A by Andrea Barna - an eclectic line inspired by NY's energy and diverse culture
When I chat with jewelry designer Andrea Barna before the photo shoot with her for The Stylish City about the looks we should go for I suggest that, based on her designs, I see two styles which emerge from her line, one is bohemian yet glamorous, I think it’s called “boho glam” in fashion slang, and another that reminds me of the style of Vogue Paris editors- edgy, minimalist, a lot of black, high-heels. And maybe throw in that mix a touch of New York uptown elegance (Andrea does live after all on Park Avenue and her favorite restaurant is Mr. Chow on 57 Street). She tells me that she actually defines her style as “Edgy Bohemian,” so we decide to go with that. I was thinking youthful and colorful before the shoot, and for the first outfit we put together a slightly bohemian, glamorous, feminine yet all black look, with quite a bit of make-up on and Andrea’s hair up so that the earrings, designed by herself, are showing. After a few shots, Andrea suddenly pulls her hair down and tells me “I really feel that I should be myself, and I never wear my hair up.” She was clearly showing that independent streak she kept talking about during our interview. It made sense, given that Andrea is a young woman who started her own jewelry line at 23 and who doesn’t follow trends or other designers in her work. That trait, along with her appreciation of quality and her love of fashion and design, might also explain why her line became immediately successful, carried by the most prestigious stores, and her jewelry designs are worn and owned by celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Alicia Keys. The early success also meant that she was approached by many showrooms and publicists, who eventually tried to control the creative direction of her line. It was a learning experience, and these days Andrea prefers to grow her business at her own pace, sell her designs mainly through her (and a few other) websites, and pick her collaborations carefully, because she cherishes her freedom that allows her to create a versatile, unique and affordable line which attracts a wide range of customers, who can find among Andrea’s designs something for every taste and every occasion.
The Stylish City: How would you describe the aesthetic of your designs, of your line? Is the style of your pieces eclectic, or is there a common thread that runs through all your designs? Do you design for a particular kind of woman and what kind of woman is she- is she within a certain age range, does she have a particular style, personality, lifestyle?
Andrea: My line has many different facets to it, and really is so versatile! I have customers of all ages and personalities.
I have a signature and a trend collection. The signature collection is more elegant and refined. It has been carried in stores like Neiman Marcus, Fred Segal, Henri Bendel, and it was my first collection.
My trend collection, which I started designing about two years ago, is edgier. It has a lot of different elements to it like studs and spikes. It’s really a lot of fun! I designed it on and off and it was 4 months ago that I really started selling it and added it to my website catalogue. And I am always adding pieces to these two collections.
The Stylish City: What is your creative and production process like?
Andrea: When I did my signature line, I was sawing the earrings by myself at first and then my friend Melissa, who was living in my building, saw me and she offered to help me by connecting me to a production company, and that took a lot of work, especially physical work, off my shoulders. But it is expensive to produce in the U.S., so I researched production costs around the world and decided to shift the production to Bali and Indonesia.
Now I come up with concepts and ideas and then transform them into sketches, but I am not very technical, so I explain to my team in Bali exactly what I want and they bring my creations to life, they are genius. I used to be represented by a showroom but now I enjoy having my independence. I have been approached by so many showrooms and PR companies but I am happy doing my own PR for now, but that might change, who knows what will happen in a week? That’s the beauty of running your own business.
The Stylish City: Do you follow trends, or your own inspiration?
Andrea: I don’t really follow trends, I like to create them, but I do care about what’s going on in fashion. I rarely pay attention to what other jewelry designers are doing, and I think my designs are pretty fresh and fashion-forward.
The Stylish City: Do you envision a particular theme for every collection or does every item have its own style? Are there certain colors, shapes, materials that you tend to use again and again?
Andrea: My trend collection is more substantial, thicker, edgier, made of 18k over brass, while my signature collection is sterling silver and 14 and 18k gold pieces. I use a lot of enamel, resin, I love bold colors for bracelets and necklaces, but the colors I use for earrings are more subtle because I think that they shouldn’t overshadow your face which is your best feature. I think that jewelry should accentuate you, not overpower you. I use tons of cabochon set stones, and this season I did a lot of spikes and studs, and I love hoops, to which I constantly add new elements.
The Stylish City: Your pieces have been worn by quite a few celebrities- can you tell us by whom and if you will add to this list any new names in the near future? Which high-profile women who have not worn your pieces would you dream of wearing them?
Andrea: I have some celebrities in mind for whom I’m interested in designing- Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz to be specific, as I have spoken to their publicist.
To date, Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears (she wore my earrings at her star-signing in Hollywood, probably one of the most important moments in her life), Alicia Keys, Poppy Montgomery and Marcia Gay Harden have all worn and own my jewelry.
The Stylish City: What inspired you to name a gold-over-brass-with-garnet pair of earrings the “Alicia Keys earrings”?
Andrea: The Alicia Keys earrings are actually named after her because she owns them and has worn them on several occasions. From what I hear she loves them!
The Stylish City: Do you have a personal favorite piece among your designs and one that you would consider your “staple”?
Andrea: My current favorite pieces are my lapis and cobalt gold-plated hoops. I design a lot of hoops, so they are kind of staple items for me. These particular ones are definitely eye-catching and are perfect for daily wear.
The Stylish City: When you get dressed in the morning, do you start with the outfit, or with the jewelry?
Andrea: I have to admit that in the morning I’m always reaching for my jewelry first, and the clothes are secondary.
The Stylish City: What are your ultimate goals for your line? Any definite plans that have to do with the production and expansion of your line in the near future?
Andrea: My designs have already been sold all over the world, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which has been one of my most prestigious accounts. They carried my more artistic pieces for 5 consecutive seasons. I have some collaborations in the works, and I sell my pieces through ice.com, a leading shopping website for diamond and gemstone jewelry. But honestly, now I prefer to focus on my website, at my own pace, because when I started designing I was 23 and I felt that I had to deal with too many showrooms and publicists, some of whom were trying to tell me what I should design because that was selling.
I plan to take my line to the ultimate destination, whatever that will mean. That’s what I like about fashion, it’s exciting to wake up and not know what could and what will happen today.
By Doris Sangeorzan
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