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Designing Lives: Jamie Wolf

Former dancer and Black Swan performer designs jewelry that moves with the feminine form.

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ORIGINALLY A DANCER with the New York City Ballet, Jamie Wolf launched her jewelry collection 10 years ago with an understanding of how pieces should flow, drape and accentuate a woman’s best features. She describes her jewelry as “hip neoclassical shapes and details for the wearer for whom jewelry is the most personal form of self-expression.” Wolf took a brief leap into fame when she had a role as a dancer in the film Black Swan, and she also designed the engagement ring for the film’s star, Natalie Portman.

ARTISTIC ASPIRATIONS: ““I started my career as a ballet dancer but always had a strong interest in fashion and design. While dancing for the New York City Ballet, I started creating jewelry out of wire wrapping and semi-precious stones for myself and my friends as a hobby between performance seasons. It never occurred to me that it could be more than just something I did on the side. After a few years, I decided to leave the ballet and focus on my growing business.”

INTO THE INDUSTRY: “I left the ballet after 10 years and went full-force into the collection in 2003. Dancing taught me to think about all of the facets that make something beautiful. In ballet, you can’t just think about your hands, feet or arms, you have to consider it all. Similarly with jewelry, you need to be aware of the weight, color silhouette and movement to make sure that everything will flow in order to create a collection to which both retailers and consumers will respond.”

REDESIGNING HISTORY: “For my first collections, I was completely influenced by my travels. While performing in St. Petersburg, I was transfixed by the ceilings in the cathedrals. Throughout Europe, the museum and church architecture, as well as that of small antique stores, supplied me with the details and elements that I reinterpreted in designs that were both hip and somewhat classical. I think my work has gotten a bit more streamlined over time, but I continue to reconsider vintage themes with a modern eye. I use unique engraving patterns not only on the sides of ring shanks, but all over stackable bangles or as accents on certain motifs. Scrolls from ironwork motifs, frieze and floral patterns turn up throughout the collection.”

MY CUSTOMER: “The women who buy my jewelry don’t necessarily need to ask their husbands for permission. They purchase for themselves and know exactly what they want. They are building a jewelry wardrobe and they realize that pieces that excite them and to which they are drawn really help to express who they are.”

WHAT JEWELRY SAYS: “I personally buy pieces that I know I will wear all the time. There has to be a balance between luxury and utility. I wear a stack of bangles every day. If I have somewhere to go after work, I may add a few extra bangles to make the look a little more dramatic. I like when jewelry can transition from day to night seamlessly.”

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COLLECTION EVOLUTION:“I’ve had a lot of opportunity to evolve the collection as the brand has grown. The more stores we enter and the more clients we gain, the more I get to do what I enjoy most — design! I’ve always used color, but now it’s bigger and bolder and I am using more gemstones than in the past. I feel there is still lot of room for growth. And I believe we keep moving in the right direction.”

A BIT OF FAME: “It was a wonderful experience to be chosen to be in the film Black Swan. My friend Benjamin Millepied, who was with me at New York City Ballet, choreographed the dance scenes and starred in the film. He was also a great design partner — we worked together to make sure that the engagement ring that he gave Natalie was perfectly suited for her.”

Q&A: GETTING PERSONAL WITH JAMIE WOLF

FAVORITE PIECE OF JEWELRY TO WEAR?

“I love my studs — I wear them almost every day. They are chic and feminine, but they still stand out. For something so small, I get compliments on them pretty regularly.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY OTHER CAREER WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“I’m pretty happy doing what I do — I can’t really image anything else. I’ve had two careers and I’ve loved them both!”

FAVORITE PIECE THAT YOU DESIGNED FOR A FRIEND?
“I have a passion for creating engagement rings. I designed three in the past month for friends at New York City Ballet. It’s really exciting to be a part of such a special process and create a piece for someone I know.”

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY?
“I still really love taking ballet classes.”

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FAVORITE FASHION DESIGNERS?
“Derek Lam readyto- wear, Enza Costa T-shirts, Piamita and Erdem scarves.”

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Beth Bernstein is a published author of three books and jewelry and fashion expert with 18+ years experience. A broad knowledge of the history of jewelry and fashion coupled with a background in "the story", writing, trends, design concepts has earned Beth a proven track record.

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