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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Because this Throwback Thursday is also the day before Halloween, allow me to present — again — one of my all-time favorite pumpkin carvings: 2011’s Rick Ross Rap-O-Lantern.

Click for original source at the Armed Snobbery blog.

Click for original source at the Armed Snobbery blog.

As a jewelry designer, I had mad love for rapper Rick Ross’s diamond depictions of his own face, so I flipped out when I saw the pumpkin version of Rick and his chain. I liked Pumpkin Ross so much that I tracked down Seattle-based furniture-designer/bike-builder/music-remixer/DJ/pumpkin carver Kristjan Olsen and did a little story about him for the Huffington Post.


Rick Ross has lost a lot of weight lately, but I’m happy to see his jewelry hasn’t been put on a diet!

In 2012, my favorite pumpkin was gorgeous blogger Susan’s carving of FitzRoy the cat. If there’s anyone out there with carving skills who wants to make Purrkoy the kitten out of a white pumpkin, I would be most appreciative. I’ve already handled the costumes for the kittehs. FitzRoy is going as shrimp sushi …


Gigi thought this was very funny.

… and Purrkoy is a little sailor.


His favorite song is “In the Navy” by the Village People.

Portia, the Ragdoll kitteh who has been visiting us, will be a scary vampire cat.


She vants to suck your blood.

If they ring your doorbell, please fill their bags with lots of catnip and toy mousies!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

November’s Jewel of the Month has come a few days early because, this week, the Pink Elephant and Tipsy Writer ring won honorary mention in the Amerian Gem Trade Association Spectrum Awards eveningwear category!


All studio photos are by Ed Parrinello of SquareMoose.

This ring is the sixth in my Maneater ring series (because of the AGTA award, the elephant has jumped ahead of the proper introduction of ring #5 on the blog; you’ll see that one next month!). When I introduced the Bull and Bullfighter Maneater ring earlier this year, I explained my Maneater concept this way:

“The rings are inspired by my lifelong interest in powerful women. My signature Wendy Brandes jewelry line started with pieces that were named after real-life bad-ass women, including the warrior queen Xenobia and the 12th-century Empress Matilda. A lot of these strong women have been called “dragon lady” or “man eater” in pejorative ways. A tough man is just a guy doing his job, but there always has to be some kind of mean-sounding name for a tough woman, right? I got to thinking that some of these wimmins might have relished being called these names. I’m sure 7th-century Empress Wu would have been like, “Ha ha ha! Dragon lady! YOU’RE RIGHT!” before she executed the guy who spoke those words. Accordingly, each Maneater ring has a triumphant animal on top and a man tucked away inside the band.”

Novelist and journalist Jack London (1876 – 1916) was the first person to write about pink elephants as a hallucination suffered by a certain type of heavy drinker. My elephant is made of 18K rose gold and covered with 262 tiny pink sapphires totaling 2 carats. (She also has white diamond eyes.) The 18K-yellow-gold shank of the ring — representing a wooden bar — is set with 174 brown diamonds weighing 2.15 carats.


Click to view on my website.

You can peek inside the ring to see the too-drunk, 18K-white-gold writer, slumped between a wine bottle and a glass that’s adorned with another small white diamond.


Soooo drunk.

The look of the writer isn’t based on Jack London. Instead, it was loosely inspired by this photo of Cary Grant.


But Cary Grant looks a lot more dapper than my guy, who is really hurting.

In September, as I was finishing the ring, I started to wonder if I was as drunk as my Tipsy Writer, because I kept seeing pink elephants around New York. The inflatable pink elephant on display at Milk Studios during Fashion Week caused me to share a photo of the nearly completed ring.


Designed by artist Tristin Lowe, via the New York Times.

The day I picked up the ring, I bumped into another pink elephant downtown.


The friend who was with me saw it too, though, and she was stone-cold sober so it was all good!

My Maneater rings take months to finish. I started this one at the end of February. February 27, to be precise, as I can see from my email. I shared a lot of elephant photos from my 2013 South African safari with the wax carver. (I explain the lost-wax casting technique of jewelry making here.) I toyed with the idea of doing an elephant in a pose like this …


Click for my original safari post.

… but ultimately decided on a more traditional stance. I was already going to cover my pachyderm with pink sapphires, so I figured that was plenty fabulous enough! Here is a close-up of wax model of the elephant.


