Designer's Advocate. Vanessa Lau interviews Simon Alcantara for the March-April, 2016 issue of JCK Magazine.
If you've ever met New York-based Simon Alcantara, you'll understand that there's a distinct vibe you feel from his presence and his jewelry. Nothing contrived, mind you – just pure love, light and positivity. That may sound highly suspect coming from two ladies who live on sarcasm and (friendly) snark, but seriously, it's true! We absolutely love when the product is obviously a direct result of its maker, and Simon's jewelry is certainly an extension of his, well, humanness. Look no further than his new StarChild collection that combines arrowheads, quartz, onyx, black agate, and turquoise with diamonds in a way that feels organic and not overly precious. Decidedly talismanic in nature, the pieces are meant to be worn every day and incorporated into your own personal style, blending in as a layering tool but standing out for their eye-catching design. It's no wonder he understands the human form so well: Simon was not only a former professional classical dancer, he has also designed for Oscar de la Renta, Balmain Haute Couture and J. Mendel. Here's to hoping that some of the good energy rubs off on us!
To note: The CFDA created an official Jewelry Committee to explore possibilities for business development, exposure and best practices that affect the industry as well as each designer’s individual business: Simon Alcantara was elected Chairman.
“In Mayan mythology jaguars are believed to be the gate keepers of the unknown, they comprehend the patterns and systems of chaos, and move without fear in the darkness.” -Simon
What’s your idea of ultimate luxury?
Spending time with my friends and family in a secluded tropical location.
The gemstone you are currently lusting after is…
Because I am utilizing diamonds in my collection for the first time, I would say the best diamonds I can get my hands on!
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
It would be Robert Mapplethorpe. His unapologetic and courageous creativity, and his minimalist and emotion-inducing aesthetic is a constant source of inspiration.
If you could buy any piece of contemporary jewelry from another CFDA member, what would it be?
Oh that’s a tough one because all my fellow members are extremely talented and I would want something from each of them (not being greedy!). If I could pick only one then I would ask Mish Tworkowski to make something one-of-a-kind for me because he’s my friend and understands my spirit, my heart, and my taste.
Where's the last place you visited that inspired your creativity? Give us some details!
I have to mention three because it happened consecutively this summer: Taos, Santa Fe, and Bali. There was a similar “heart vibe” in all three and I shot most of the film and campaign for my StarChild collection in those locations. All three have areas that look and feel as if you are on another planet, and all three have the most epic sunsets I have ever seen.
If you could sit front row at any fashion show, what would it be and why?
It would be Givenchy because what Ricardo Tisci is creating has a high level of craftsmanship, the collections are full of multi-cultural references, his casting is the most diverse, and there is a street vibe mixed in. I can relate to all of that.
If you could be anything other than a jewelry designer, what would it be?
I have done and do many different things in my life other than being a jewelry designer: I was a professional classical ballet dancer, I art direct, create films, and photograph fashion campaigns. I’ll say artist because then there is no limit to what I can explore.
Be honest – who is your celebrity crush?
Male: Jussie Smollet Female: Zoe Saldana
What's your spirit animal and explain why?
My spirit animal is the Black Jaguar. In Mayan mythology jaguars are believed to be the gate keepers of the unknown, they comprehend the patterns and systems of chaos, and move without fear in the darkness. They can shape shift and have psychic powers. In my book, that’s totally bad ass.
What does it mean to you to be a member of CFDA?
I take it very seriously as it’s an organization that symbolizes the best in the American Fashion industry. I conduct myself to the best of my abilities to uphold that standard and to help my peers in any way I am able to.
Photographer: Simon Alcantara. Models:Riji Suh and Maxmillion Rosario. Hair and Makeup: Griselle Rosario
Simon Alcantara remembers his mentor, Oscar de la Renta
Fashion icon Oscar de la Renta died on October 20 at the age of 82. His passing touched off a singular wave of tributes from all corners of the fashion industry, many heralding not just the designer’s professional and creative accomplishments but his kindness, grace, and open heart. Our designer, Simon Alcantara, is now producing belts he first conceived while working alongside de la Renta; here, he pays tribute to the master couturier.
