Fairchild Baldwin’s candy color Bella necklaces definitely make a statement, either piled on around the neck or as one multi-strand piece….they add a level of chic sophistication and style to any wardrobe pieces.
For me, it was close to a year ago that I first walked into a bientot and saw this display of these clusters of necklaces, bound by leather and featured in different delicious colors. Well, not being a necklace gal per se, always more concentrated on ears and bracelets, I hesitated to purchase but left there and could literally not get those necklaces out of my mind. I envisioned the many ways I could wear them, what colors would be most practical in my wardrobe and just continued to ponder if they were right enough for me that I would wear them enough. Well, the ticket was right….only $395 retail, so I decided to pursue them with Betty Newton and find out more details on these great looking neck adornments…probably purchase one and for sure I had to spread the word to my readers that there was a ‘find’ out there that they all needed to know about!
Betty told me the name of the company, FairchildBaldwin, and that one of the partners, Jill Fairchild is the daughter of John Fairchild, a fashion legend, whose family founded and produced the fashion industry ‘bible’, Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine. That immediately got my interest up as I am a die-hard WWD reader who has opened my day with that publication and my morning coffee for more years than I care to mention! I immediately read up on Jill and her partner, Karen Baldwin, an artist, that lived in many places but had settled in NYC to study at Parsons in Fashion and Graphic Design. I was definitely interested in knowing more about these ladies and asked Betty to set me up on a phone interview as I was so entranced by the product (they also do awesome Bella Handbags, which actually came first) that I just knew there had to be a great story there for me to share!
Samples of the Bella Necklaces within the a bientot collection
You may be thinking so what took so long to feature these necklaces in a story…..simple, it was actually a great retail problem! Betty could not keep them in stock long enough for me to write a story and run it….let me say, in the world of retail those are the best problems to have. She would call and say they were in, I would try to arrange for an interview and then they were gone…..so finally, it all came together, we had a dynamic phone interview with both ladies in NYC and here we are….I’ll try to make it brief, but head’s up it was a very interesting conversation and I will do my best to just scan the highlights for you!
New to the Bella Collection, longer length necklaces currently found at a bientot
An Interview with Jill Fairchild and Karen Baldwin
MRG: I’m going to start with you Jill…..as someone who’s father was a fashion industry icon and gave you a life surrounded by fashion designers and lots of glam that went along with it. So, was fashion a natural for you or was it something that because you had had so much exposure you were not interested in? How did it all start for you?
JF: Well, I grew up with designers all around me. They were always at my home, we took vacations to their homes. I learned so much from being around them all the time, as they were all so passionate about what they were doing. I also learned so much from my father as he had a very discerning eye and he either liked it or he didn’t….’they made the covers because they deserved to make the covers’. I had a huge amount of respect for my father, so I was destined to do fashion because I had that huge respect for him and desire to follow in his footsteps.
MRG: So basically you did see yourself always going into the fashion business?
JF: Yes, in some shape or form. I could not work for my Dad’s publishing company because of the nepotism clause, so that was never an option. I had to pursue different avenues.
MRG: So, what was your first job in Fashion? I read in researching you that you do many different aspects of fashion today from design to consulting.
JF: My first job was an intern at Vogue. I used to consult and be Creative Director for Ellesse, a luxe Italian activewear brand, and consulting for Chris Burch (former hubby of Tory) but this business has been growing at such a pace that we are working 24/7 on Fairchild Baldwin now, no time for other projects.
MRG: Karen, I read that you were an artist that lived all over the world and settled in NYC where you attended Parsons School of Design, right?
KB: Right and my first job after Parsons was in P.R. with Michael Kors when he first started and he was incredible to work for. We worked in a loft in Manhattan and the seamstresses literally worked in the back of the loft. He was great as a morale booster and kept everyone going & upbeat!
MRG: So how did you two girls connect? What brought you two together?
