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Behind The Scenes

The Fortunatos’ Grandmothers

Lizzie Fortunato, with constant help and occasional prodding from her business-minded twin Kathryn, has been making and selling jewelry since she was a teenager. Two of the sisters’ earliest collaborators, teachers, and inspirations were their grandmothers, who love them always—even when they don’t approve of their color palettes. PATERNALMarian Fortunato a.k.a. “Granny”Born: February 7, 1930, in Wilmington, Delaware (where Lizzie and Kathryn also grew up)Pictured: With Kathryn (left) and Lizzie (right)    Lizzie: “She’s very much a maternal figure. She has three sons, and she’s the grandmother who, for every one of the grandchildren, embroidered the stocking at Christmastime and made a baby blanket—and these are not bootleg baby blankets. She’s an amazing knitter. I can remember being young and traveling with my grandparents, and she was trying to teach Kathryn and I to knit mittens or something. We failed spectacularly. Since then, she really has become integral as I’ve become more interested in, say, doing needlepoint, which we used a lot in our spring/summer 2010 collection—to the point where I was having production issues and literally sent her a pile of things to make. She was like, ‘I just received your package. Can I change colors?’ She has this kind of hilarious, tell-it-as-it-is attitude.” Kathryn: “She said, ‘I don’t really care for the neon.’ Well, Bergdorf does! For her birthday last year—it was her 80th—we made her a press book of every story that included a piece with cross-stitch. It’s undeniable that she’s had a very big role in shaping the company—the inspiration, the design, and the production.” MATERNALHope Fremont a.k.a. “Nama”Born: April 19, 1931, in Queens, New YorkPictured: With Lizzie at her college graduation Kathryn: “Our maternal grandmother is this beautiful, traveling, chic, classic woman. Her first job was in the Empire State Building. She didn’t have any money to her name growing up, but she did sew. She talks about spending so much money on, like, a cuff that she embroidered onto her jacket for dinner one night—she had this appreciation for high fashion even if it wasn’t that she was buying it.” Lizzie: “When we went to her and my grandfather’s house as a kid, she always had her sewing machine and Vogue Patterns out. She would be cutting and sewing wool coats. Her style is really just incredible.” Kathryn: “Lizzie’s made one-off pieces for her—like gigantic coral necklaces—and they’re some of our favorites. She just wears them so marvelously. I can’t imagine a better model for them.” If you’re reading this in your Tumblr dashboard, you should check out our brand-new site at ofakind.com. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter.
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The Fortunatos Weave a Lookbook Narrative

Before Lizzie decided to make a career of jewelry-making—which took a lot of pressuring from fashion-industry pals who refused to let her squander her creative talents—she thought she wanted to be a writer. Now she’s found a way put her English-major skills to use by crafting a story around each season. “You can see this progression as you’re flipping through the lookbook. That’s one of the most fun parts about shooting it—that we really try to follow this narrative and use props and wording to complement the jewelry and make them more than accessories—really portray a mood with them,” the designer explains. For fall’s “Fly Me to the Moon” collection, Lizzie and her sister Kathryn tell the tale of a woman trying to break out of her domestic prison filled with cinched waists, six o’clock dinners, and powdered noses. Here, Lizzie shares the highlights. “The title of the necklace on the left, ‘Wayward Lady,’ insinuates that the main character in our narrative is starting to go off the tracks. On the facing page, we photographed Brillo pads next to two of our long pendant pieces—including ‘Vices,’ which suggests that deviled eggs and dish-washing just aren’t doing it for her.” “The ‘Dinner at 6’ necklace is my favorite in the collection: The brown and black fabric is screen-print based on a vintage wallpaper I found and referenced throughout the collection. The opposite page pictures more fifties wallpaper, sourced from eBay.” “I love our center spread—it’s actually blown up huge and hung above the desks in our office. The necklace is titled ‘Mary Go Round’ to suggest that our protagonist (Mary?!) is spinning out of control—her vacant eyes and perfectly coiffed hair make the shot. The playing cards are from a PanAm airplane, and we found the amazing green ashtray in a flea market.” “In the last spread, our flea-market ashtray reappears with cigarettes that we had to smoke until we achieved the desired effect. Our model’s lipstick is blotchy, and her eyes a little smudged—as if her going-out preparations were interrupted by distractions and only the bustier and the necklace made it on her body. The title ‘Sister Morphine’ suggests our leading lady is officially off the edge.” If you’re reading this in your Tumblr dashboard, you should check out our brand-new site at ofakind.com. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter.
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The Fortunatos' Four Material Obsessions

If you get to talking with Lizzie and Kathryn, it becomes immediately clear just how much work goes into each attention-grabbing necklace and intricate bracelet they create. One little setting might involve five people, a new production technique, and a handful of countries. These components, which they’re using in their current collection and the one they recently unveiled for next spring, are ridiculously beautiful, and the stories behind them are about as compelling. South American WoodLizzie: “I don’t know how I got so preoccupied with this notion of setting wood, but I just got really obsessed with it. I source cocobolo, which is a type of rosewood, and ebony, and I found this amazing guy in Austin, Texas, who’s doing all of the cutting and polishing for me. He also built these little recessions that our stone-setter then places the citrine into. My model-maker and I developed these bezels. I wanted something that was really heavy and industrial but still kind of mod.”Kathryn: “It’s got a Studio 54 look, but it’s still modern.” Crystal SpikesLizzie: “I did a huge sourcing trip to Rhode Island with one of my assistants last fall to these defunct costume jeweler manufacturers, and we found this spike piece. It had been used in the forties and fifties in this costume-jewelry broach, which we took apart and started casting like a million times. Kathryn and I both fell in love with it—the fact that it has a setting for stones but is also kind of tough. It shows up a bunch in our fall collection. It’s interesting how many times you can combine these components and get aesthetics that are so different.” The Fortunatos used 14 spikes dotted with lilac and charcoal crystals in the necklace they made exclusively for Of a Kind. Click here to buy it. Snake ClaspsKathryn: “The snakes were a really smart invention of Lizzie’s halfway through this summer.”Lizzie: “There are so many people who do the insect, the animal, the rodent very literally—and very well—but I didn’t want to do that because it’s not really my style. I actually have a vintage snake necklace from eBay, and on mine, the snake isn’t the clasp. But I just love the idea of the snake, and I wanted to make it functional. So I started sketching, and I found some cool semi-precious stones. I was really into squares, ovals, and triangles for the stones, and of course they—squares in particular—are the hardest shapes to find because no one likes to cut them. Everyone likes to cut round stones.” Conch ShellsKathryn: “For next spring, we got really inspired by this shell that Lizzie brought home off the beach in Costa Rica and we cast. Similar to the spikes that show up in very different iterations, the shell pokes its head up throughout the collection, but it doesn’t necessarily do it in an obvious way. You actually have to look at something for awhile to realize, ‘Oh, wait, there’s the exact same conch shell in this necklace and in that necklace.’”Lizzie: “And the shell almost didn’t make it back! I had a huge bag of seashells in my backpack leaving Costa Rica, and the customs officer said, ‘You can’t bring these unchecked.’ I threw a fit and was like, ‘Can I keep just one?’ He let me, so the one that shows up throughout the collection is the lone survivor of a bunch of shells I spent hours searching for.” If you’re reading this in your Tumblr dashboard, you should check out our brand-new site at ofakind.com. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter.
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