“Throughout my life, Oscar de la Renta was a constant source of inspiration and a role model. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him for several years at his fashion house and at Balmain Haute Couture. What I learned collaborating with Oscar has informed everything I do—and not only creatively. He taught me how a gentleman should behave and the importance of being kind and acknowledging everyone because they are fellow human beings. His light shone not only on our little island of Dominican Republic but also worldwide. He was so talented, handsome, dapper, kind and mischievously funny. I can’t think of anyone else in the public eye who is so beloved. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy lives on within everyone whose life he touched. Each of us carry him within us and our light shines brighter because of him.”
As a boy, designer Simon Alcantara’s kept his pockets filled with a collection of stones, feathers, and shells—unusual materials for a boy born and raised on New York City’s Upper West Side. “Those were the things I was attracted to at the time,” he says. “And here I am years later, using these materials in my designs.” The through-line connecting the young collector and the mature designer is evident in Alcantara’s work, from his woven leather, belts studded with stones like mother of pearl, agate, and aventurine, to sterling-silver earrings dramatically laced with peacock feathers—even if impulse has been augmented by philosophy in the intervening years. “I didn’t know it at that age, but I know now that everything carries an energetic signal,” he says.
“Energy” comes up often in conversation with Alcantara, who eagerly shares the properties of his materials: Mother of pearl channels sincerity, amethyst brings tranquility, coral connects the wearer to the metaphysical. It’s easy to conjure an image of a teenage Alcantara poring over Love Is in the Earth, an encyclopedia about stones he discovered in New York’s West Village. “When I encountered that book, I became really, really fascinated,” he says.
“Energy” comes up often in conversation
with Alcantara, who eagerly shares the properties
of his materials: Mother of pearl channels
sincerity, amethyst brings tranquility, coral connects
the wearer to the metaphysical.
Materials continue to intrigue Alcantara, but he says he now finds the act of creation equally enthralling. “There’s something that happens to me when I’m making things with my hands that feels ancient,” he says. “I’ll connect to the magic of my Latin American heritage, but also being a New York City kid—I’ll connect to it all.” Moreover, through creation, Alcantara believes that he’s able to plug into a higher cultural frequency. Take his line of stone-laden lambskin belts: Originally designed to accompany Oscar de la Renta’s fall 2000 ready-to-wear collection, they were, he says, his response to the energy of the time. “It was about a year before 9/11, and I felt like there was a lot of fear around me,” he says. “I noticed people were wearing things like Buddhas and similar symbolic and religious charms.” When designing the belts, Alcantara did so mindful of the placement of the sacral chakra—located just below the naval, around the pelvic bone. His belts, laden with conductive materials—coral, jade, rubellite crystal—were intended to drape this part of the body with high-energy resources. “I didn’t share this intention with the public,” he says. “But there was a huge reaction—they were a hit. It was weird.” “Huge reaction” is no overstatement: For that collection, de la Renta was named the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s womenswear designer of the year. Almost 15 years later, Alcantara’s de la Renta designs are experiencing a revival, as he brings a new variation of them to the marketplace. Alcantara notes that trends are cyclical, and the enduring appeal of the handmade is inarguable—but the timing does feel poignant. “It’s interesting that these pieces are coming back,” he says. “Yet I find it even more interesting that we’re at a certain level of fear again.”
“I’ve gone through a journey in designing and in life. At one point, I made a conscious decision to develop myself."
Still, Alcantara doesn’t take his designs too seriously. While he acknowledges that he’s “an instrument,” and his designs “deliver the message” he feels his work is largely emblematic. As proof of this, he doesn’t believe in good or bad energy. “Energy is energy; you receive it or resist it,” he says. “If you resist it, it’s only then that it’s negative. So while my designs do carry energy, they’re symbolic. We’re responsible for our own energy. You don’t need to be protected from anything.”
This wisdom, culled from his own experiences, is hard won. As a dancer, he experienced a career-ending injury that led him to designing; he admits to rehearsing to the point of exhaustion just to clear his head. While a designer for Oscar de la Renta, he slept two hours every night for two years straight, often disappearing for weeks while conceiving collections. “I’ve gone through a journey in designing and in life,” he says. “At one point, I made a conscious decision to develop myself. Who am I?”
