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The moment when a First Lady wears one of your creations must be a career high-point for any designer. And if you've ever wondered what that moment would feel like, Lisa and Danielle Frankel, the mother/daughter co-design team of Phillips House fine jewelry, can fill you in. Their acclaimed jewelry collection just launched in the D.C. market this past month at Saks Fifth Avenue Chevy Chase. And in fact, the Frankels were so taken by the monuments and architecture of Washington, they recently created the Contrast Collection, which showcases both hammered gold and diamonds and is inspired by the D.C. landscape. Racked DC chatted with the duo about their work, and where they were the exact moment when they discovered that Michelle Obama would wear Phillips House earrings to meet Princess Kate for the very first time. The Frankels also told us what its like to design jewelry as a mother-daughter team, and what fine jewelry pieces really appeal to women in D.C. Turns out Washingtonians are way more adventurous than we get credit for usually.
How is the market in D.C. for your collection?
Danielle: We do have a lot of friends and some family in the area, so it was really exciting for us to launch last month in that market. We also had a presence in Radcliffe Jewelers which is just outside of D.C., and they've been doing extremely well. But to launch with Saks is very exciting. Ever since we launched, we've seen tremendous response to our pieces, and what we found to be really interesting and what we've always planned for, is that the D.C. market clientele has a pretty sophisticated taste level.
They really like the pieces that are unique. This market really seems to love our one-of-a-kind pieces. But [these pieces] still follow the same aesthetic rules, in that they are extremely comfortable and extremely wearable. You can wear them day in and day out, to the gym and to your black-tie event.
How did Michelle Obama find out about your jewelry? She wore it at a pretty exciting place.
Danielle: Yes, she did. One of our showrooms in New York, her stylist would frequent there. We knew that, but we didn't think much of of it. You can get excited and it never goes anywhere, so we didn't think anything of it.
[Her stylist] pulled a lot of pieces, and we did know she was going on that big trip around the U.K., but we really didn't know if she was going to wear any of our pieces. She had pulled a ton, but it really depends on what outfit she chooses to wear. We had no idea that it was going to make it anywhere, and we found out in a really fun way.
Lisa: Danielle and I were driving, Danielle was reading the emails off her telephone and said, "Oh my God, you aren't going to believe this. The First Lady is going to wear our earrings to meet Kate Middleton." It was a pinch-me moment. And for me, immediately tears welled in my eyes and [I thought] my unborn grandchildren are going to see our earrings in a museum one day. The truth is we now have an almost born grandchild — Danielle is pregnant. I'm very excited to be able to tell the little boy that story one day.
It's such an amazing thing. That's really what life is about, in those pinch-me moments. We adore what we do and we love jewelry and we love designing and we love creating things that are beautiful and people enjoy wearing, it's that moments like that that are over the top.
Danielle: The First Lady went to meet Kate Middleton and the Queen wearing our earrings. And this was her most important diplomatic event since they came into office. After getting over the initial shock of the whole thing, we realized that she really could've chosen to wear any designer's jewelry. Not only did she choose to wear ours, we were the only thing she wore. When you evaluated it, it was crazy. And she continued to wear our pieces throughout the rest of the trip. Obviously that was the most exciting. The whole fashion world was fixated on what everyone was going to wear at that event.
Did that help with exposure?
Danielle: Definitely. It was a huge talking point for us. At that point, we launched in April of 2010, and that happened within a year of our launch. It really helped to catapult us to a different level.
How is it working together as a mother-daughter team?
Lisa: We could probably write a book about the mother-daughter team. We get along really beautifully and we fight really beautifully.
Danielle: I wouldn't say fight.
Lisa: We know how to take sides and we meet in the middle as well. We both definitely have strong opinions and we really enjoy each other's company. So even if things aren't really fabulous during the day because of what we had an opinion about, by the time night falls, we're ready to go out and have dinner together and if Danielle wasn't pregnant, have a drink together. We're absolutely wonderful, wonderful friends.
Danielle: I think when you're designing together, you're becoming really vulnerable and really exposing yourself. That's what the design process is. Especially for us, we both come to the table with our ideas that we have mapped out for the past week and a half, we present it, and it's our art form. You're really vulnerable in that moment. It's nice to be able to be so vocal and be so comfortable and confident with each other. The team that we've set up between the two of us is wonderful in that regard, because we completely trust each other and that confidence in that discussion makes the design process that much stronger.
· Phillips House Fine Jewelry [Official Site]