Lizzie Fortunato Jewels seems to be a brand born out of need. Case in point: the company, founded by twin sisters Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato originated in a dorm room at Duke, where the sisters bunked their beds to make extra space for sewing machines and the rest of Lizzie’s (the creative force behind the brand) design tools. Kathryn, who majored in finance and now runs the business side of the brand endearingly refers to it as their “sweatshop,” where sorority girls would stop by looking for a piece to wear to a party or formal that night. “Soon the spark went off in my head: ‘We should probably try to capitalize on this a bit,” Kathryn told me when I paid a visit to the twins’ work space at 29 Essex St.
And capitalize they did first starting with trunk shows, which proved the sheer popularity of their creations with 30 pieces easily selling out in 15 minutes. As Lizzie notes, “before long we were literally signing up for the same classes so that [Kathryn] would go to class and say to me ‘stay in the room and keep making jewelry!’…My parents were like ‘We should be paying for one tuition, not two.’”
Upon graduation, though, Lizzie and Kathryn still considered the jewelry thing a hobby and headed to New York to seek out ‘real’ jobs. For Kathryn, that meant taking a job in finance and for Lizzie, going into fashion PR. That only lasted a year before each quit their day jobs to take on the jewelry market full time. Now, four years later, Lizzie Fortunato Jewels is sold at online retailers like Shopbop and Kirna Zabete and was featured on both VPL and Suno’s Spring ’11 runways.
The sisters have found their sweet spot in toying with mixed mediums and unexpected materials to create one-of-a-kind pieces that customers often note can be just as easily hung on the wall as art as they can be worn. And with Lizzie’s English major under her belt, the designer is naturally inclined to tell a story in every piece that she crafts. So what’s the narrative this season? As Lizzie explains, the inspiration “was this Northeastern preppy girl who maintains this kind of American sportswear aesthetic, but goes on an adventure to the beach and kind of collects things on her way… I loved the idea of this girl rejecting the new England country club for surf culture and …not going totally dreadlocks and still maintaining some of her formal life, but just kind of picking up on this surf vibe. I was watching so much Endless Summer, and totally feeling these peach sunset colors,” says Lizzie.
We got a peek at all the goods up for grabs at Lizzie and Kathryn’s Lower East Side studio. Click through all the photos to get in on their Northeast prepster meets surf culture vibe for Fall ’10.
All photos by Joseph D’Arco of StyleCaster