The line to get into Michael’s snaked onto the sidewalk today as the fall power lunch season finally got under way. There were talking heads (Star Jones, Charlie Rose) and media types (David Zinczenko, Jack Kliger) and the usual well-heeled crowd who just couldn’t wait to get down to business.
I was joined today by the dashing and delightful Edward Landrigan and Nicholas Landrigan, the father and son team at the helm of Verdura, the venerable jewelry house favored by style icons like Greta Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor and Marlene Dietrich and loved by contemporary stylistas like Sofia Coppola. Verdura’s signature bejewelled cuffs, which I’ve coveted forever, are truly one of the most sought after (and copied) pieces of jewelry ever designed.
CEO “Ward” bought the company in 1985 and “Nico,” its president, has worked at the company since 2009. It was clear talking to these gents that the passion for fine jewelry runs in the family. Ward got the bug working at a jewelry store as a teenager, which set him on an unexpected career path for a fellow with a “blue collar New Jersey” upbringing. (“When I told my father I was going into the jewelry business, he asked me, “How are you going to make a living?’) His decades-long career included his tenure as head of the jewelry divison for Sothebys USA which brought him into the orbit of legendary jewelry lovers like Elizabeth Taylor. “Jewelry is the last talisman in today’s society,” Ward explains. “When a woman puts on a favorite piece of jewelry, whether its costume or the real thing, and her face lights up, it’s magic. There’s something very special about that, and it’s something I have always enjoyed about the business. I have a passion for it.”
‘Nico’ went to Brown and considered a career in the law while working in the Fraud Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office before joining forces with his father. “I wanted to make sure I really wanted a career in law before I actually committed to it,” recalls Nico. In the end, his path seemed all but predestined. ”From the time I was six until I was eleven, I thought what my father did was the coolest job in the world,” Nico told me. Says Ward: “On a trip to India when he spelled his name out in sapphires, I knew that was it.”
It was those years spent looking over his father’s shoulder where Nico absorbed much of what he would need as Verdura’s president. “I learned to have an opinion,” he told me which, it turns out, is critically important in dealing with the house’s most discriminating clients. Nico’s innate understanding of the significance of Verdura’s storied history has also set the house apart from its more in-your-face jewelers. I was fascinated as Nico spun a straight out of Hollywood tale which chronicled the house’s beginnings: backed by Vincent Astor and Cole Porter, Fulco Verdura opened the jewelry house in 1939 and in short order became the favored jeweler of none other than the legendary Diana Vreeland.
One need look no further than the red carpet for any of Hollywood’s big award shows to see what sets Verdura apart from the bling brigade today. For flashier houses, “It’s all about moving merchandise,” says Nico of the practice of draping every television starlet in diamonds and then trumpeting the feat in a flurry of press releases. “We don’t play the ‘diamonds by the yard’ game.” Instead, Verdura caters to those who know of its unique history and are looking to stand out from the pack. “For us, it’s about people who love to wear inherited pieces versus those whose jewelry screams ‘Look how much my husband makes!’”
For those stylish gals (and the men who love them), Verdura’s upcoming Mid-Century Masters exhibition and sale which runs October 15 through November 9 at the Fifth Avenue salon has amazing pieces from some of the most impressive private collections, including those of Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers, Dorothy Hirshon Paley (first wife of CBS founder Bill Paley) and Mrs. E.T. Weir. Nico told me that “the loosening of private collections that have lived in families for years” made for some impressive acquisitions this year for Verdura. Added Ward, “Many of these pieces are inherited by grandchildren whose lifestyle just doesn’t warrant wearing some of these magnificent pieces.” So, now that their value is on the rise after the last few years of a less than stellar return on assets, these lucky one percenters have opted to sell the beautiful baubles storied in their home safes and give the money to the younger set to fund their educations or for a down payment for that acre in Greenwich.