Now that he’s learned to embrace his unique gifts without letting them overpower him, he can see the world through the eyes of the same curious 10-year-old he once was, rattling his treasure-filled pockets for the next inspiration. “My thing is keeping my energy as high as possible—not overthinking things, honoring myself, and really watching what I’m feeling,” he says. “I do what I do. I follow my instincts.”
Photographs by Jim Franco, Styled by Mengly Hernandez
BEJEWELLED – AN INTERVIEW WITH SIMON ALCANTARA
Jessica Quillin November 6, 2013
Puns aside, Simon Alcantara is a rare jewel. He is a down-to-earth visionary. It sounds dramatic but five minutes into conversation with Simon, it is very clear that he is both a lovely person and a bit of a creative genius. Celebrities and magazines alike love his red-carpet worthy jewelry. Yet, all Simon can talk about is how he and Talya Cousins, a jewelry consultant and former W editor, urged the CFDA to set up its first-ever jewelry showcase, which took place 16 October in New York and featured the work of 19 independent jewelry designers.
.A native of New York, Simon grew up in a Dominican family and spent the early part of his life as a professional ballet dancer. He developed jewelry as a hobby until a sidelining injury forced him to refocus his career. Simon soon focused on designing fine jewelry full time and soon found a large international clientele, officially launching his line at Bergdorf Goodman in 2002.
.It is no understatement to say that Simon Alcantara’s jewelry is designed for a modern woman who is unafraid to be noticed. Utilizing a variety of natural materials and precious and semi-precious stones, his pieces are alluring and memorable.
.Glass had the chance to chat with Simon about his unusual career path, his love of jewelry and what defines a true design family.
.Your jewelry is exotic, dramatic yet consummately wearable. You are clearly afraid of neither color nor bold materials like feathers. How do you balance art with wear ability when creating jewelry?
I think it’s a combination of elements that add up to create that balance. Growing up in a Dominican family that encouraged that we only speak Spanish at home and that we study Spanish literature I learned of the magic in the expression that comes from a Latin based language. The way you combine words or in the case of jewelry; stones, metals and other media can create a magical, exotic or dramatic effect.
.Being a classical dancer developed my eye for balance and movement with the body and how to visually create the sense of “lightness” even with a very bold piece and the impact of focused theatricality. Being born and raised in New York City I developed a sense of practicality and the importance of comfort of movement in a modern fast paced life, which is where the wear-ability comes in. Finally not being a traditionally trained jeweler there were no learned limitations as to what I could use or not use as far as materials and I have always been interested in the original, talismanic use of adornment. All those elements combined are the vocabulary I use to create my collections.
.Your latest collection, Alpha Pavonis, as part of your Dream Phase collection, pulls influence from cosmic phenomena as well as the proud peacock. From where did you get inspiration for this collection? How does it fit in to your broader Dream Phase collection?
All my collections are infused with meaning and messages for those that choose to explore. The Dream Phase series is about our evolution from spirit connected to the cosmos, the evolution of mankind and the return to spirit and the connection to all that is.
.The Alpha Pavonis Collection (the brightest star in the peacock constellation) is about celebrating and allowing our innate brilliance to come through. The peacock is viewed by some as arrogant for announcing it’s majesty but in my view the peacock is just displaying its innate brilliance, no more no less. I always tell my friends “shine bright” because by doing that you allow others to do so. Asking people to be “humble” most times falsely is a system of indoctrination and control that I am totally against. Arrogance is about insecurity, shining brightly is about being who you were born to be.
.Your designs make heavy use of natural rather than synthetic materials to achieve a very modern look. From where do you source materials? How long does it take to make one of your pieces? There is no better design than what you find in nature and that energy that natural materials carry within them helps one’s communication as a creative flow “naturally” to the wearer or the observer. My pieces are very labor intensive as most pieces are hand woven an artisanal technique that goes back to the beginning of time. To weave by hand takes a lot of time, but I find it to be very peaceful and meditative. My materials come from all over the world.
.You have an unusual background for a designer, including many years as a professional dancer. How did your experience in the arts shape your work as a jewelry designer? Many of your pieces have an almost balletic flair in form and presentation, if such a thing is possible in jewelry.
