A Conversation with...

Jennifer Behr

Since its inception in June 2005, Jennifer Behr抯 eponymous hair accessory line has been a favorite of celebrities and editors alike. Behr started her journey in the industry by designing handbags and hair accessories for Fr閐閞ic Fekkai, but after top department stores started asking her to create her own line, she branched out on her own. We talked to the Brooklyn-based rising star about how she started working with celebrities, her favorite collaborations and top tips for matching your hair accessories with your hairstyle and clothes.

How did you get your start?
I worked for Fr閐閞ic Fekkai doing handbags and hair accessories for five years. The designs were made in Italy梩hey were very clean, simple and tailored. When the company was sold, a couple of top stores called me and asked me to start my own line or create collections for them. Fekkai was very supportive when I decided to go out on my own.

How did working for a hair company help you?
My whole basis for design comes from working with a hairstylist. I really learned how the different accessories fit in the hair and on the head.

What is your design philosophy?
My hair accessories should be thought of and treated as jewelry for the hair. For years, hair accessories have been an afterthought. Most were just cheap plastic headbands, and those just didn抰 seem to fit with a beautiful outfit. Years ago, women wore elaborate headpieces and tiaras, but that has been lost as a category for decades. As I went through my first year, I worked toward my goal of creating a line of luxury hair accessories.

Tell us about your first year in business.
I started the line in 2005 and, harkening back to my time at Fekkai, had my first collection produced in Italy. My fall and spring collections that year featured a lot of leather and silk. At that point, it was hard to get anyone to wear anything more than that.

How did that shift?
The stylist from Gossip Girl found some of my pieces at Henri Bendel and began to put them on Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester抯 character). Once she started wearing them on screen, headbands with crystals and other materials took off. Eva Chen, and editor at Teen Vogue, later introduced me to the Gossip Girl stylists, and we started working together directly.

How many collections do you put out each year?
Five: spring, fall, holiday, pre-fall and bridal.

What is your creative process?
I used to study sculpture, so I抦 always attracted to the materials first, then the colors. Designing items for the head is very specific; the materials need to be flexible and light and the piece has to be three dimensional. Once I have my materials, I usually lay them all out and make a huge mess! Then I just start to put things together. For each design, I try to create various styles, such as headbands, barrettes, combs and head wraps. I create all first samples and prototypes by hand in my Brooklyn studio and try each one on to make sure it抯 comfortable and lies on the head properly.

Do you have a certain hairstyle in mind for each piece you create?
Sometimes, yes, but I really love to see how people take them and wear them. I抦 always aware of what the current trends are in hair, and I look to see what celebrity stylists are doing for awards shows梩hat really impacts wedding designs that season梑ut it抯 fun to see what people do on their own. Believe it or not, I抦 a hair accessories designer who is terrible with hair! When I first started, I had very short hair. Accessories are actually really great for short hair梱our styling options are usually so limited, so using accessories can give you many different looks. They抮e also great for that awkward time when you抮e growing it out. I just sent a beauty editor we work with a box of different turbans to get her through the transition from short to long.

Who was the first celebrity to wear your accessories?
Celebrity stylist Mark Townsend discovered the line and used one of our overlapping twists on Natalie Portman for an appearance on Letterman.

How does it feel to see one of your designs on a major red carpet?
It抯 always a thrill, but more than anything, I love seeing what the stylists do with each piece. It抯 amazing to see how it comes alive on the head and in other people抯 hands. Mark Townsend has been a great supporter of ours and has done some really interesting things, like weaving a crystal headwrap through Jennifer Lawrence抯 bun at a Hunger Games premiere.

Anyone you抎 love to see wearing a Jennifer Behr design?
Marian Cotillard is one of my new favorites. I love her style梚t抯 so simple, and she has that lovely French elegance.

You do a lot of custom work. Tell us about some of your favorite collaborations.
I created accessories for the Fendi Fall 2011 show. I used our dinosaur shape and covered the pieces with their fabrics for the runway. It was really simple but striking. I also work with Lady Gaga抯 stylists a lot, which is a lot of fun. The crazier you can make things, the better! Patti Wilson works a lot with Num閞o, ID and Vogue Italia, developing custom designs for her shoots gives me a lot of freedom to be creative.

Any tips for matching hair accessories to clothes?
You should always think about picking out a hair accessory the same way as you do with jewelry梩he feeling should be consistent throughout your whole look. Don抰 be scared of colorful accessories; they look really great against the face and skin and can be brightening. Also, keep headbands close to the front of your head. Wearing them far back is very 80s.

Which hairstyles work best with each type of accessory?
A French twist or a sleek ponytail act as a blank canvas. Accessories should always accent your hair; not overwhelm it. That said, I also really like when people do unexpected things.

What are some top looks for the holiday season?
Accessories allow you to easily transition from a day at the office to a post-work holiday party. Just slick hair back into a chignon or tight ponytail and add an accessory for an instantly dressed-up look.

What are some of your most popular designs?
The classic leathers are very elegant and well made, so they抮e always big sellers. So are the classic crystal pieces. This season, we抮e selling a lot of spiked turbans. This spring, we抮e introducing a line of crystal ponytail elastics, which I think will be huge.

What are some other popular items for fall and winter?
Along with turbans, our knitted pieces are great for winter. They抮e accented with crystals, leather and studs. I love chunkier accents like that for winter because they go well with heavier clothes.

What are you forecasting for spring?
Our spring line is really delicate and ethereal, with crystal flowers and pale colors.

You do a lot of business around the holidays. Why do hair accessories make great gifts?
For one, they抮e not size-based and everyone can wear them. They make a fun and quirky gift for people who already have a lot of jewelry. Our rhinestone bobby pins are pretty little items that feel very special. Our new knitted pieces are a much chicer gift than a ski hat and still keep your head warm.

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