I’ll never forget the first time I met Deborah Pagani. She was doing a personal appearance at Barneys New York one very cold evening two years ago, and my friend Giovanna suggested we stop by, promising me that I would love Deborah’s jewelry.
She was right. I really liked Deborah’s jewelry… and Deborah too.
Deborah is gorgeous, warm, incredibly knowledgable and seemed to know exactly the pieces I would gravitate towards, like a magician pulling my jewelry fantasies from my head and making them real. I immediately asked to see her Imperial earrings – they look like fish and I’m a pisces – then Gio asked to try on her pyramid dangle rings (she now wears one, covered in pavé diamonds, on each finger, which is quite original and very chic). Then Deborah’s Large Dynasty earrings caught my eye… and her Idol earrings… okay, all of her earrings. She just can’t make an unappealing pair of earrings!
Deborah too is incredibly chic. That night at Barneys she was literally dressed in head to toe Alaia: full-skirted dress, corset belt and thigh-high boots, all in black, which, of course, was the perfect backdrop for displaying just the right amount of her own elegant-slash-rock ‘n’ roll jewelry… fine jewelry, not costume, which, of course, only makes it that much better.
Deborah is also a mother. She has a daughter, Alaiya Bijou (appropriately) who is about the same age as my son and she just had twin boys a few months ago. So basically, Deborah has it all: beauty, talent, brains and a perfect little family to boot. I really admire women who are able to balance family with work… I know how difficult that is and can’t imagine running a company with young children… never mind twins!
I recently asked Deborah a few questions about life, jewelry and found out that she’s an expert at mixing “chaotic” cocktails…
1. What led you to become a jewelry designer?
Jewelry itself has long been a passion of mine, but it’s not an easy business to break into, especially working with 18k gold and diamonds, given the high costs and that the smallest mistake can cost you a lot. I was already established in the beauty industry, where I was working alongside some of the best in the business and counted some of the best and brightest as my clients. I knew that if I was going to follow my dream of having my own collection, it needed to do things the way I wanted, which meant designing solely fine jewelry.
2. How would you describe the style of the jewelry you design?
It took a while for editors, buyers, and other people in the industry to describe exactly what my aesthetic is. I like the term, “Deco Rock.” This is quite simply the fusion of my two greatest influences: Art Deco style and rock ’n’ roll culture. Above all else, I wanted to create a new genre in fine jewelry that was still timeless. The jewelry is definitely edgy but does not lose its feminine vibe.
3. What is your favorite/most cherished piece of personal jewelry?
I really love my Anna May ring. In my first few collections, everything was very geometric, with lines that had a purpose. The Anna May Ring incorporates all of the common designs you can find in my pieces: the pyramid, the chevron and paneling. More so, this ring set off a new trend for me personally which is that I’ve started incorporating more and more curvature into my pieces.
4. Was there a defining moment for you as a jewelry designer? A piece of press or seeing someone wear one of your pieces that really stayed with you?
I have a few… winning the Ecco Domani award was definitely a day I won’t forget anytime soon. Even though the award allowed me to present during NYFW this past February, I was more moved by knowing that a group of people I had long respected (such as Ken Downing and Julie Gilhart) put me in the ranks of designers I admire and respect for their talents.
Also, I remember being on the beach a couple of summers ago, far away from home and picking up a Russian Vogue that someone had left on the chair next to mine. I was speechless when I turned the page and saw a pair of my earrings covering the page. I hadn’t been told they would be used and being that it was Vogue and that I was so far from home, this was a moment that brought me happiness and gratitude.
5. If you weren’t designing fine jewelry, what would you be doing?
I have always loved fashion and working in this industry has completely changed the way I look even at clothes. I have such an interest in the workings of a stylist, I think I would give it a shot. Maybe a concept store where I do the buy… So many stores just carry the same things.
6.Who is the person you most admire?
I admire quite a few women. For me a women who balances work and family and looking fabulous at the same time is always admirable. DVF seems to be doing it all and still living her life to the fullest. Also, Tamara Mellon, she really goes for something and gets it. I met her once and she is beautiful and nice.
5. Do you have any secret talents?
I think I could be quite the mixologist. I developed a drink called, “FRISK”.
I can’t tell what’s in it, but I can assure you that it always results in fun… or chaos.
7. What’s your motto?
“Well behaved women rarely make history.”
8.What do you do to relax?
I feel like I’ve forgotten how to relax. I’ve recently started to do aqua bike and it seems to chill me out a bit.
9. What are a few of your favorite places to shop in New York?
Barneys New York.
6. Favorite restaurants?
Mr. Chow and Emilio Ballato.
7. Finally, I know you used to work in beauty… Do you have any products you can’t live without?
Oribe Dry Shampoo and John Sahag hairspray.
My facialist Georgia Louise turned me on to a dermaroller with titanium needles, it feels weird but is amazing for the skin.