Part of being a jeweler is being a little bit of a hermit,” says Philip Crangi. “We spend a lot of time looking inward.” Luckily for Crangi, he’s been getting out a bit more lately—landing a major gig with Vera Wang in the process. After creating bracelets and belts for Wang’s spring show, he found himself living a baublemaker’s dream when she asked him to join forces again for fall. On the agenda: chunky, oversize pieces, many of them inspired by Wang’s personal collection of vintage gems, like a tassel-style necklace draped over a hammered satin mermaid dress. Another necklace, a braided rhinestone number by Crangi, was as thick as a bundle of bicycle chains. Models also sported gobstopper-like cuffs that resembled supersize vintage cocktail rings. It’s jewelry “on steroids,” as Wang puts it.
To adorn her clothing, which was inspired by fauvist painter Kees van Dongen, Wang sought a look that was retro but not costumey. “Rhinestone jewelry can feel matronly,” she explains. “But the scale we developed gave it a new feeling for me.” She even coined her own word for her outsize accessories: “gimundo,” perhaps an Italianate mash-up of “giant” and “tremendo.”
But achieving the effect wasn’t easy. “I found some amazing pieces, and we quadrupled the scale on them,” Crangi says, explaining that he braided 12 strands of rhinestone chain to make one necklace. A longtime antiques enthusiast, he also sourced dead-stock settings and rhinestones, some that “were great quality—Austrian crystal—and others [that] were of a more dubious nature,” he says, laughing.
Although donning such colossal creations can be daunting, the pieces will go into production in only a slightly scaled-down size. And Wang plans to sell them in her first ready-to-wear store, opening this fall in New York. “I don’t want them just to be a onetime accessory for a runway show,” she says.
For his part, Crangi appreciated Wang’s decisiveness. “It’s a joy to work with someone who has a clear opinion,” he says. Wang adds, “I kept saying, ‘Add on even more. It’s okay.’”