French Vogue cover? Check. “Sex and the City” cameo? Check. Recurring role on “Lipstick Jungle” and high-profile appearances in the current issues of Harper’s Bazaar and American Vogue? Check, check, check.
Although he’s been designing jewelry for 20 years – and sold in prestigious outlets like the MoMA gift shop since the early 90s – Alexis Bittar seems to be enjoying a resurgence as of late. That’s not to say that his jewelry has ever been out of favor (far from it), but these days, it seems as though you can’t go to the movies, turn on the TV or flip through a magazine without seeing at least one of the Brooklyn native’s instantly identifiable – some might even say iconic - baubles.
Look, there’s an Alexis Bittar Lucite ring in the latest Estee Lauder campaign! And isn’t that a Bittar necklace on the runway at Tuleh and Michael Kors? And there he is on Time Out’s website, genially offering viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of his hand-carved collection.
Yet despite the recent media blitz, Bittar has never been one to rest on his laurels. He opened a second shop on New York’s bustling Bleecker Street earlier this year, began selling limited edition archival pieces on his website a few weeks ago and, earlier this month, hosted a private press preview at Soho House in the Meatpacking District to debut his spring 2009 collection, which consists of three lines: Lucite, Elements and Miss Havisham.
“Miss Havisham is coming on its third year,” said the charmingly low-key designer while walking The Fashion Informer through the range, pointing out a molten-looking silver cuff and a clear, hand-sculpted bubble cuff and necklace with a brass ball floating inside. “Normally it’s super sculptural, sharp, with a kind of Grace Jones 30s/80s vibe, and we’re still keeping that feeling. But I brought in this liquid feeling metal to soften it, because I want to keep growing this collection. And then I brought in clear for the first time to add another dimension to the line.”
Elements, on the other hand, still hews to the more delicate side of the street, but Bittar has added a few chunkier pieces for spring, including a cinched quartz shard necklace in crystal or wood, with a center stone that appears to be laced into the metal (the same technique is used, to great effect, on a turquoise and gold cuff). And the now-infamous Lou Lou statement cuffs (the ones that appeared on the cover of French Vogue and are named for Parisienne style icon and YSL muse Loulou de la Felaise), have been joined by the equally statement-making glass Waterfall collar (with hundreds of bead droplets soldered onto a mesh backing) and a series of surrealist Floral pieces with delicate gold hands floating amid a bouquet of white blossoms.
“I wanted to get more size and volume for this line, because I feel like it’s needed,” explained the genial jeweler.
His iconic Lucite line, meanwhile, had been updated with all manner of fanciful pieces, including adorable parrot brooches, tribal- and psychedelic fur-print bangles, colorful Swarovski-studded and mirrored cubist cuffs, ginormous celestial “pearl” necklaces and earrings, and a gorgeous necklace of woven Lucite petals, which manages, like many of Bittar's best designs, to be both delicate and bold.
And in a nod to Bittar’s favorite decade, he’s offering up a super cute ice cream social pin (featuring a melting silver dome on a mint green Lucite cone), ‘80s wave pins, and Risky Business brooches (think: gold-lensed Lucite sunglasses).
“I’m obsessed!” admitted the designer with a delighted laugh. So are we, Alexis. So are we.
Alexis Bittar will be holding a sample sale of past season’s merchandise on Friday, December 5th and Saturday, December 6th from 9:30am-7pm at 153 East 60th Street in New York. All jewelry will be up to 70 percent off retail and range from $20-$200. Cash and credit cards accepted.
Photos courtesy Alexis Bittar