I had to custom order my one-millimeter pink sapphires, because that small size isn’t readily available. I often custom-cut stones to fit my pieces. This is because of the way I design. It’s rare for me to seize upon one big, beautiful gem and say, “I’m going to turn this into a ring/necklace/earring/bracelet.” Instead, I come up with a story and figure out how I want to express it in metal, then I source stones to fit. It’s not the easiest way of doing things, I must say, but it’s what comes naturally to me.


I looked at these samples from the gem cutter before ordering.

Here are all the wax models I made for the different parts of the ring.


You’ll see I originally did two tiny wineglasses and two tiny tumblers. I planned to put them on the top of the “bar,” right around the elephant. But as I played around with it, I realized the glasses would distract from the elephant, so I attached just one wine glass to the writer on the underside of the shank (in the picture of the models above, the writer is the green oval). I like the 3D element that gives to the writer.

After I decided to skip the glasses on the bar-top, I set a ring of upside-down diamonds there instead. This photo shows the completed elephant and the mostly finished shank, with the holes drilled on top for the additional gems.


The final touch was a ruby forehead ornament.


A ruby beauty mark.

As for why I was interested in Jack London and elephants in the first place, I spoke about that in an interview with the gorgeous Erika Winter for PriceScope.


I love that Erika said she fell into a “gorgeous stupor” when she saw this ring. That’s my new favorite phrase. I definitely fell into a gorgeous stupor when I got the Spectrum Awards news.  Thanks again to AGTA for the recognition; it means so much!

Monday, October 27, 2014

I’m thrilled to say my newest Maneater ring — the Pink Elephant and Tipsy Writer — has received honorable mention in the American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Awards. The awards recognize fine-jewelry designers whose work uses natural colored gemstones and cultured pearls.

I haven’t revealed the finished ring on my social media yet. First, it will appear at an editor’s event being held by AGTA today. Then I will be showing it and the rest of the Maneater collection to press and retailers at my own event at the Plaza Hotel this week. My right-hand woman Eryn is coordinating everyone’s appointments, so if you’re a member of the press or a buyer and you have received an invitation but haven’t confirmed a time, please get in touch with her ASAP because we can’t accept any walk-ins. (If, for some reason, you haven’t been invited and you should have been, please contact Eryn too!)

I’m holding my event in partnership with fellow jewelry designer Bella Campbell, so you industry types will get to see two collections in one visit. Today, Bella received AGTA’s honorable mention in the Spectrum Awards bridal category,

As for all my blog readers, you’ll get to see the official photos of the elephant ring SOON, as FitzRoy the cat might say.





Monday, October 27, 2014

MrB and I recently visited Tucson, where he received the John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award from the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


MrB with his award. Photo by Natalie Grum, via Facebook. Click for source.

The Zenger award honors journalists who “fight for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know.”  The school’s website elaborates:

“[The award] is named for a husband and wife team of pioneering journalists. John Peter Zenger was editor of the New York Weekly Journal in 1734 when he was jailed by British colonial authorities on charges of seditious libel. He had criticized the corrupt administration of New York’s governor, William Cosby. While Zenger was imprisoned, his wife, Anna Catherine Zenger, continued to publish the newspaper.

Zenger’s subsequent trial and acquittal is considered a landmark case in the history of freedom of the press, helping to lay the foundation for the First Amendment. Past Zenger Award winners include Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers.”

MrB and I like the fact that the award recognizes Mrs. Zanger as well as Mr. Zenger. Saying that she “continued to publish the newspaper” doesn’t quite capture how hard Anna Catherine worked. While John Peter was in prison for over eight months, facing a possible death sentence, Anna Catherine put out the Journal every Monday — missing just one issue. She brought the articles to her husband in jail where he edited them and, at the same time, she raised their five children! It makes me think of the line, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.”

I recorded MrB‘s acceptance speech. I must brag that he barely looked at his notes except to read a quote from Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton.

