Fashion : A SPECIAL REPORT: SPRING INTO FALL : In Profile : All That Glitters Isn’t Always Gold
Jewelry designer Deanna Hamro has some unexpected advice for the woman who wants the latest accessories for spring: Consider wearing none.
The outspoken, vivacious Hamro, 34, whose sparkling jewelry is in some of the best stores nationwide and whose custom accessories are shown with the collections of top New York designers, is at this moment a walking billboard for the unaccessorized look. She is wearing a black Chanel T-shirt, black Azzedine Alaia leggings and a men’s khaki blazer by Katharine Hamnett.
But no jewelry. She dons a glass jewel-encrusted cuff for a photo, then takes it off when the photographer is finished.
“For day, depending on the mood of the woman and where she is, she can go without any accessories or wear some small piece of real jewelry,” Hamro advises as she eases her slender, 5-foot-10 frame into an office chair. “I love to see fashion spreads without any jewelry.”
For those who are uncomfortable without a bit of a glimmer, she suggests making a point with one unusual piece.
“You can go funky with a big brooch. Or you can put on a pair of jeans and a chiffon blouse and a pair of long earrings. But I don’t also want to see a choker and a cuff and a belt, too. I feel very strongly about not overdoing it. I don’t see somebody dressed in an Alaia dress full of jewelry. An Alaia dress is showing your figure and you’re already making a statement.”
Evening, she says, is a different story.
“I love piled-on jewelry for evening,” she says, then laughs. “But don’t pile on a ton of makeup on top of that. You’ve got to do one or the other.”
The story of how she rose to the helm of her $2-million fashion jewelry company is a haphazard jumble of whim, contradiction and strong opinion.
Hamro grew up in San Clemente, just a couple blocks from the beach. At age 2 she began discussing her wardrobe with the family, and by age 4 her grandmother had taught her to knit. As an independent and commerce-minded preteen of 11, she assembled wire and bead earrings to sell at a bikini boutique down the hill. She modeled bikinis in her teens.
Without completing high school, she ran off to be a fashion model in Mexico City, Milan, Los Angeles and Madrid. She settled, briefly, in Mexico City, making suede clothes and accessories studded with rhinestones. She discovered she loved the stones but was frustrated by her lack of expertise in pattern-making. So, in 1983, she plunged into accessories. A chance trip to a hobby store introduced her to the idea behind her first costume jewelry collection: rhinestones pressed in papier-mache.
“It was when jewelry was more artsy-craftsy looking,” she says. “What I became known for was my pointed-back pave.”
The technique, which Hamro still uses, requires embedding point-backed Austrian crystals into metal to create an overall rhinestone sheen. Other jewelers, she says, use less-brilliant flat-backed stones, which are easier to glue down.
Papier-mache gave way to the more sophisticated, 24-karat gold electroplated brass that she now uses exclusively. Though she still does her signature paved crystals, Hamro’s jewelry today includes custom-made, handblown Italian and French glass cabochon stones, custom-made chains from Paris, and antique beads and handmade glass pearls from Paris.
This season her earrings and brooches are oversized. Some have rope or leaf details. Brooches cost $150 to $300, cuffs range from $400 to $500, belts from $500 to $700, and earrings average about $250.
“Because I love what I do so much, I’ve educated myself and tried to make things better technically. I’m a great fan of certain people’s work, so I’ve tried to emulate their quality,” she says.
Among those she admires are Bulgari, Kieselstein-Cord and Elizabeth Gage in fine jewelry, and Chanel and Isabelle Canovas in fashion jewelry.
Among those who admire her are designers Carolyne Roehm, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Mary Ann Restivo. They all faxed her sketches of their fall lines so she could make special pieces for their runway shows.
“She’s one of our top vendors in the jewelry area,” says Lynn Roberts Hover, assistant manager of Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. “We feel she is very innovative in her use of the medium. She works magic with her beautiful beads.”
Hamro says Neiman Marcus has added her collections to stores outside Beverly Hills. She also sells to I. Magnin, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s.
Current design influences include the 8 1/2-foot-tall 19th-Century primitive blackamoor statues of Nubian slaves that she bought at an antique store.
Fashion trends also sway her. She is making the long earrings that are popular and notes they will continue into fall. Her personal favorite earrings for fall are a pair of oversized buttons.
Living in California doesn’t affect the look of her work, or the way she works, she says. “I could pick up my business right now and move it to Italy, Paris or Istanbul as long as I have (overnight mail) faxes, Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue.”
California does affect her in other ways. Her brother Jon and sister Cathy are involved in her business, and she says she likes the protected and stable surrounding of family and longtime friends.
California also allows her tremendous freedom.
“Here, you can call your own shots completely and I think that’s great. You can run around in a T-shirt, shorts and a baseball cap and that’s OK. You can go out at night in the most eccentric outfit, and if you’re comfortable in it, nobody here is shocked.
“I had a quote on my wall by Carole Little (that said), ‘People in New York think if you’re in California, you’re sitting out there on the beach and you come into the office once in a while to do a bright orange something or other.’
“I put that up there a long time ago when I could never make it to the beach.”
Hamro still doesn’t take time to head to the beach. She is ready to launch evening-wrap and handbag divisions that she hopes will garner half a million dollars each in the next year. They’ll be shown to buyers this month and will arrive in the stores for fall, priced from $200 to $350, in velvet, charmeuse and brocade.
She has also made a line of cocktail dresses with Los Angeles designer James Tarantino. The five dresses will have Hamro’s touch in the form of gold chain and rope straps, or pearl and Venetian glass details.