Turning heads with body jewelry once required a certain pain tolerance and ample follow-up care.
These days, young Bay Area designers are embracing a different sort of body jewelry: accessories worn like crowns, draped on legs or wrapped around torsos. Pain free and commitment free, the new body jewelry has at least one potential hazard:
This Victorian shoulder piece was created for New York Fa…Dame’s Billy Jean goes over a jacket or around a shoulder.The Riders chain by Bandits & Riders accents boots. View More Images
“When we go out with a shoulder piece or a leg piece, you can’t walk across the room without somebody stopping you,” Rachael Mann, 27, says of the avant-garde accessories she and her sister, Mackenzie Burdick, 23, make under the name Litter.
Since they started in December, the Cow Hollow duo’s accessories made of vintage chains and found metal objects have achieved a certain cult status – landing in glossy fashion magazines and at New York Fashion Week during Christian Cota’s spring 2010 show – and won praise from tastemakers such as stylist Rachel Zoe and Vogue’s Lauren Santo Domingo.
“I know I’ve never wanted to look like everybody else, and I feel like it’s fresh and new and something to be excited about,” San Francisco stylist Rachel Esterline says of Litter’s appeal.
Along with standing out, unconventional pieces can offer welcome versatility at a time when consumers are buying less.
“Everybody’s very conscious of how they spend their money right now, so why not get one thing that can be worn many different ways?” asks Sara Rossbach, 23, whose Gold & Citrus line, launched in July with Rich Combs, 23, contains delicate chains strung with accents such as wooden beads and smoky quartz nuggets that can be harnessed around the torso or worn as necklaces instead.
Statement-making accessories for the body also quickly transform closet basics.
“Rather than buy a trendy boot that’s embellished, you can buy a basic boot and customize it to fit your personality and your look,” says Erica Chan, 28, who designs East Bay fabric, leather and chain boot accessory line the 2 Bandits with Tamar Wider, 26.
That’s also the idea behind San Francisco designer Stephanie Kim’s Dekkori, a new line that changes the look of pumps and boots with add-ons such as fringed T-straps, beaded anklets and pull-on lambskin boot shafts.
Local designer Nazy Wadia, 30, whose line Dame premiered last month, offers metal pieces that crisscross the chest and the Billy Jean, a clip-on chain piece with multiple uses.
“You can place it in front of a coat, on the sides across the arm, and I’ve even clipped it onto boots before,” Wadia says.
Jewelry for parts other than the usual earlobes, wrists and neck may be a new style concept for many of today’s shoppers, but its roots are visible in the past.
“The harness was seen as early as the Byzantine era, specifically from Egypt,” says Wadia, who was inspired to create several of her pieces after seeing Rodrigo Santoro’s heavily bejeweled Persian god-king Xerxes in the 2006 film “300.”
For others, body jewelry is simply a natural next step.
Says Rossbach: “We’ve always wanted to push the boundaries, and body jewelry is an evolution of a regular necklace.”