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Saturday, February 21, 2015

I was reading the Hollywood Reporter’s Oscar issue and it included an article analyzing what color and style of gown was most likely to be worn by winning actresses. Gold was the lucky color, worn by 50% of the winners, with white in second place at 36%. But I lost all interest in the math after coming across the photo representing brown (5%), which showed Jennifer Hudson in her controversial 2007 look.

From the Hollywood Reporter.

From the Hollywood Reporter.

Hudson was roundly criticized for her brown Oscar de la Renta dress and metallic bolero. After the fact, she distanced herself from the look, indicating she felt pressured into it by her stylist for the evening, André Leon Talley, who was, at the time, an editor-at-large for Vogue. I have to strongly disagree with her and everyone else who criticized ALT’s choice. I loved that outfit then and I love it now. It was the only look in the Hollywood Reporter piece that was deserving of my coveted Best Dressed/Wear What You Want combo award, which, unfortunately for J-Hud, wasn’t created until 2012.

Here’s a better shot of the notorious dress and jacket.

This still looks so fresh and different to me. There’s an interesting timelessness about it. If someone wore it next year, it would look completely modern. I would happily wear this myself, of course. In fact, I wonder if it is behind my relatively recent fondness for interesting cropped jackets.  I still wear the Stacy Lomman cropped silver motorcycle-style jacket that I got in 2011.


I’ve loved this jacket for years.

Formal occasions don’t discourage my jacket-wearing tendencies. In fact, in 2013, I had my designing friend Zang Toi create a hot pink gown just so I could wear it with a crazy, ruffled, blue, cropped moto jacket by Junya Watanbe to the Vanity Fair Oscar party.


I need to wear this combo again, stat!

That HAD to be subconsciously inspired by Hudson’s ensemble all those years later! When I like a certain style, I like it for a long time. I almost wish I were wearing the Watanabe/Zang Toi combo again to the Vanity Fair party tomorrow, but I’ve got something else up my non-ruffled sleeve. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 20, 2015

I’m continuing to make a series of cabochon birthstone studs that you can wear alone or with my FitzRoy the cat earring jackets. Here’s a close look at a single FitzRoy with January’s birthstone, garnet.


Click to see the pair on my website.

February’s birthstone is amethyst and I’ve got one pair of amethyst studs available for any end-of-the-month birthday celebrations. Amethyst is fifth from the top in this cute photo that Eryn took for Instagram.


Click to see on Instagram.

Starting from the top of the heart, the photo also shows turquoise (December birthstone); peridot (August); citrine (November); aquamarine (March); amethyst; emerald (May) and ruby (July). Diamond studs for April are in the works, as are sapphire for September; pearl or moonstone for June; and tourmaline for October. All of them are set in 18K yellow gold, and I selected all of the gems personally, doing just one pair of each birthstone at a time. The amethyst studs are available for $400, and the price of the others depends on the gem. Email me at info at wendybrandes dot com to request price information or to order, because these aren’t on my website yet.

I’ve also got two one-of-a-kind amethyst rings at amazing sale prices. My Clemence ring pairs amethyst with citrine …


Click to shop.

… and here’s the amethyst Queen Min ring with a koi carving being worn with the lemon citrine Min ring carved with a dragon.


Click to shop.

Both rings are size 6 and can be purchased on my website. If you love these, act fast because I won’t be making any more of them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I really need to get back to writing my history-inspired posts! Here’s a throwback one in honor of the Chinese New Year. One of my favorite badass royal ladies was Empress Wu, as she’s known now. When she ruled China in the 7th century, she used the name Emperor Shensheng (spelling may vary), making her the only female ruler of China to use the male title of “emperor.” In 2007 and 2008, I had a fun time telling her story:

Three years after those posts, I unveiled my jewelry tribute to Wu: an 18K-gold dragon ring with diamond eyes and a spinning lapis lazuli globe in its mouth.


Click to see this one-of-a-kind piece on my website.

Here is how the ring looks on …


Seen on model Tina J.


… and here it is in motion.

Once I got the ring done, I did matching earrings.


Click to see how they look on model Tina J.

In the December 2011 post I did about the earrings, I showed photos of the whole design process, taking you from from initial sketch, to wax model, to metal just out of casting, to the final product.

Click here to see the dragon earrings as a work-in-progress.

By the way, this is the Year of the Sheep (or Goat) — meaning it’s my year! If we go with goat, I’m a double zodiac goat, because I’m also a Capricorn. Hmmm! Does that make me one of those screaming goats that are so popular in commercials lately?