Being a classical dancer informs my jewelry and my life in a very deep way. Firstly, it developed my eye for proportion, balance and visual lightness. It also taught me the importance of repetition and time to master your craft so that technique becomes second nature and then you can truly be artistic and sublime. I also learned the power of a gesture to communicate emotion and narrative. Learning to pick up choreography and to be able to reverse it trained my mind to mentally look at anything three dimensionally and twist and turn it around in my head.
.From where did you learn the craft of jewelry making?
I am a self-taught designer.
.You have been a member of the CFDA since 2004 and have done an impressive number of collaborations, including with Oscar de la Renta, Balmain Haute Couture Paris, J Mendel Paris and Mary McFadden. What did you learn from these collaborations?
I have been very fortunate to work with “masters of their crafts” at a very high level with the best materials, craftsmen, models and petit mains in the industry and I am still absorbing all I have learned. The most important thing I learned is the importance of working on your craft repeatedly, every single day with respect and integrity.
.You seem to have a close bond with the members of your design studio. Who are they and how did they fit into your brand and/or family?
I have a close bond with anyone significant in my life. My friendships and relationships are very deep and meaningful. To collaborate creatively is a powerful exploration that anyone who has experienced knows there are not any accurate words to convey those feelings. The closest word would be Love.
.Finally, a lot of your collection photography and your recent collection films were produced by Creative Collective Collab. How did you come to be a part of this organization?
I realized that over the years I’ve been fortunate to meet so many talented people and that together we could explore and produce projects for one another without having to come up with huge funds. I pondered what could happen if we joined forces in the spirit of collaboration
.The first person I approached about the idea was my dear friend Talya Cousins. I met Talya when she was a senior editor at W and WWD. She is now a creative director, jewelry consultant and freelance journalist and my intuition told me this could be something she would also get excited about. Talya’s eyes lit up as I shared with her and she quickly agreed to come on board.
.We began exploring how this could work and started reaching out to a select group of colleagues. The reaction was wonderful; lots of excitement, a stream of ideas started flowing and everyone was enthusiastic for the opportunity to create together in a new setting.
.Our goal is to discover, expand and create in a collaborative and somewhat unusual work-frame. We’re interested in exploring both commercial and more conceptual projects and approaching them in ways we’ve never experienced before. The Alpha Pavonis campaign consisting of photographs, poetry and video and upcoming art by Creative Collective Collab member Silas Stoddard was our first project.
.Alpha Pavonis image credits: Production, Simon Alcantara; Cinematography, Anna Lee Campbell; Creative direction, Talya Cousins; Model, Mengly Hernandez; Wardrobe styling, Kendall Farr; Design direction, Nathalie Kersheh; Makeup, Karlo Karlo; Photography, Henry Lopez; Set design, Jesse Mercado; Hair, Eddie Parra; Set design, Silas Stoddard; Writer, Riji Suh
.by Jessica Quillin
Instore Magazine September/October 2013
BY TALYA COUSINS
Published in the September/October 2013 issue
When injury robbed him of a promising career in dance, Simon Alcantara rediscovered his love of jewelry making and began a rapid ascent in the twin worlds of fashion and jewelry design. His hand-woven hoop earrings became his signature piece and were worn by both Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and Oprah Winfrey on her eponymous television show. From his longtime collaborations with fashion houses Balmain and Oscar de la Renta to the mix of bold and ornate pieces that have become so recognizable as his own, the New York designer discusses his unconventional journey to jewelry design and his unique take on modern adornment.
NATURAL INSTINCTS“When I was a child, my parents told me I had three career options: I could either become a banker, a doctor or a lawyer. But from the moment I stepped into a dance studio, all I wanted was to be a dancer. I would sneak out after school to attend ballet class, and eventually, when I turned 18, my parents gave in and I started dancing professionally. Becoming a jewelry designer was a complete accident. While at dance school, a fellow dancer showed me a pair of earrings she had designed and I was hooked. I spent every free moment taking apart vintage necklaces, studying their structure and fluidity and re-fashioning them into earrings and hair ornaments. I was fascinated with jewelry, but I didn’t believe I could make a living designing, so I deserted it and concentrated on my dancing.”
