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Jennifer Meyer is going places

The jewelry designer is getting praise for pieces that travel from beach to city streets.

January 13, 2013|By Vincent Boucher | Special to the Los Angeles Times

Jennifer Meyer wears her jewelry in the shower. And she's built a business on that idea.

"I don't want you to take your jewelry off. I want it to become a part of you," says the designer over lunch, sweeping her hand across the subtle gold pieces on her wrists, neck and earlobes. "All of these have been in the shower with me this morning — it's 18-karat gold, it's diamonds and it's an investment, and if it turns color, then someone's ripping me off."

Meyer is holding forth on a weekday, in the less hectic garden room of L.A.'s Soho House — down a long hallway, away from the see-and-be-seen power dining center.

"We're busy people," she says. "You wake up, you jump in the shower, you get breakfast ready, you get lunches ready, you take kids to school, you go to work, you pick your kids up, you put them to bed, you have dinner with your husband. Whatever it is, your jewelry doesn't need to change."

Your jewelry needn't necessarily change, but Meyer's jewelry business is poised for some changes after she was named first runner-up in November in the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. Placing in the top three (alongside winner Greg Chait of Malibu-based knitwear firm the Elder Statesman and the second runner-up, shoe designer Tabitha Simmons) is more than just an honor. She'll receive $100,000 for her business and some intense mentoring, in her case from the CFDA president herself, Diane von Furstenberg.

"She's the most amazing woman on the planet," Meyer, 35, says of her mentor in a tumble of words. "She's not just interested in having tea with me. The first week after I won, she came to L.A. and she sat in my office for two hours with a notebook and a pen and literally had a zillion questions about my company. Everything. Who I needed to hire. Where my offices should be. This. That. She is such a genius."

The feeling's mutual. Reached in New York, Von Furstenberg raves about Meyer: "She's very talented, she's determined, she has clarity. She's a star."

The award capped a five-month process that proceeded through an initial application, then a winnowing down to 50 candidates, who "each have to send in a massive presentation on who you and your company are. I don't know what other people did, I did a sort of coffee-table book," Meyer says. Then 10 finalists continued in a competition designed to showcase their skills through such things as a spread in Vogue and an intimate fashion show at the Chateau Marmont pitched to the celebrity crowd.

And what of the fact that two of the top three are from Southern California? "L.A. is kicking!" Von Furstenberg says.

Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barneys New York, where Meyer's jewelry is most extensively featured, says her West Coast heritage is a part, but not all, of her appeal. He pronounces Meyer's work — delicate wishbone bangles, jeweled bar-shaped studs, winsome script necklaces that say "sweetheart" or "mommy" — to be "very nuanced and subtle."

"At the end of the day, she's a serious designer. The pieces are wonderfully thought out," Doonan says. "She presents as an easygoing Malibu girl, but her work is very unusual and beautifully crafted. She really understands the Barneys girl, who maybe spends a lot of time at the beach, but she's still very urban."

The beachy vibe extends to the stones Meyer's been using more of lately, including turquoise, blue lapis and watery opal.

"Turquoise I love," says Meyer. "And my grandmother loved lapis and I've always wanted to work with lapis but I really wanted to figure out a way that was authentic to me. I've been doing a lot of inlay and then [came] the lapis pyramid and all of the stones are hand-cut, they're all custom-made. So it took a really long time to figure out a way to make them in a way that was very Jennifer Meyer."

The result is striking, the triangle shape set flat in a square frame of tiny diamonds, seen in everything from her "everyday" pendant necklaces to a gob-smacking pair of special-occasion earrings with sapphire pyramids holding sizable lapis teardrops.

Mention of her grandmother had caused her to mist up, and the story of 6-year-old Jen sitting in the late Edith Meyer's kitchen doing cloisonné and enamel, firing up the finished pieces in her home kiln while snacking on Celeste pizza, homemade matzo ball soup and coffee ice cream, is a well-known part of her story. She held on to that interest through her early career as a fashion publicist in Beverly Hills for Giorgio Armani and, later, Ralph Lauren — kind of an expected path for the well-connected L.A. native and daughter of an industry titan (Ronald Meyer, president of Universal Studios and one of the original founders of CAA).

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