In the house’s prime, Haskell devotees included Lucille Ball and Joan Crawford, whose extensive collection was found, upon her death in 1977, meticulously labeled and stored in her home and was later auctioned off by New York’s Plaza Art Galleries.
Even while the country was deep into the Depression, Miriam Haskell boomed. The parallels between now and then haven’t escaped Fialkoff, who, while hardly thrilled by today’s economy, is optimistic. “Our customer is looking to update last season’s outfit with a great piece of costume,” she says. “She wants to stand out and not spend what she would on fine jewelry.” Which is just the mind-set that propelled Miriam Haskell in the Thirties.
Yet things didn’t remain so rosy for long. Haskell began showing symptoms of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder; by 1950 her mental state had deteriorated to the point where she was unable to work, and her brother took over the business.
Haskell died in 1981 at age 82, leaving a legacy as a modern American woman with a head for business and an eye for fashion. Today her distinctive taste remains at the company’s core. Current designs include woven pearl necklaces and nature motifs made of suede, wood and brass. The collection—which ranges from $500 to $2,000 and, in addition to Henri Bendel, is carried at Nordstrom, Fred Segal and Harvey Nichols—is still made completely by hand. Many pieces utilize the house’s vast supply of vintage beads and filigrees, but not to old-fashioned effect. “We ask ourselves, ‘What would Miriam be doing today?’” says Fialkoff. “But we never want to imitate it, because she never imitated.”