FASHION GEM “Years later after a serious injury that ended my dancing career, I picked up my jewelry toolbox again. A short time afterwards, I was introduced to a buyer at Patricia Field’s store. She requested that I create a collection of woven leather and stone chokers. The collection sold out in three days and other retailers quickly followed. In 2000, Oscar de la Renta saw my pieces and decided to feature them in his fall/ winter runway show. That led to a three-year collaboration with him and beautiful partnerships with other fashion houses such as Balmain and J. Mendel. In 2003, Bergdorf Goodman launched my namesake collection.”
PRESENT PERFECT “In many ways, not having formal jewelry training has been a blessing. I’m very keen on learning, and since I create everything by hand, I keep developing new techniques. Weaving is one of my strengths; I’ve spent years finessing it. My newest collection, Alpha Pavonis, is inspired by the peacock and its symbolism across cultures. Essentially, the collection is about celebrating our own innate brilliance. It combines 18K gold and sterling silver with feathers and warm-hued gems such as lapis, garnet, amethyst, quartz, mother of pearl and green agate.”
POINT OF VIEW “Frankly, I think of jewelry as small pieces of art. They’re personal and meaningful yet as the wearer evolves so does their taste and almost every piece of jewelry can be re-fashioned into something new. It makes for a beautiful story and form of expression.”
LIVING FOR TODAY “At this point in my life, I don’t make ten-year plans. I am a day-to-day kind of guy. The world is changing rapidly, so I try to stay open and focus on deepening my connections both professionally and personally.”
ARTISTIC MEANING “One of my mentors, the ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, once told me: ‘Who cares if you can lift your leg up to your face if it doesn’t mean anything or is not relevant to the story you’re telling.’ Those words remained with me and keep me in check as I build my business and design every collection. To me, meaning is everything. I like to create pieces that aren’t classic or contemporary but ageless, and I get inspired by the idea of creating something that will last beyond me and have a life of its own.”
Q&A | GETTING PERSONAL WITH SIMON ALCANTARA
FAVORITE PIECE OF JEWELRY TO WEAR?
“A charm necklace featuring a white pyrite pendant from my Nuntius collection, an ‘eye’ and a Nefertiti head that my mom gifted me when I was a teenager.”
WHEN NOT IN MY STUDIO DESIGNING I CAN BE FOUND…
“Walking around New York City, taking photographs and people watching. At night I can be found on the dance floor. I am a night owl.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY…
“SHINE BRIGHT. BE KIND. BE CONSCIOUS.”
MY STYLE ICONS ARE:
“Porfirio Rubirosa, David Bowie, James Dean.”
WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE AND WHY?
“My mom, she’s never lost her sense of curiosity and excitement for life. She is sheer joy and always smiling.”
Blush Magazine Dominican Republic. March, 2013
Marie Claire Style Japan. December 2012
2012年12月19日 18:40 発信地:
■Simon Alcantara says...
■プロフィール サイモン・アルカンタラ NY生まれ。10代のころより始めたバレエに夢中になり、プロのバレエダンサーに。そのころから、少しずつジュエリーを作り、プライベートで熱狂的な顧客を持つようになる。怪我によってバレエの道を断念した後、ジュエリーデザイナーとして本格的に活動。数多くの賞を受賞し、映画やTVなどでも多くのセレブリティが着用する実力派。 (c)marie claire style
CFDA IMPACT. 50 YEARS OF FASHION. SEPTEMBER 2012
What is your biggest impact on American Fashion?
I believe my greatest impact on American Fashion was ushering back a bold femininity in jewelry after a period in the nineties when American women barely wore any jewelry at all. I began working on really big and bold pieces in the year 1999 as a personal creative project and my jewelry was chosen for the Fall 2000 Oscar de La Renta fashion show in NYC. Jewelry that bold had not been seen on the runway in years and it made a huge impact. By September 2000 I had my first cover! It was Elle magazine featuring my necklace on Christy Turlington. The tag line read: “The new glamour. Bold feminine chic”
Thereafter, many other editorial credits and covers followed and along with it other designers also began creating big and bold jewelry and soon this was all you saw in the market. Gone were the tiny, almost imperceptible pendants and earrings and women were once again adorning themselves to be seen. They looked powerful. This bold femininity persists today.
De Moda, Puerto Rico, September 2000