The dinner was held on Friday, Oct. 17, at the Westward Look Resort, where I cautiously posed with a cactus.

tucson friday resizeWhat Wendy Wore to the Zenger Awards
Dress: Jason Wu (2013)
Shoes: Prada (2011)

On Saturday, MrB and I checked out the mineral museum and planetarium at the university’s Flandrau Science Center. The center is named for another accomplished lady, author Grace Flandrau (1886 – 1971). She wrote more than four dozen short stories and six books — F. Scott Fitzgerald said her 1923 novel, Being Respectable, was better than Sinclair Lewis’s classic Babbitt. Flandrau frequently visited Tucson in the winter and left a $1 million bequest that was used to start the science center.

tucson saturday afternoon resizeWhat Wendy Wore to the Planetarium
T-shirt: Splendid
Shorts: Current/Elliott (2014)
Sandals: Purchased in Greece (2014)

We had a laugh while we were buying tickets to a planetarium show because the woman at the counter asked if I wanted an “adult” ticket. I was like, “Um ………….” It turned out she was asking whether I wanted a student ticket. I was glad she hadn’t mistaken me for a child or pet.

Continuing our tour of cool-women locations in Tucson, we had dinner Saturday night with friends at the Arizona Inn, which was founded in 1930 by Isabella Greenway, Arizona’s first Congresswoman and Eleanor Roosevelt’s BFF. Greenway had helped disabled World War I veterans by hiring them to make furniture for a shop called the Arizona Hut. The inn’s website says, “When the shop ran into financial trouble following the stock market crash of 1929, Isabella characteristically rose to the occasion and built the Arizona Inn as a way to create enough demand to keep the shop going.” The inn still has a cabinet-making shop, as well as gorgeous grounds. I would love to stay there next time I’m in Tucson.

tucsonsaturdayresizeWhat Wendy Wore to the Arizona Inn
Top: Castelbajac (2014)
Shorts: Castelbajac (2013)
Shoes: Prada (2011)

After that dinner, I decided I should try to document everything I wore during the trip. I liked the idea of setting a personal record for consecutive outfit photos. While we didn’t do much on Sunday — a freak storm blew in — we did go out to dinner at El Charro Cafe, where this skeleton was all set for a Dia de los Muertos party.

tucsonsunday2resizeWhat Wendy Wore to Eat Soft Tacos
T-shirt: From the Cavern Club in Liverpool (2014)
Jeans: Acne (2008)
Shoes: Opening Ceremony (2013)

El Charro’s website says the restaurant is “the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.” It was opened in 1922 by yet another enterprising woman, “Tia” Monica Flin, who acted as chef, hostess and waitress. The site says Tia Monica ” came to Tucson via France in the 1800’s when her father Jules, a famous stone-mason, was commissioned to build the city’s pristine St. Augustine Cathedral.” Interesting! Monica’s great-grandniece, Carlotta Flores, is El Charro’s chef now.

On Monday, I worked poolside while MrB spoke to journalism classes at the university. We met for dinner that night at Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, right off campus. I recommend their chocolate-filled beignets. I can’t stop thinking about them.

tucsonmondayresizeWhat Wendy Wore to Pasco
Boob-cloud top: Castelbajac (2009)
Shorts: Castelbajac (2013)
Shoes: Prada (2011)

On our last day, Tuesday, MrB met with more journalism classes. In the evening, we had dinner and listened to music at La Cocina. I skipped taking a final outfit photo because I was sick and tired of my one pose. I kept trying to come up with new poses to liven things up, but none of them worked. I keep thinking of the Barbizon “Be a Model … Or Just Look Like One!” commercials I grew up with …

… is it too late to sign up?!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

From the “I love to say I told you so” department (one of my favorite departments!): There’s a story today in the New York Times Sunday Styles section called “A ‘Blurred Lines’ Boomerang.” The article by Laura M. Holson details how Robin Thicke’s career has collapsed while Miley Cyrus’s career has soared since the singers’ controversial, twerk-filled duet of Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines” at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Remember that? When popular opinion said that Miley’s career was ruined by her “cringe-worthy” performance?

About a week after the VMAs, I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about “fading affect bias,” which describes the way negative emotions fade quicker from memory than positive emotions when it comes to transgressive behavior, meaning Miley’s act — initially seen as offensive — might someday be viewed as iconic, just like Elvis and Madonna before her.  Well …. *drops mic.*


My Huffington Post blog includes some you-have-to-read-it-to-believe-it negative contemporaneous reviews of Elvis and Madonna. I provided more examples, such as the Rolling Stones and the Beastie Boys, in this post on my personal blog.  And click here for all my posts on Miley; I had my eye on her since August 2012, when she cut off her Hannah Montana hair and went pop-punk.

