An incredibly talented and highly acclaimed jewelry designer, the dashing and easygoing, Alexis Bittar spent a generous six hours in our downtown Seattle store today signing his pieces, chatting and shopping with customers. He also carved out a few minutes from time with his fans to share his infectious laugh and speak with us about his collections, style tips and what’s next for his label.
What do you love most about what you do?
I think the best thing about being a jewelry designer is that I feel like what I do hopefully straddles art and fashion. You get to create this personal expression for women that they wear. Wearable art has such a bad connotation, but I feel like there is that component involved in the jewelry.
I like to push the limit with developing techniques and trying new mediums. So, I feel like ultimately it’s an expression of art and fashion.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I look at everything…I’m always looking for innovation. I look at architecture, furniture—I love antique jewelry. I feel like in terms of craftsmanship and skill, if you look at jewelry pre-1950s and 1960s, the craftsmanship is just incredible. I look at fashion, art—I try to take all of that in, you know?
I love turn of the last century, like 1900-1915 in terms of modern art. It’s incredible. For me that’s the birth of real modern art.
Your three lines Lucite, Elements, and Miss Havisham all have a distinct look, but what ties them all together? What defines Alexis Bittar?
I design every piece, so hopefully my DNA is in there. Hopefully there’s—this is a generalization because it’s maybe not true for all the pieces—there’s a sense of creativity, a little bit of whimsy, and I feel like the pieces are all strong. They’re not coming from a timid place.
If you could give your customers a tip on style or wearing your pieces, what would it be?
Well, I think a few things. One is that a stack of bracelets looks better generally than just one, unless it’s a strong bracelet. I think it’s good to invest in a statement piece of jewelry, whether it’s a cocktail ring or a larger bib necklace. And I think you need to feel comfortable in whatever you’re wearing. You really want to choose it…you don’t want to feel like the jewelry is wearing you, so you need to have a sense of comfort, but you always try to push it a little bit…push your limits a little.
And I would definitely say stay away from wearing matching sets, like a set of hoop earrings with a hoop necklace, even for my brand, you don’t need to put on Lucite earrings and a Lucite necklace…one’s enough. [Laughs.]
You’ve worked with a long list of celebrities and designers—like Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field, Michael Kors and recently Jason Wu. Are there more collaborations on the horizon? Who would be your dream to partner with?
I would love to work with Comme des Garçons—that would be like my favorite brand to work with. Or McQueen, even though he passed away, I think the show [at Paris Fashion Week] looked really good…Sarah Burton is strong.
In terms of collaborations, [long pause] yeah, I have one, but I can’t talk about it. Sorry. [Smiles.]
What’s next for Alexis Bittar?
I am going to be working on a bridge fine jewelry line; I think that’s the next real venture for the company.
Anything for men?
You know it’s weird, it comes up a lot as a question, and it’s a really particular market. I definitely think I can get to it, but feel like I’d rather get to the fine jewelry first. Men, me included, often own and wear their same one piece of jewelry everyday, and that’s it. It’s not as fun, and you don’t want to make the jewelry too fun. You don’t want guys wearing tons of jewelry. So it needs to be really simple, unless you’re like Liberace, and you can pull it off. [Laughs] but I’m not rushing it.