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Meaningful Messages

It isn’t often one’s resume includes jewelry designer, retailer and rock star, but in Efva Attling’s case, it’s all true.

By Nancy Pier Sindt

Bend Over ring

The Swedish-born designer Efva Attling, who recently opened her first U.S. flagship store in New York’s trendy Meatpacking District, has also worked as a fashion model, clothing designer, TV host and fashion writer.

“I’m educated by life,” Attling says, “and I’ve made my career out of my life’s experiences.” Her jewelry designs are highly personal and collections carry emotional themes that are often a play on words or expressions. “From Here to Eternity” is the bridal collection and dog tags carry the messages “Miss You” and “Make Love Not War” written in Braille. Many of the designs are unisex and are produced in either sterling silver or 18-karat gold. All are manufactured in Sweden.

THE BEGINNING
Attling’s interest in jewelry design began early; she designed her first piece at age 16, when she studied with Bengt Liljedahl, Sweden’s noted silversmith. By the early 1970s, however, she was swept away into the world of fashion and spent 12 years modeling, both in Scandinavia and abroad. Her second career was in pop music, where she fronted a band named X Models, wrote songs and sang. She says her best-selling recording was a pop ballad she composed about love, whose title translates as “Two of Us.” In all, she recorded four albums, before moving on to work as a television show hostess and a fashion reporter for Swedish magazines. By the mid-1990s, however, Attling decided to change careers again, returning to her first love, jewelry design. One of the earliest pieces she created was “Homo Sapiens,” meaning “the knowing man” in Latin. She split the words on two dog tags and today, it remains one of her best sellers.

THE STORES
Like many designers today, Attling thinks it’s important to have her own retail stores because it presents an opportunity to show clients the range of her designs and their cohesiveness. “All the families are together,” she says. Attling opened her first retail shop in Sweden in 1998 and now has five branches in that country, plus one each in Finland, Norway and now New York. Plans for the future include international expansion on both retail and wholesale levels.

The New York boutique, in the still-developing downtown district, encompasses about 800 square feet of selling space with an upstairs office and private showroom at the back. It’s set up with museum-style showcases at eye level with the items visible from two sides. Double windows on the street side of the store highlight new pieces and a wall unit is filled with other products the versatile designer has created: a collection of unisex watches, stylish sunglasses and limited-edition champagne flutes that have small diamond rings encircling the stems, made in collaboration with the Swedish crystal house Orrefors.

Her first trade show was the Las Vegas Couture Show in June and she now has about seven U.S. retail clients, including Neiman Marcus. She has chosen her retail partners carefully and gives them support in terms of display, packaging and marketing. A six-page advertising supplement in the September 2012 issue of Harper’s Bazaar carried the headline, “I Call my Jewelry Beauty with a Thought.” It introduced Attling to American consumers with the announcement of her New York City store and retail account Hyde Park Jewelers, Denver. Like the slow but steady expansion of her boutiques, Attling’s designs have evolved with time. “I waited a long time to work with color,” says the designer, who first established her brand with work in silver and her bridal lines.” The colors Attling prefers reflect her personal taste as well as her Nordic heritage. She opts for pastel-colored gemstones such as aquamarine, morganite and blue topaz, as well as diamonds and clear quartz.

Attling is experimenting with colored gemstones in several of her newer designs, including her Bend Over rings and pendants, where a rectangular gem is held in place by a band of diamonds; Love Bead rings and pendants, each showcasing a single cab-cut gem surrounded by a gold bezel and her dramatic Waterfall earrings with large movable sections of colored stones set in white or yellow 18-karat gold.

FILLED WITH MEANING
All of her jewelry designs have emotional significance for this designer/retailer, which seems to resonate with her customers, too. For example, one popular series is the Lifeline collection. Attling’s late mother was touched when her daughter asked her for a single fingerprint that she would incorporate in her jewelry. The print is embossed on sterling silver pendants, rings and earrings. “It’s an homage to all mothers and people really relate to it,” the designer says.

Most of the themes expressed in Attling’s designs are playful yet optimistic — for example, the Prisma Hope necklace has the word etched in silver with a faceted rock crystal above it, obscuring the image from some angles, magnifying it in others. Another witty take is the Divorced with Children series, featuring two sterling silver rings bound together by a tiny, yellow, 18-karat gold ring. Attling, who is married with two sons, says she sells as many of these rings to happily married couples as to divorced individuals.

Attling’s foray into diamonds began early on, even though she couldn’t afford to buy them when she was first starting out. A diamond-supplier friend agreed to loan her some diamonds and to get paid when the pieces sold. It worked out well; they are still friends and now Attling can afford to buy her own diamonds. She stocks a small inventory of loose stones, usually ranging from .50 carats to 1 carat, but does special orders for people wanting larger stones.

In Sweden, the preferred metal is sterling silver, but, to satisfy the demand in her New York boutique, Attling has begun creating more pieces in 18-karat gold. Also included in her output are a few showstopping couture pieces, such as a dramatic bib necklace of large silver rings, a bold choker with five natural rock crystal drops and several sterling tiaras studded with diamonds and rock crystal.

From the world of fashion to the world of jewelry design, Attling says she feels the need to share her feelings with her clients with jewelry marketed with such messages as Amor Vincit Omnia — Love Conquers All — and Memento Vivere — Remember to Live. 

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2012. To subscribe click here.

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