Elsewhere in Sunday Styles, a short item reminds us that 2014 has been the year of the earring when it comes to hot jewelry. I love that single studs are called a “traditional” choice now! We’ve definitely come a long way from the days when I had to confirm that every customer who ordered a single stud understood that it was a SINGLE stud. (Some people didn’t know even though each product description mentioned the fact twice.)


The Times’s new recommendation is to wear two diamond drops in one ear or to wear them backwards.


I think a pair of earrings that would look great worn in one ear are my Memento Mori skull earrings in 18K gold with ruby eyes.

$3,900. Click to purchase.

$3,900. Click to purchase.

I have one pair available for immediate delivery and if you order now, you can have it in time for Halloween!

And now for the blog week in review:

Friday, October 24, 2014

My sterling-silver meat cleaver earring was included on a page of Halloween-inspired styles in the New York Post’s Alexa luxury section! (They’re near the top, to the left of the Marcus Lupfer lips sweater.)


Click to enlarge.


I’m in great company with Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Alexander McQueen and other great names. Thanks, New York Post peeps!

The meat cleaver stud is also #10 in the Post’s online gallery.


Click to see the whole gallery.

This week, a New York customer just ordered the meat cleaver along with another design to make her own scary mix-and-match pair.


The meat cleaver and gun emoji stud earrings give out strong “Don’t mess with me” signals!

Click here to buy a single meat cleaver stud in sterling silver for $35. (You can also custom-order a gold-plated or 18K gold version by emailing me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.) The gun emoji earring is available here in silver ($35) and here in 18K gold. You can browse all my emoji-inspired jewelry here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Have you downloaded the cool new shopping app called Spring? Just search for “Spring shopping” on your iPhone (Android is coming!) and you’ll find it in your app store. It looks a lot like Instagram except you get to tap on pictures of jewelry (and shoes, clothes, etc.) that you like and buy them! You can find my store on Spring by searching for “Wendy Brandes” — I’ve been on the app for a couple of months now.

I recently added my Halloween-worthy chainsaw and hockey mask earrings to my Spring store. The fun peeps at Spring then made this animated gif for Tumblr.


Love it! Follow Spring’s Tumblr here.

Spring doesn’t ship internationally yet, but I do, so if you’re outside of the U.S., you can buy the earrings — and all the rest of my designs! — on my site. Feel free to email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com to discuss shipping options before you order. Recently, I’ve sent jewelry to Canada, Australia, Ukraine and Germany. Gorgeous customer Eva in Germany has posted great pictures of her serial-killer studs on Instagram.


Click to read her comments.

Eva is a huge fan of singer Skylar Grey, so she also got the ax-logo necklace I originally made for Skylar. Eva’s version is gold-plated silver.


The necklace on Eva. Click for source.

Note to Skylar fans everywhere: I’m now doing a few of these necklaces on a case-by-case basis, so if you’re interested, email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com for pricing information. I can do these in silver, gold-plated silver or 18K gold.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

OscarPRGirl, the Twitter account for Oscar de la Renta, has been one of the most engaging fashion-house social-media accounts. In fact, when I turned over my business Instagram account to my right-hand woman Eryn a year ago (nearly to the day!) I said, “Basically, she’s going to be my Instagram version of OscarPRGirl.” I had to compare her to the best!

I’ve been waiting to see what would appear on the official Twitter account after Oscar’s death and there are now two posts. The first linked to this photo on Instagram. The second linked to the Oscar de la Renta website, on which is posted this lovely letter written by his stepdaughter, Eliza Reed Bolen, and her husband, Alex Bolen.


Click to enlarge.

The note, dated today, reads:

Colleagues —

We write to let you know that Oscar passed away last night at home in Connecticut surrounded by family, friends and more than a few dogs. He died exactly as he lived: with tremendous grace, great dignity and very much on his own terms.

While our hearts are broken by the idea of life without Oscar, he is still very much with us. Oscar’s hard work, his intelligence and his love of life are at the heart of our company. All that we have done, and all that we will do, is informed by his values and his spirit. Through Oscar’s example, we know the way forward. We will make Oscar very proud of us by continuing in an even stronger way the work that Oscar loved so much.

We are working on the formal arrangements to celebrate Oscar’s life. As those plans are finalized, we will let you know.

In the meantime, thank you for your friendship, loyalty and support.


