Dec 13, 2013
01:20 PMStyle & Shopping
Katie Couric, Vogue Paris Like Connecticut Jewelry From Évocateur
Katie Couric, Vogue Paris and InStyle magazine are among the internationally-branded arbiters of fashion who have discovered a unique Connecticut gem, the fine jewelry and accessories atelier Évocateur, which alchemizes artisan jewelry-making and high art to create one-of-a-kind cuffs, bangles, necklaces, pendants, earrings and belts—gilded with a proprietary “flecking” process.
This weekend, Connecticut residents have two opportunities to connect with the stylish, exuberant, iconographic and richly narrative designs of Évocateur President Barbara Ross-Innamorati, a Westport resident whose longtime love of gold leaf and an epiphany moment at an exhibit of Gustave Klimt paintings in London many years ago finally led her to leave an investment banking career (mergers and acquisitions) and launch her design house in 2009 in East Norwalk.
The beauty that has resulted since then was on display in trunk shows Dec. 14 at the jeweler Lux, Bond & Green in West Hartford and Dec. 15 at Atelier 360 in Greenwich. Other upcoming events are listed on Évocateur's website.
By way of context, Ross-Innamorati calls John Green, the president and CEO of Lux Bond & Green who recently was named chairman of the board of governors of the Gemological Institute of America, a great supporter of her work. The pieces, all of which are painstakingly handmade over a period of several days, are carried in the LB&G store in Westport, and in the jewelers’ other stores.
“Évocateur,” its website says, “ … reminisces the past with exquisite images and hand-set vintage treasures, while celebrating the present in 22K gold leaf brilliance. Each piece conjures a story that’s yours to tell … tales of ancient times and memories of favorite places … the magic of new love … the glimmer of dreams just begun.”
“We’re really known for our cuffs,” says Ross-Innamorati, noting that all of Évocateur’s collections, which can be viewed online, will be represented at the trunk shows.
The cuffs fall into two categories, one defined by the gold leaf, flecking and incorporated imagery, and the other being a kind of vintage couture, with these cuffs incorporating authentic vintage elements. Ross-Innamorati has always collected vintage costume jewelry, and says of the pieces that get re-purposed, “We literally break them apart.”
“Those are one-of-a-kind,” Ross-Innamorati says of the vintage cuffs.
“When they’re gone, they’re gone,” she adds, noting a point that should be obvious the minute you lay eyes on her designs; all of the pieces will make fabulous, unique holiday gifts.
“Each piece has a story to tell,” the website elaborates. “Some are embellished with authentic vintage jewelry from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, others have striking images depicting African safaris, impressionistic gardens or ancient tile designs. One of the collections—Humphrey’s Safari—was a result of Barbara’s recent trip to Africa and is named after her safari guide, Humphrey Gumpo. A portion of the proceeds from that collection goes to support a school in rural Zimbabwe. Many of the pieces have been influenced by Barbara’s extensive travels through Europe, Africa and Asia.”
“We have a unique and beautiful product. We’re really proud of it,” says Ross-Innamorati (above), explaining that the studio in East Norwalk is located in a Manhattan-style loft on third floor, and that Évocateur has a progressive approach to the workplace, allowing its small corps of employees to work flexible hours.
Ross-Innamorati comes from a background in corporate America. She has an MBA in corporate finance and worked as an investment banker on Wall Street.
“Six or seven years ago, I got up one morning thinking about gold leaf,” she says of the old obsession that really caught fire all those years ago in London when she saw the Gustav Klimt exhibit. (“Since that time, I have been passionate about and fascinated with gold leaf—the way it can transform even the most ordinary of objects into something extraordinary, almost magical,” the website says.)
While keeping her day job, Ross-Innamorati began “experimenting,” as part of what was then “a hobby,” one that produced beautiful pieces that retailers were interested in selling.
With people noticing and buying her jewelry, she pursued taking things to the next level and went to a Henri Bendel “open-see,” an initiative in which aspiring designers can line up at the Manhattan fashion landmark and have buyers look at their designs and pronounce judgment.
“We got up to the front,” Ross-Innamorati recalls, “and they [said], ‘Wow, we really like this. Will you do a trunk show?’”
That response gave her the commercial validation she needed to keep going, and Évocateur was officially launched in August 2009 at an accessories show in Las Vegas.
One of the primary issues throughout the incubation period involved how to handle the gold leaf when it came to jewelry rather than statues or structures like churches. “As soon as it touches the body … it starts to degrade,” says Ross-Innamorati, which meant the challenge was trying to seal it.
She eventually achieved success with a cold enamel process, and then perfected the signature flecking process—and from there it was just a matter of marrying her aesthetic vision with design, and elements from art, history, travel and other arenas to produce pieces that flow with narrative poetry at the same time they boldly embellish the rhythms of feminine beauty.
“We try and add one or two collections each season,” says Ross-Innamorati. In January, for example, she will begin showing on the accessories circuit a line from the Évocateur Spring 2014 collection called “American Cities,” which seeks to capture the essences of six American cities: Brooklyn, Charleston, S.C., Santa Barbara, Calif, Taos, N.M., Miami, and Westport, of course.
Asked if she has a favorite piece, Ross-Innamorati says, “I still love the Pompeii cuff. I wear that a lot.” She also favors the vintage cuffs, but clearly loves all of the designs.
“Our jewelry is high impact for a really great price,” she says, synthesizing another aspect of the appeal. “Our designs feature a refined eclecticism which reflects our love of the traditional and the ancient, blended with the modern and contemporary,” the website adds.