Jewelry collections are sprouting up for spring–as are exhibitions. Please be sure to check back later this week when I review the fabulous show Wiener Werkstatte Jewelry at Neue Galerie in New York. This exhibition will open to the public in the coming days. In the meantime, the new Subversive jewelry line for Target is now in stores. How is mega-merchant Target measuring up in terms of its “designer” jewelry collections?
Is Target, that ever-evolving universe for all (ok, not all) things cool and cheap hitting its mark in jewelry? Subversive, by Justin Giunta, is currently in their stores and prior to that was Dominique Cohen.
Cohen’s line seemed to be based upon the premise of wardrobe building, where a piece could be purchased singly and later coordinated with others that blend by color or style. While I like the idea, I don’t think that the price point for the jewelry, which ranged from $15 to $60, facilitated or encouraged customers to keep buying; it could get rather costly to gather as ye may.
In terms of the design aesthetic, I am a fan of Cohen’s fine jewelry and I often like her delicate, curvilinear, sometimes colorful and modern concepts. I was, however, disappointed in her choices for Target. Her jewelry has an effervescence yet the designs for Target were toned and blackened. It looked like street jewelry that was sweetened with too much sugar. She is a sophisticated designer and I wish she had infused these pieces with an eye towards creating a statement that wasn’t so dark Victoriana. Black bows and faux cameos was not the way to go.
The one piece I did love was the abalone shell necklace strung on silk ribbon. This piece suggested an ease and California chic that the other selections missed. Abalone has a color palette that shifts from green to blue to violet and pink with the light; depending on the color you pair it with, it takes on a whole new character. It also feels wonderful on. The necklaces she did in faux black or bronze pearls pair well with it although when worn separately these ornaments have a counterfeit or tinny look.
Shifting now to the Subversive for Target offerings, the CFDA celebrated, twenty-something Giunta appears to have taken an entirely different approach to that of Cohen. From viewing the collection at least twice in person, there are statement pieces that can and should be worn alone, despite the fact that the designer adheres to a “more is more” aesthetic. In keeping with traditional jewelry (an ironic aspect to this collection since Giunta has been quite vocal about shunning the “establishment” that he perceives jewelry to be) there are coordinating earrings and bracelets. Too much matching for my taste, although when worn separately, the bracelets, with their mix of crystals, beads, and charm-like motifs have a delightful presence.
In his own line, Giunta uses the placement of gems or decorative elements in a strategic way. Chains are knotted, criss-crossed, or left dangling abstractly. The effect is not so different from leaving a mess of ornaments in a drawer for a couple or twenty years. This look is not for everyone and I’m undecided if it works on anyone over the age of thirty-five (a demographic of which I may be included). The pieces he did for Target have his stamp but not the complexity, which where some of it took a left turn. The designs in general are more subdued in comparison to Giunta’s original line; the edginess has been restrained in exchange for mass appeal. The chain necklaces are a melange of texture and hue, thus giving them their “Subversive” patina. A few items are infused with color; yet only the more subtle ones are wearable. The crayola-bright items that looked like the beads my children played with in nursery school were silly. Unless my little one made it with his tiny, sweet fingers and he shines that beatific smile when he sees me put it on, I am not going to wear it. The Bauhaus label attached to these items suggests nothing recognizable and oozes high-concept marketing.
Yet where Giunta wins my vote is in his vision of the pearl necklace; he works these gems in a way that takes the classic ornament to a contemporary place. The Silk Crystal Beaded Necklace he designed for Target ties pink and white pearls together with an asymmetrically wrapped chain of diamante and accented by a large smoky crystal that is set off to one side. The image of it on their site does not show it to its best advantage; it has a certain drama when you see it. The necklace fastens with very pretty silk ribbons that lend a vintage charm to the overall design and recalls eighteenth-century versions that used the same method of attachment. I tried the necklace out this past weekend when I went to dinner and those at the table gave it a big thumbs up. It did look great. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this piece became a future collectible.