Alex and Eliza

As New York Magazine wrote in a story 10 years ago, Oscar de la Renta the company had become a family affair. Alex is the chief executive officer and Eliza is executive vice president. (They spoke about the business in this joint interview in June.) The recently named creative director of the company, Peter Copping, was to report to both Oscar and Alex. Copping must be feeling a lot of pressure now to make his first show next February a worthy tribute!

Here are some additional links to good Oscar de la Renta stories and tributes:

  • Don’t miss the New York Magazine story I linked to above; Oscar was mulling over a succession plan at the time.
  • This 2012 Wall Street Journal story was pegged to the company’s expansion plan, but also showed a lot of Oscar’s personality — he said that the family’s eight rescue dogs “rule our lives.”  I also like what he had to say about retirement: “The most abused word in the world is ‘retirement.’ Every single day for me is a learning process. Why should I stop doing something that brings me so much pleasure?” And the story ends with this interesting fact: “Astonishingly, [de la Renta] has never kept a single archive. ‘Why should I?’ he asks. ‘I love now and tomorrow. What I did in the past doesn’t interest me.'”
  • This 2013 interview in the Telegraph, written by Lisa Armstrong, similarly notes that “looking back is not de la Renta’s style.”
  • Andre Leon Talley, who met Oscar in 1974, wrote a tribute for Vogue here.

And bloggers Tom+Lorenzo tweeted this video of Oscar serenading Sarah Jessica Parker with a mariachi band in 2011.

Another thing I noticed on the de la Renta Twitter was the announcement earlier this month of some lovely watches designed for Detroit-based Shinola. They will be available on Shinola’s website soon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

ABC News confirmed through a family member that fashion designer Oscar de la Renta has died, aged 82. The news comes a week after de la Renta announced the hiring of his first creative director, British designer Peter Copping. As fashion journalist Robin Givhan wrote:

“… at Oscar de la Renta, an era seems to be nearing a fine and tidy end as the designer prepares his company for its next chapter – one without him. De la Renta has hired his first creative director. And he has at last won over Michelle Obama. His work is done.”

De la Renta had been diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and the New York Times described him as looking “frail” at his fashion show in September. Copping was scheduled to start work on November 3, with his first de la Renta collection to be shown during New York Fashion Week next February. He was still supposed to report to de la Renta, however. Oscar worked right up till the end and it wasn’t just busywork. He was still nabbing headlines, most recently with his bridal-gown design for lawyer Amal Alamuddin’s wedding to George Clooney. (An Amal-inspired gown is part of next year’s de la Renta bridal collection.)  Last year, he hired disgraced designer John Galliano when no one else would and, in 2012, he indulged in a meat-themed feud with New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn. This year, Horyn wrote in Harper’s Bazaar that she was still friendly with the designer and shed some light on his motive:

“… if there’s one thing I know from covering Oscar for three decades, it’s that he’s intensely competitive. A good fight, even a phony good fight, magnifies power. It also creates a ton of publicity, as Oscar reminded me with a grin when I saw him a few weeks later.”

Over the years, de la Renta dressed many First Ladies, which is why it was news when Michelle Obama wore one of his designs this month. Another recent de la Renta design I liked was the one Sarah Jessica Parker wore to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala. The ballgown’s skirt was adorned with Oscar’s bold red signature.

Speaking of SJP, one of the great fashion moments on Sex and the City was when her character Carrie was given a coveted pink de la Renta cocktail dress by her artist boyfriend Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov). Carrie faints outside Lincoln Center and winds up wearing the dress as she and “the Russian” dance and dine at McDonald’s instead.


Courtesy HBO, via InStyle. Click for source.

That episode aired Jan. 11, 2004. I was so struck by the de la Renta that, by the next month, I was wearing a full-skirted vintage cocktail dress to a big party and having an exceptionally fun evening thanks to a dress that attracted everyone from Renee Zellweger to a local official’s hooker friend. I feel that de la Renta would have enjoyed that story, considering what he said at an event at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan last year, when his cancer was still in remission. Fashionista.com quoted him:

The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. You have to appreciate every single day that you’re alive. Life is a little bit like a garden—you have to find time to plant the seeds for beautiful flowers to grow. I’m having a fantastic time.”

A fantastic time — you can’t ask for anything better than that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why was today better than all other days? Because Marcel the Shell With Shoes On has a new video out, at last.

“Life’s a party, rock your body!”

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