Knee-high stiletto boots. Jeans so tight they look sprayed on, like replicas from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Dramatically flouncy feather hats. Coyly angled fedoras paired with white suits — on men.
You name it and someone was sporting it at a recent New York fashion show put on by Gen Art (www.genart.com), an organization that "discovers" young filmmakers, designers, musicians, and visual artists. The event was a gathering of the young, the hip, the fashionable, and the fabulous, all angling to see The Next Big Thing — or better yet, to be named The Next Big Thing. (Past winners have included designer wunderkind Zac Posen, recently featured in Vogue, and ex–Jerry Seinfeld babe Shoshana Lonstein.) Among the judges were InStyle’s Hal Rubenstein, Marie Claire Brit-pack editor Lucy Sykes, Alexandra von Furstenberg, and Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field, all sitting at the runway’s edge with scorecards, camera-ready smiles, and discerning taste.
Amid this conflation of New York’s curiously wealthy art-school ingŽnues, celebrity stylists, fashion-magazine glosserati, and waif-y socialites sat dainty and demure Boston jewelry maker Jane Ko. (Ko was profiled by the Phoenix last fall; see "Breeding Ground," News and Features, November 22, 2001.) A few months back, the 27-year-old artist was contacted out of the blue and asked to submit her work for the show. She sent in two pieces: the Solange ($188), a necklace mixing up silver rings and polished jade asymmetrically; and the Bellanger ($220), a necklace incorporating gold rings and yellow beads with the look of a medieval breastplate.
Out of 150 entrants, Ko was named one of five finalists who were up for a $5000 prize and the attention of buyers from the likes of Barneys, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, and a handful of boutiques.
Ko’s line is called Linea Nervenkitt, a shout-out to her other career as a neuroscientist — she’s finishing up her doctorate at Harvard (Nervenkitt is a name of a brain cell). The line, currently sold online (www.nervenkitt.com) and at boutiques in Los Angeles and San Francisco, is unusual in the way it mixes affordability and edgy style, seamlessly bridging punk influences, feminine beads, and fashion-forward designs.
While Ko ultimately didn’t win the $5000 prize, she was approached at the reception by her fair share of interested parties, including trade-magazine editors and boutique owners. "This has given me a taste of what this whole fashion world is like," Ko mused after the show, amid thumping DJ beats and a room full of people kiss-kissing. "I’m hoping to get a couple more calls."
It didn’t look like she’ll need to wait by the phone.
As she was leaving, a woman in a leather suit, who Paper magazine recently proclaimed one of New York’s 50 most beautiful people, sidled up to Ko. "Hmm," she purred, reaching out to touch Ko’s necklace, a delicate, drapey confection of 14-karat gold and sapphires that Ko will introduce as part of her fall Fine Jewelry Signature Collection line. "That’s very cool."
Ko reached into her bag for a business card. "I don’t think I’d wear it," sniffed the appreciative onlooker, "but I’ll definitely tell people about it." Ko smiled and thanked her politely before pausing to pose for a photograph holding a bottle of Heineken, one of the show’s sponsors.
All in a night’s work.