The pieces date from the 1940′s to the 1970′s and represent the incredible breadth of Verdura and Suzanne Belperron, the only female master jeweler of the 20th century (Verdura is in the midst of relaunching Belperron’s collection). The Landrigans also purchased several pieces at the recent auction of the collections from Brooke Astor‘s estate as well as two previously undiscovered paintings done by Vendura who was also heralded for his artist talent. There will be no splashy reception to kick off the exhibition since the Landrigans don’t believe in flashy PR fetes. “We are much more discrete,” says Nico. Somehow, though, as if by radar those social swans and serious collectors will find their way to the Fifth Avenue salon and undoubtedly fall in love with what they see.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Star Jones (Loved the sexy, wavy mane!) in a sleek, navy sheath with uber publicist Brad Zeifman and Rent The Runway’s CEO Jennifer Hyman. Did you catch Star in The New York Times this Sunday rocking a beaded, Badgley Mischka mini she got from the burgeoning fashion-for-loan company? We have to say those classes at Soul Cycle are paying off. Looking good!
2. Agent Boaty Boatwright
3. Steve Mosko
4. Cosmetic titan Leonard Lauder
5. Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (Long time, no see!)
6. Producer Diane Sokolow
7. Edward Landrigan, Nicholas Landrigan and yours truly
9. Presentation coach Amy Griggs Kliger (Jack Kliger‘s better half) with Jaclyn Hirschhaut, vice president of public relations and marketing for the High Point, North Carolina-based American Home Furnishing Alliance. The dynamic and always busy Amy, who has personally coached many of AHFA’s members, will be speaking at the organization’s annual meeting of CEOs next month.
10. Fern Mallis, whose new accessories collection Fern’s Finds is selling like mad online for HSN, with Elyse Kroll, formerly of ENK. Fern is having quite the eventful fall. Her Fern’s Finds collection formally debuts on the shopping network October 10 at 10 am, and next month she’ll interview Marc Jacobs for her fashion insider series at the 92nd Street Y.
14. Ed Adler
15. Entertainment Weekly‘s Scott Donaton
16. Betsy Perry
81. Mitch Rosenthal
18. PR pro Lisa Linden and Steve Alschuler with Marcy Syms. As soon as I saw Marcy enter the dining room, those memorable commercials where she became the face of the iconic Manhattan-based retailer (“An educated consumer is our best customer!”) played in my head. When Lisa introduced me to Marcy as I stopped by the table, I learned that she is now overseeing the amazing work The Sy Syms Foundation does around town. In addition to their endowments for PBS and NPR, which have helped fund programs like Frontline and the classic movie series on Saturday nights on Channel 13, the Foundation welcomed the first class in its MBA program in accounting at Yeshiva University this fall. Marcy also told me she attributes her career path to her father who was “an accidental feminist.” Having been raised in a family with six sisters, Mr. Syms learned early that women were a force to be reckoned with and smartly chose his daughter to be the pitch woman for his brand.
Second shift: Charlie Rose and, we’re told, a Nobel Laureate winner who was on CBS This Morning chatting up Charlie just this morning.
20. My pal, producer and democratic booster Joan Gelman. Can’t wait for our lunch next week to discuss tonight’s debates.
21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher
22. GTN president Don Epstein
24. The Wall Street Journal‘s Dana McBride
82. Mitch Kanner
28. UTA’s Brett Hansen
29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein. Before we adjourned to our respective tables, we had our weekly recap where we trade opinions on the best (in truth, worst) reality TV moments of the week. While the guys were transfixed by the antics of TLC’s Honey Boo Boo (I can’t bring myself to watch), we all agreed that The Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s reunion show ranks among the most riveting train wreck television we’ve seen all season. And, just think, there’s two more parts yet to air. I hope Andy Cohen is wearing some protective gear for the rematch.
30. Adam Platzner
Faces in the crowd: It was standing room only at the bar, but I did spot my good friend designer David Biscaye enjoying his usual quick bite before dashing back to work. See you next week!
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