This is my favorite screaming-goat ad because I like the way Rick the goat’s colleague, Kelly, is ready to kick some goat butt.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Earlier this month, I was in Arizona for the big Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. The temperature in New York fell to about 5 degrees that week, so I was delighted to be in warmer cactus country.


Say hello to my prickly friend!

I have excellent gem dealers in New York City, but it can still be tough to find very small colored gems for my micropavé Maneater ring designs. I was in Tucson on the hunt for .8 millimeter to 1 millimeter garnets. Did you know garnets come in many different colors? There’s the pretty red rhodolite garnet that I used to make birthstone studs this year, while my all-time favorite colored gem is the green tsavorite garnet. I use tsavorite in many of my designs, including my Marie Antoinette earrings and my onyx skull ring.


My Marie Antoinette earring designs feature 202 tsavorites on each earring, surrounding custom-cut amethysts.

You can also get yellowish grossular garnet and orange spessartite garnet. I purchased 1 millimeter samples of all four colors for the two Maneater designs I have in the works.


Left to right: grossular, tsavorite, spessartite and rhodolite garnet.

The Maneater collection brought me to Tucson in another way. My Pink Elephant and Tipsy Writer Maneater ring won honorable mention in the AGTA Spectrum Awards design contest and there was a gala dinner for the winners during the show.


My award-winning Pink Elephant and Tipsy Writer Maneater ring. Click for my original post.

All of the Spectrum winners were on display during the gem show. I’d seen pictures of them all, but I wanted to see them in person. After taking a close look at all of the designs, I was a bit amazed to find myself in the group, because most of the winning pieces featured large center stones, or at least a series of sizable stones. Mine was the only piece created entirely with tiny pavé stones. I think the judges appreciated the humor of the pink-sapphire elephant (the hallucination of the drunk writer tucked inside the band of the ring) as well as the workmanship. During the dinner, the emcee announcing the winners giggled while describing my ring and encouraged people to go see it in person. I also got a big compliment from my tablemate Dalan Hargrave, an exuberant 6’8″ Texan gem carver who waved his cowboy hat and let out a big whoop when his first-place win for this incredible set of rhodolite garnets was announced. I wasn’t sitting next to him, but he caught me after dinner was finished and told me that I had the “funnest” design in the competition. I loved that, especially because Dalan was clearly the funnest guy at the event!

For the awards dinner, I wore a black halter dress by my favorite vintage designer Ossie Clark — the first Ossie I ever owned. I think the last time I wore it was in 2003! It’s a great dress, but after I got it, I realized the best Ossie Clark designs are the ones that featured prints by Ossie’s ex-wife, Celia Birtwell. I also moved away from wearing black for evening. I always knew I’d wear it again eventually though.

Here is the dress in 2003.


Click to see another photo in the 2007 post I did about this dress.

And here it is 12 years later in Tucson, accessorized by my award certificate.

spectrumoutfit1resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Ossie Clark (probably bought online in 2003)
Shoes: Prada (2011)
Jewelry: My own designs and personal vintage

In the ladies room at the awards, I took the “amazing bosom” iPhone selfie of a lifetime thanks to the plunging cut of the Ossie.


I’m busting with excitement!

I tried and tried to repeat the perfect boobaciousness of this selfie, but apparently it was a one-time thing. At least I’ve been inspired to wear this dress again sooner rather than later!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I’ve got to give a belated thank you to the San Francisco Chronicle for including a nice big photo of my gold IDGAF necklace in a Valentine’s Day story called “Tough-Love Tactics.” The Chronicle also shouted out my “Screw U” mixed earring pair, which I would love to see someone wear with Stubbs & Wootton’s “Screw Love” velvet slippers.


Click to enlarge.

That way you could literally express your attitude from head to toe!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

I hadn’t worn my vintage Moschino heart dress for Valentine’s Day since 2011, so I figured it was due for an outing last night.

valentines2015resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Vintage Moschino (possibly acquired in 2008; random spots are from the camera)
Boots: Prada (2008)
Purse: Louis Vuitton (2014)

MrB and I had dinner at Narcissa in the Standard Hotel. (If you go, get the Carrots Wellington.) Considering the name of the restaurant, I was hoping to see a Valentine’s Day dinner populated entirely by solo diners gazing lovingly into mirrors. Alas, it was normal New York City crowd. In other words, the narcissism wasn’t quite so obvious. Bwah!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Purrkoy, the kitten with the heart-shaped nose, would like to wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.


