Last week, Laura and I spent a delightful hour at the 900 North Michigan Shops getting to know Ippolita Rostagno, the designer and founder of Ippolita Jewelry. She was in town to see her new Chicago flagship store—only the second in the U.S.—for the first time. It opened in December but the pandemic made it impossible to visit until now.
Rostagno grew up in Florence, Italy and was a sculptor before finding her way into jewelry design. She began making jewelry over 25 years ago because she couldn’t find quality pieces she wanted to wear in the United States. “There wasn’t jewelry made out of real materials for normal women,” she recalls. She was surprised that the major brands were “masculine, like machine parts,” probably to appeal to the primary buyer of women’s jewelry at the time— men. “Jewelry was not a self purchase proposition 25 years ago,” she says. “People would almost feel sorry for you if you had to buy it for yourself.” Luckily, times have changed. Women buy their own jewelry regularly and the accessories market has exploded. Both trends have driven Ippolita’s success.
“I design for women, not men,” Rostagno says. “I design for everyday use, for keeps.” Ippolita jewelry is rounded, soft, textural, light and full of movement which makes it feel comfortable and casual while remaining very special. With her sculptural approach, Rostagno is more than a designer—she’s a maker in love with the every aspect of the materials she uses. She sources and oversees the cutting of all the brand’s stones, a process that can take 17 hours to get one stone just right. She allows a piece of jewelry to evolve as it’s made, rather than forcing a design that isn’t right for the materials. “It looks handmade because it is,” she says, although her sophisticated techniques are far from crafty.
The new store is gorgeous, with all the jewelry openly displayed on the walls, which surprised us. Expensive jewelry is usually locked in a cabinet, and taken out gingerly by a sales associate, one piece at a time. “The whole concept of the store, so much of the beauty of the experience is touching it,” says the designer. “I wanted customers to have an unmediated relationship with the jewelry.”
We couldn’t help but be impressed by how Rostagno wore her own pieces. Take a look at the gorgeous stack of bangles on her wrist. We asked her to share her jewelry styling tricks and love what she showed us.
Trick 1: Attach two different necklaces together to create one super long chain, then loop it two or three times around your neck to create different lengths and patterns.
Trick 2: Instead of wearing a chain as a simple loop, clasp it closer to your collar bone and let the end trail down the center of your chest in a Y shape. Dangling jewelry is especially sexy for summer.
Trick 3: Summer is all about color, so mix in some colorful pieces with your more neutral jewelry.
Trick 4: Layer up, even your earlobes. Multiple piercings and ear cuffs display a lot of personality. I tried on an ear cuff from the new Carnivale collection with my own Ippolita silver crystal earrings and felt instantly cooler.
Ippolita jewelry is intended to be versatile and timeless. “I respect that the customer is spending a lot of money,” says Rostagno. “You want to know that you can style your fine jewelry in many ways, but it’s classic enough that it won’t go out of style.”
Images courtesy Ippolita or our own. At this time Style Challengers doesn’t receive any commission from products we recommend. We’re just telling you about it because we love it!