of a feminine side,” she said.

Chang and Zhu both picked “Dark Romance.” Chang, who was paired with mentor Mandy Reiter, Co-owner of costume jewelry designer and manufacturer International Inspirations/Lux Accessories, noted, “The concept of my design is a garden at midnight, with roses that grew all over the walls and bloomed deep red flowers. When the midnight breeze came by, the vines trembled and the withered leaves and petals fell to the ground.”

Zhu worked with mentor Colette Pace, Vice President of Product Development/Design/Merchandising at Jams/Punch Fashions, a costume jewelry company with a house line and private-label partners. “The red stones in my design stand for the passion, the love, and the excitement of the Garden of Eden we are living in now,” Zhu stated. “But within all the excitement, there is always a black, mysterious snake within the soul, looking for a chance to draw out the sin and black romantic from deep inside you.”

Here, the student-mentor teams to which Preciosa supplied crystal:

Student: Bo Won Hwang

Mentor: Jackie Canzone, Vice President of Design at Haskell Jewels, which designs, markets and distributes of costume jewelry and watches.

Inspiration: “Dark Romance”

Student: Varuna Suraseranivong

Mentor: Stephan Rubin, President of jewelry wholesaler Stephan & Co.

Inspiration: “Russian Charm”

Student: Han Lin

Mentor: Robin Regnier, Vice President of Merchandising at NES Costume, a designer, developer, marketer, and distributor of costume jewelry.
Inspiration: “Dark Romance”

Student: Kyungrim Kim

Mentor: Tahseen Ali-Khan, Design Director/Partner, AKA Mystique Accessories LLC, a costume jewelry manufacturer.

Inspiration: “Russian Charm”

Student: Yuan-Hsin Chang

Mentor: Mandy Reiter, Co-owner, International Inspirations/Lux Accessories, a costume jewelry designer and manufacturer.

Inspiration: “Dark Romance”

Student: Jia Zhu

Mentor: Colette Pace, Vice President of Product Development/Design/Merchandising at Jams/Punch Fashions, a costume jewelry company with a house line and private-label partners.

Inspiration: “Dark Romance”

Thank you for taking the time to read our jewelry blog post. We hope that you have found this news to be informative. If you have comments or questions, please add your thoughts in the discussion area below.

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