KB: We had a mutual good friend who would have this dinner party once a year in Bedford, New York and we would see each other at this dinner party. Jill would always come in and I always noticed that she had such great style and was so interesting that I loved speaking with her. Then one day about 5 1/2 years ago we literally ran into each other on the street, shared a cab and started discussing the handbag industry and how bad it was looking at that time….too much logos and hardware! We both said ‘well maybe we should design our own handbag line of just clean, classic handbags and that was the start of Fairchild Baldwin.’
MRG: So you started with the Handbags first and then the Jewelry?
JF: Yes, we started the jewelry collection as a capsule collection and it was really just to test the water in that market and it immediately just went crazy….we gathered fine Italian beads and had this quality leather from our handbags making a collar, and it was put together!
Bella Necklace of Clustered Quality Italian beads
KB: We were inspired by this great coffee table book on Dior that Jill’s mother had been given by Marc Bohan, the famed Dior couture designer, who had designed Jill’s wedding dress. In looking through the book we came across this classic beaded necklace photographed from 1958. We said why don’t we take that necklace design, modernize it, make classic clean design and we knew that Italy did great resin….so we looked for a factory that would take real jewels, emulate them in high quality resin, add the leather and a magnet closure and we were in business. We came up with a great versatile piece that would travel well for the woman who wanted to look chic when away without taking her precious jewels…..and what we got was a WOW factor, a necklace that looked great for the office, for cocktail or with a pair of jeans!
Versatility of wear from office to cocktail to denim…it all works!
MRG: I have people that stop me every time I wear your necklace and either email me, call me or leave comments asking me where they can get one. Where do you sell in my market area, other than online, of course? I know that Betty was first at a bientot but you have other places as well, correct, such as Tootsies?
LF/KB: Yes and we just opened Nordstrom recently and had the highest sell-through of any new designer that they have brought in. We are working on some higher end product for Neiman’s and Saks, hopefully!!?
MRG: I’ve spoken with you a lot about the necklaces, because that’s personal to me and what I am into but what about the Handbags, that is what got you started, correct? How do the businesses compare?
JF: They are very different businesses as the handbags are more expensive and exclusive and the necklaces at $395 are a more approachable luxury price point. Our signature ‘O’ bag was just on the cover of Glamour-Italia on Alexa Chung; the Necklace was on Kylie Jenner in Paper Magazine; we’re getting great exposure on TV talk shoes like Good Morning America, The View, etc. and you’ll be seeing more in editorials as we won the Accessories Council 2014 Emerging Designer Competition which gave us tons of exposure to the industry.
MRG: Where does the necklace go next for you?
JF: Karen and I are leaving for Italy on Sunday. We will be expanding lengths to longer; different size beads, custom designing the colors that will be exclusive to Fairchild Baldwin; doing layered Leather Cuffs (teaser on website, click to see); and you can look for bead cuffs in the future.
MRG: What is the newest item being introduced for Accessory Market this week?
JF: Fringe necklace can be worn cinched or loose and great under a jacket; We are the Zara of accessories…..our goal is to introduce something new for our customer every three weeks. We have showrooms in NYC, LA, Atlanta and Dallas.
The Fringe Necklace
MRG: What do you do when you’re not working?
JF/KB: Sleeping!!! For Jill…..cooking at home or a great meal, I’m a real foodie!
MRG: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing what would you be doing?
KB: Used to be an interior designer so I would be painting, used to do that before we had our 7/day week job;
JF: I would still be in fashion; love being in the visual side of this world. I feel that everything that I see is sourcing…..discovering the undiscovered. I’m a very visual person and always looking for new ideas….would love to be an entrepreneur again, like when I did the shopping guide, Where To Wear
MRG: How would you describe your personal style?
JF: Mixing the high and the low and keeping the foundation of my wardrobe classic and modernizing it with my accessories. The people that do it the best are the French!
Loved this photo from their website, fairchildbaldwin.com….Jill and Karen spinning around Southampton….a very chic ‘Thelma and Louise’ I’d say, check out their site for more!