Some collaborations can seem forced, like a blind date during which both parties are too polite to admit defeat. Others, like the one between Derek Lam and Jamie Wolf, feel like the most obvious pairings. The friends and fellow designers (Lam has his namesake ready-to-wear brand; Wolf an eponymous jewelry line) share a love of ballet, so after taking in an evening of Balanchine performances last fall, they decided to join forces on a jewelry collection in celebration of the New York City Ballet’s 50th anniversary (Wolf had particular insight, having danced with the company for ten years).
The resulting Black and White collection, which will donate 20% of profits to NYCB, was toasted at the Derek Lam Madison Avenue boutique Wednesday night with well-wishers ranging from Julie Macklowe to Padma Lakshmi.
“Black and white is a favorite visual of Derek’s because it’s so graphic. And I think one of Balanchine’s geniuses was when you strip away all the costumes and sets, you’re left with these beautiful dancers,” said Wolf. “We wanted to have a streamlined collection.”
There are no tutu charms or pointe shoe earrings in the bunch. Instead, the silver and black and white diamond pieces include homages to Balanchine’s works like the flame in “La Sonnambula” and the diagonal opening position of dancers in “Symphony in Three Movements.”
“We started with what Jamie thought was a great hook, not to do anything that was too literal. So we looked at visuals of the actual acts and picked out certain movements we thought were iconic,” said Lam. “Jamie is the jewelry designer, so I got to act more like an editor.”
The limited-edition baubles are on sale at the Derek Lam boutique and on Wolf’s website. And though many of Lam’s contemporaries have tried their hand at costume design, don’t expect to see his looks on the David H. Koch stage anytime soon. “I’m not ready to take that step yet,” said Lam. “I find it very daunting—maybe because I love the ballet so much and I’m so respectful of what the dancers do.