Made in NYC

Lizzie Fortunato

As Creative Director of her namesake jewelry line, New York-based designer Lizzie Fortunato creates some truly covetable accessories. Known for her statement necklaces, tribal-inspired cuffs and eye-catching pendant earrings fashioned from found, reclaimed and precious materials, Lizzie, along with her sister Kathryn, are proud to create handmade jewelry produced right in New York City. Many of Lizzie抯 designs have covered the pages of Elle, Harper抯 Bazaar, Vogue and the New York Times, and her collaborations with other fashion brands make her a designer on the rise. Below, Lizzie talks to us more about her design process, what she抯 looking forward to at fashion week and why she chooses to be Made in NYC.

How did you get your start as a jewelry designer?
I started out making clothing in high school. I actually made my prom dress one year. I switched to making jewelry thinking it would be less labor-intensive than making clothes卋oy was I wrong!

Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration all over: the people I see walking around in downtown Manhattan on my way to work, in art and architecture and from design movements, particularly mid-century American design. But my primary inspiration is travel. I grew up regularly visiting the American West桟olorado, Wyoming and Montana梬ith my family, and the forms in nature as well as Native American influences, have really manifested themselves in my design. Now I travel as frequently as possible to new places, most recently Peru, Guatemala, India and Japan. The people that I meet and the native crafts really inspire my work. I've collected so many textiles from my adventures that it's becoming a problem; they no longer all fit in my fifth floor Manhattan walkup!

Your business is really a family affair. Did you ever think when you were younger that you抎 run a business with your sister? How do you work together as a team?
When Lizzie Fortunato Jewels first launched, my sister Kathryn was actually working long days (and nights) on Wall Street and would just help with LFJ in her free time. It wasn't until 2010, when the company had grown, that she left her finance job to work with me full time. We are a perfect pairing in that I am the creative with a passion for design, while Kathryn's interests lie in numbers so she handles the sales, operations and finances. Most days we love working together. We also live together and are twins. We now sit on opposite ends of the office, so we have to email each other if we want to go get lunch together.

How would you describe the Lizzie Fortunato customer in three words?
Adventurer, Intellectual, Collector

Who are some of your favorite jewelry designers? Fashion designers?
Pamela Love because she produces her jewelry in NYC and Aesa because we love her artisanal aesthetic. In fashion, I like Suno for their mixed patterns and prints and Dries Van Noten for the amazing use of textiles and materials.

You抳e done collaborations with VPL and Suno, two other great NYC brands. What抯 it like to work with another designer on pieces for their collection?
It's great! I have found fellow designers to be incredibly inspiring and generous, allowing me a lot of creative freedom and the "push" to explore new things.

How would you describe your personal style?
Clean and tailored. I often wear tapered jeans, Dieppa Restrepo loafers and a neutral blazer with my Lizzie Fortunato Amulet necklace.

What are your favorite pieces of jewelry that you own?
My great grandmother's wedding ring, which is surprisingly contemporary, and our Fall/Winter 2013 "Ready for the Country" necklace. I love the squash blossom pendant; it has a real Georgia O'Keefe feel to me.

How do you like to style your hair? Do you have a hair routine?
My hair is pretty short, so I'm pretty low maintenance. A little wax in it and I am good to go.

Why did you decide to produce your collection in New York?
We take enormous pride in creating handmade pieces. We never set out to mass produce pieces and add more "stuff" to our world. Producing in NYC has allowed us to control the design, quality and integrity of our collections.

What do you love about New York?
The community, accessibility and camaraderie of New Yorkers

What抯 your favorite part of NYFW?
The break after it's over! I try to head upstate for a weekend of hiking and relaxing after NYFW; it's a happy reprieve from the pace leading up to Fashion Week.

What can you tell us about your upcoming collection?
We took a big inspiration trip to Japan in April, which has heavily influenced the collection.

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