There’s no place PK would rather spend Valentine’s Day than in the bathroom sink. It’s his favorite spot. (When he wants the faucet turned on so he can take a drink, he yodels for a human.)

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? If it’s not all that you hoped for, I suggest doing a little retail therapy. For today and tomorrow only, I’ve marked some of my sale items down to unprecedented low prices — well below my cost. I’ve got many new designs coming up and I want to clear out the older pieces in order to focus on my fresh direction. Check it out and treat yourself, because it doesn’t get better than this!



Friday, February 13, 2015

I was inspired this week to take a little video of two of my mechanical jewelry designs.

The first is the Sophie twisting heart necklace, which I wrote about recently. When I was working on that post, I didn’t have the extra pair of hands required to record video, but a few days ago Eryn wielded the iPhone while I handled the necklace. Check it out!

I also took a video of my Hathor swivel earrings for a customer. Turn the volume up to hear the nice “click” as the swiveled gem locks into place.

Mechanical jewelry needs a good click!

The Sophie twisting heart necklace — one of only two made — has 1.1 carats of diamonds set in 18K gold. It’s available here. The Hathor earrings are 18K gold, diamonds, turquoise and carnelian. They are one of a kind and are also available on my website. If rings are more your thing, the matching one-of-a-kind Hathor ring is here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My six-year term as chairman of the Columbia Daily Spectator‘s board of alumni trustees came to a merry end on January 30. That’s when the news organization for Columbia University’s undergraduates held its annual fundraising dinner, which this year featured guest speakers Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, and Beau Willimon, showrunner/writer of House of Cards. At a board meeting before the dinner at the New York Athletic Club, I passed the baton to Stuart Karle, the new chair, and Beth Knobel, the new vice chair.


I’m staying on the board, which I joined in 2002. I became chairman in 2008, succeeding television-news executive Dick Wald, who had served as chair for 40 years. As I’ve said before, I had no interest in challenging Dick’s longevity in the role, which is why one of the first things I did as his successor was call for a trustee vote on term limits for the chair. But that wasn’t just because I didn’t want to be booked through 2048. An organization benefits from fresh perspectives. Stuart is general counsel for North Base Media. Before that he was the chief operating officer of Reuters and general counsel for the Wall Street Journal. Beth is a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University. Before joining Fordham, she spent more than 20 years as a journalist, including seven years as Moscow bureau chief for CBS News.  Their experiences are much different from mine, so I’m excited to see what they will do.


I had some wild times during my term as chairman, starting with the financial crash of 2008 and ending with the Spec’s decision, last spring, to become the first Ivy League news organization to drop daily print publication in favor of a mostly online model. (Oh, the uproar over the latter provided quite a number of amusing moments.) In between, we funded and completed the massive task of digitizing Spec’s archives going back to 1877; revamped the fundraising dinner so that it raised funds instead of losing them; and diversified the board of trustees. It can be a challenge to do things differently at a venerable organization and resistance to change often involved the word “tradition.” I decided to say a few words about tradition in the short speech I gave at the beginning of the dinner.

I’m going to share my prepared text here, because the issue of tradition — when to treasure it, when to let it go — comes up often in life, outside of college news organizations and Fiddler on the Roof. If you read nothing else, read the last two paragraphs for a good laugh:

“Before I go, I’d like to say something about tradition. During my tenure, Spec alumni and current staffers have frequently shared their fond memories of Spec’s traditions with me. What I’ve learned from that is that you don’t all have the same memories of the same traditions. In fact, I’ve identified just two real traditions: one is Spec’s core mission as [previous speaker Daniel Friedman] described it. The other is constant change.

Constant change is the nature of the beast at Spec. Every year, an entire student managing board graduates and a new one takes over. As a result,  it takes about four years for many ‘traditions’ to morph or even disappear entirely. Of course, there HAVE been some traditions that have lasted for decades – the most important one is our 50 years of financial independence from the university. But a lot of other traditions are more superficial, for instance the old name of this dinner. And when it comes to the less significant traditions, not everyone knows why they exist or even that they exist at all.

Anyway, the normal amount of change at Spec greatly accelerated during my time as chair due to larger social movements and economic transformations born from technology. When I succeeded Dick during the financial crash in 2008 – he picked a good time to install a successor – we didn’t have Instagram. YouTube was only three years old. Twitter was two. Facebook as we know it was two years old – before 2006, you had to be invited to join it. BuzzFeed was two, and it’s now one of the largest news sites in the world. Netflix had just started streaming video in 2007 and didn’t announce plans for its first two original series until 2011 – one of which was House of Cards, premiering in 2013.. The first iPad was a couple of years away — and when it came out everyone thought the name iPad was hilarious. So, for sure, in 2008, no one was binge-watching an entire season of House of Cards on his or her iPad … which you can now do to ease the the discomfort of being squeezed into a coach seat on an airplane.

