I was born the oldest child of three of a second generation Irish Catholic family in South St. Louis, Missouri. My dad worked hard to provide for his family, but since my mom was a traditional housewife, money for extras was always at a premium. Consequently my mom always did little odd jobs to earn extra pin money, as they used to call it, for those extra special treats like soft serve ice cream from the Dairy Queen and piano lessons for the kids.
My mom also would splurge her hard earned pennies on what was known as costume jewelry at a Famous Barr department store near our modest home. Although I could never quite figure out why the May Company gave their St. Louis branch stores this odd name, I did know that the first floor was filled with gleaming glass display cases full of gorgeous brooches, earrings, necklaces. Nestled into the gleaming array of jeweled beauties were my weakness, bangle bracelets.
My mother learned quickly that taking me jewelry shopping was a risky situation. Once I entered that glitter palace it took superhuman effort to drag me out. I now understand all the "Do Not Touch" signs that many jewelers now display. I was in my element studying every single piece in every possible hue. Yes, I did touch. But not until I got home and my mom let me try on all of her new purchases.
When my mom died some years ago she left me the contents of her costume jewelry collection. Stuffed inside of a worn jewelry box were the treasures that I remembered her buying as a child. Although I don't wear her baubles and gems, I do look at them from time to time and many memories flood back. I also admire the incredible craftsmanship and design of these amazing jeweled pieces from so many years ago.
Needless to say, my early love of jewelry shopping with my mom laid the groundwork for my current passion for anything with bling. Although my knees still buckle at the sight of a gorgeous bangle or cuff bracelet, I also lose my breath at the sight of any stunning crystal encrusted hair accessory. While I love diamonds and emeralds, and who wouldn't, I still have a preference for the stunning Swarovski and crystal studded designs. Somehow they take me back to my true roots.
In my years of buying various accessories I have found many stunning pieces. Some, I convinced myself, were just too beautiful to sell. Many pieces I haveI admired as they were packed up and sent out the warehouse doors of HairBoutique.com.
I marvel at the brilliance of the designers of the little beauties. How do they come up with the incredible designs? It is all a mystery to me.
One thing that has impressed me over the years is that some of the most celebrated designers are also the kindest and most generous with their time.
Carolyn Rafaelian-Ferlise - Alex and Ani
Over the past month I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet and get to know Carolyn Rafaelian-Ferlise, the brains and beauty behind the spectacularly famous Alex & Ani accessories line.
The first time I chatted with Carolyn she was busy preparing to leave for her Tribeca showroom when I caught up with her. Even though she was swamped, Carolyn graciously took time out of her whirlwind of activity to chat with me about her brilliant Alex & Ani designs and her philosophies of the business. Needless to say, I was pinching myself at my great fortune.
If you love absolutely fabulous accessories you probably have seen some of Carolyn's mouth-dropping designs in the pages of all of the most prestigious fashion and beauty magazines ranging from Women's Wear Daily, Cosmopolitan, Lucky, Ocean Drive, W Magazine and Elle to the ultra chic InStyle. In fact, Carolyn's designs have been featured in the media so many times that it is virtually impossible to list all the mentions. Carolyn's breathtaking collections encompass everything from hair accessories and stellar cuffs to antique brooches, cocktail rings, necklaces and drop dead gorgeous earrings.
A Family Business
In an odd sense, Carolyn grew up loving jewelry as I did. The difference is that while I was admiring the gorgeous array of brilliant pieces, her family was manufacturing them in Providence, Rhode Island. Three generations of Carolyn's family have been in the jewelry biz designing and creating little works of art that are undoubtedly passed on in many other families.
Where does she get her inspiration for her heavenly creations? Although Carolyn did have access to her father's amazing collection of hundreds of original jewelry casts, she was born with a natural genius for design. Utilizing her father's well-established jewelry factory to guarantee the absolute highest quality and perfection of her collections. Carolyn's inspiration springs from many wells.
Carolyn understands the importance of sharing her love of jewelry with her own daughters, just as my mother shared hers with me. When she created Alex and Ani 8 years ago, Carolyn lovingly dedicated her new business to her two eldest daughters, Alexandria and Ani.
In the time that I spent chatting with Carolyn I was incredibly touched by the deep love, devotion and dedication she has to not only her two eldest daughters, but her youngest daughter.
A True Flare For Design
Born under the Venus inspired sign of Libra, Carolyn was gifted with a fabulous flare for design and an instinctive sense of style. An artistic genius, Carolyn has produced an extensive array of distinct collections. Each one of her lines focuses on a different trend, shape, material or pattern that she dreams up.
During our conversation Carolyn expressed her fierce dedication to producing only American-made products with materials that are strictly of American origin. As a result of her commitment to USA made goods, Carolyn has manipulated exiting materials into new and original tools.Examples of her ingenuity lie in the development of American Crystal, a specially treated crystal created as an alternative to Austrian crystal and her latest development, the introduction of Wire Wraps. Based on her desire to produce pieces that fit like new every time you wear them, Carolyn has invented a new combination of metals that retain consistent tension and have memory to ensure the perfect fit forever.
Demonstrating that she is not held back by any boundaries, Carolyn is taking her genius for transforming the familiar into edgy and inspiring with a new beauty collection that marries vintage designs from the 40s, 50s and 60s with the latest innovative beauty products that will make any fashionista swoon.
Describing her cozy fireplace enhanced loft and latest accessories laden showroom in Tribeca was almost enough to motivate me to flee Dallas for New York on the next plane to view her latest collections. Graciously providing me with her New York information so I could call if I had more questions, Carolyn signed off our call with a warm farewell. I felt I had found a kindred spirit.
For more information about the fabulous Alex & Ani collection visit: http://www.alexandani.com