At first blush, the fossil laboratory at the George C. Page Museum might seem like a strange place to showcase a new fine jewelry line, but after seeing the fossil-like earrings, scarab-beetle clutches and shell-like webbed rings that make up the new Flowen Specimens collection, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate place in the entire city than a mammoth bone's toss away from the bubbling fossil repository known as the La Brea Tar Pits.
A collaborative effort from the L.A.-based wife-and-husband-team of Flavia Lowenstein and Juan Azulay, Flowen’s earrings, pendant necklaces, clutch purses and rings are impossibly detailed, delicate-looking webs of metal that all at once seem half biological, half geological and all otherworldly, like prehistoric sponges or insects frozen for eternity in gold.
“I’m an accessories designer,” Lowenstein says. “But I really wanted to create something meaningful and different -- statement pieces. My mother worked in an art gallery so I’ve always been very much inspired by art and sculpture, and my husband is ex-[Southern California Institute of Architecture] faculty, trained as an architect and also a media artist, so we’re passionate about trying to push the envelope in different ways.”
The designs are reminiscent of something Alexander McQueen, Iris van Herpen or another avant-garde fashion designer might do; thin webs and loops of metal seem to grow around diamonds like metal fingers of coral, turn in on themselves to form intricate rings of double-walled latticework or sprout like a pair of primeval brass knuckles from the mouth of a leather clutch.
The couple spent three years working on turning their sketches first into 2-D computer models and then into durable 3-D pieces. “It’s not 3-D printing and it’s not casting,” Lowenstein told us, “the pieces are grown from a sterling silver powder.” (Neither Lowenstein nor her husband wanted to discuss the process in any more detail for fear of giving away any proprietary information, saying only that the computer end of the work is done in the U.S. and the jewelry is "grown" in Italy.)
Azulay described the pieces as fossilized remains from a kind of alternative past. “The theme is ‘nature as imagined,'” he said, which means asking: ‘What would the natural world look like through these artifacts if it had [evolved] this way instead of that way … these pieces belong in a world where a lot of things have been taken out of it, and [all that’s left is] nature at its most extreme.”
Most of the pieces in the Specimens collection are silver that is then plated with either gold or a rubberized coating called “gommato” (the only exceptions are the clasps on the leather clutches, which are gold-plated brass) and retail prices range from around $400 to $6,000 for a clutch and top out around $18,000 for the heavily diamond-encrusted pieces.
The Los Angeles presentation at the tar pits (accompanied by a short film Azulay shot in Iceland, which can be viewed online) follows the line’s debut at New York Fashion Week in February.
Flowen's Specimens collection can be purchased locally at Church boutique in West Hollywood.
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