But the changes in our habits have gone beyond streaming compelling television series and enjoying lists of 24 cats that really love sinks.. Now, If you have a cellphone, you don’t need a print newspaper or a television to find out what’s going on in the world. You don’t even need the so-called old-media at all as newer companies like BuzzFeed — which did feature a photo of my cat in a sink — branch into serious, long-form journalism. That said, I still love print. It’s what I grew up with, it’s my tradition. Every day I read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal in print. For the class of 2018, newsprint might as well be the 8-track tapes of my generation. They’ve heard of it, they’ve even seen it, but they’re not interested in using it. That’s why I’m so proud that, last spring, Spectator became the first Ivy League news organization to cast off the traditional daily print format and go where its readers are. Online. On their phones. It was a controversial move, and painful for a lot of people, but it has been so beneficial to Spec — as Daniel has already indicated — that I predict, in a very short amount of time, people will wonder what all the fuss was about. I also predict that this is one of those changes that will stick because it addresses Spectator’s mission of serving the student body … not nostalgia or habit or tradition.

On a personal note, there’s another change I’m proud of. I’m the first woman to chair the board of trustees. Because of that, I was inspired to look up the story Spectator ran when Eleanor Prescott became the first woman to join the student managing board. The story ran in the March 17, 1967, edition of Spec – now available online thanks to the recent digitization of our archives. The headline was: Appointment of Girl to Spectator Board Shatters Tradition.

I’d say some traditions are better off broken.”

Beau presented the Quintana Roo Dunne Award for Visual Achievement, which went to Steven Lau, Spec’s first video editor as well as its managing editor. I met Beau last March at a PEN talk about his work. When we chatted, I found out that he’d graduated from Columbia 10 years after I did and that he had some hilarious stories about his involvement with Spec. I told him that I was going to ask him to tell those stories again, in public, in about 10 months. I figured that he’d probably be busy with glamorous Hollywood things when the time came, but when I sent my “Hey, remember me?” email about a month before the dinner he said he’d be there. That night, he came straight from the House of Cards writers’ room. Here is my poor-quality video of his funny Spec stories, including what he learned about SWAT teams.

Beau was great fun to hang out with, especially because he told me all about the next season of House of Cards. I kid! I kid! He was like a vault.


Selfie with Beau.

Instead of Ben Smith giving a standard keynote speech, Stuart interviewed him about BuzzFeed.


Stuart on the left, Ben on the right.

Ben made some good points about the skepticism directed at BuzzFeed’s move into longform journalism. Some people seem to find it difficult to imagine that a site known for lists about extremely disappointed animals can also produce more serious content, but, Ben pointed out, many daily newspapers historically have had a range of content, with comic strips, kids’ pages, horoscopes and recipes delivered along with the latest international headlines. Likewise, television news programs that cover politics and the economy also air entertainment updates and sports coverage. Just because the web covers the cute animal beat more thoroughly than newspapers or TV have doesn’t make the online mix of high and low that unusual.

At the end of the dinner, student publisher-turned-editor-in-chief Michael Ouimette thanked me for my work on behalf of Spec — singling out my habit of answering his emails at 4 a.m. — and presented me with a framed certificate thanking me for my service to Spectator.


When we all went for drinks after the dinner, the students offered to take my certificate back to their office for safekeeping. I was like, no way, I’m carrying this everywhere from now on!

specoutfitresizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Versace (pre-2005)
Shoes: Prada (2010)
Jewelry: My own designs

I promised Stuart I’d still help out with the annual dinner, and I’ve already started working on next year’s. I feel so organized!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I’m thrilled to say that gorgeous actress Scarlett Johansson is wearing my barbed wire rings in the March issue of W Magazine.


The magazine’s photo is on the left; my own detailed photo of the rings is on the right.

Admittedly, you may need a magnifying glass, a microscope or the Hubble telescope to see the rings on ScarJo in the photo, but they’re there, I swear! I have a credit and everything.


Thanks also to the gorgeous Katerina Perez for including my Frog and Prince Maneater ring in her blog post called “Charming Frog Jewellery.” I’m in great company there with Dior; David Webb; and one of my all-time favorites, Lydia Courteille.


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