You can tell just by looking at her, that Alison Hessert is cool. Her extensive background in the fashion industry has left her with that effortless sense of style that many of us try very hard to obtain and still can’t, while for her it’s just, well, effortless. We met in a well-lit studio that’s tidy enough to belie the innovations currently being made. Hessert’s hair is up, her voice is matter-of-fact and her eyes are very kind. We’re meeting to talk about jewelry.
Hessert’s jewelry line, Mixology NYC, is not even two years old and has already garnered acclaim from New York’s most fashionable circles. The eclectic assortment of mixed metal pieces, whimsical shapes and exotic accents has been featured in both domestic and international fashion publications, as well as on hit shows like Gossip Girl. Hessert’s personal composite of styling, PR and editorial experience within the fashion industry, coupled with a funky family tradition, helped lay the groundwork for this modern and edgy accessories line. And no one tells the story quite like her.
SCS: Where did the idea for Mixology NYC come from?
AH: My background is a lot in branding and writing. So I had done a bunch of styling and fashion writing. I had always been a little creative, at one point I started making little handbags and hats and things like that. But I really didn’t have that I want to go up and be a jewelry designer. And if I look back on it I had this great aunt who I was really close with who was really loving and funky and kind of nutty, and she was a cloisonne jewelry designer. Also, in the 70s, my parents collected crystal decanters and antique sterling decanter tags. There was some kind of lead crystal phase and people just collected them, instead of throwing them out. So my mom put them on chains for us and I had one particular one, that was from a brandy bottle. It was on a silver chain but I liked to wear it up high, like as a choker. And people would stop me all the time and ask me about it. And even as an adult, since I was in the fashion industry from a stylist and PR and writing point of view, I was meeting with editors all the time and they’d tell me they loved my necklace. I’d be in the bathrooms of restaurants and people would compliment me and ask me if my name was Brandy!
So what that led me to was thinking wow, I’d love to do a line of decanter tag jewelry. But day in and day out, everyone has a thousand ideas and dreams and usually, you just never follow them. So then a friend opened a restaurant about three years ago on 52nd Street and it was very boudoir-esque and it was called Haven. And she asked me to help her with the waitresses’ outfits. The inside of the restaurant had ostrich-papered walls and red python ceilings so it really had that bordello, boudoir feel and so I suggested including decanter tags. So through a former client of mine, I found someone to help me make a line of Haven decanter tags and I put them on velvet that was kind of how it started.
SCS: So what were the early days of Mixology NYC like?
AH: So I started with a collection called Cocktail Couture, which was full of feather accents, and that was technically the original. But I didn’t fully launch Mixology NYC until about a year and a half ago. Before that it was kinda just making a couple things here and there. And from then to now, our journey’s taken us to a real different place.
SCS: Tell me a little bit about the current collections.
AH: The Dark Angels collection is comprised of some of the more elaborate pieces. The collection itself is highly based upon the tragic heroines in the 70′s like Edie Sedgwick. The drama in pieces like Edie’s Feather Collar and Edie’s Cleopatra Bib were created to show that those are really beautiful things that are also rough. It’s kind of my homage to really beautiful people who committed suicide like Edie or Janis Joplin.
Our most current lines include first, the Warrior collection. It is Celtic-inspired and is based upon all the female warriors, which you can see in the names such as the Athena bib, the Joan of Arc spike rings and the Guinevere chain mail. When we mold our metals, we use a pewter base and we plate them. Some are copper, a lot of what we use is base metal, pewter-plated in rose gold or rhodium.
Then what’s coming out for Spring 2012 is African Queens, a mostly brass-based collection. African Queens is about gong to nature, whether its wooden based or horns or shark teeth, its feathers, its integrating all those elements. There’s a Double Horn Cuff, a Shark Tooth Charm Bracelet a Fish skeleton and even equestrian chains. Its very much of an earthy feel. Its also a similar vibe to the Warrior collection but a little more of a divergence.
Also in this vein, we have the Lone Star mini capsule collection, based upon the Lone Star skulls. We have skull rings which we make in brass and oxy-silver and oxy-gunmetal, which is probably our best seller. Then we have another mini collection called Sirens, which is based upon anchors and has a clean, nautical feel to it.
SCS: What can we expect to see next from Mixology NYC?
AH: Well, we started a men’s collection about four or five months ago because we were selling our rings in a size 8 to men around the world and quickly realized there was a need for men. So we created creating cuff links and rings and some of our necklaces translate as well.
Our brand new collection is called Barbarella Galaxy so it has a modern aesthetic, but still with a little interest in our signature use of mixed metals. Its more shiny, pod necklaces, double pod bracelets and the spiked rings are really great layered or stacked together. You can just see we’ve really come a long way from where we were a little over a year ago. Before, it was all about this kind of retro rocker vibe. Now, as I’ve picked up more design and production techniques, my pieces are more sophisticated. The vision I’m currently working on is merging the rougher elements with a little bit more modern elements.
SCS: Where are the pieces in Mixology NYC made? And what it is the general price point?
AH: All the products are made in New York. I have a production space but we still do a lot of the construction in my studio, which means I still get to do a lot of hands on work with my pieces. The retail price point ranges from about $35 to $450. I’ve thought about creating some special items that are more high end, and I probably will in the future, but I’m not planning to change the general range of the line. We started in a recession and if we could keep our margins and keep producing domestically, especially in this economy, then we’d love to do that.
SCS: So between your price point and your aesthetic, who would you say your customer is?
AH: People ask us this all the time. We sell to anyone from 18 years old to 55 years old. It always amazes me when I do trunk shows, its fascinating to see who our clientele is and what my perception is of what I think they want. For example, say you go to a trunk show in Bridgehampton and you have an idea of what people in Bridgehampton will want and then they totally go for a different collection! In Bridgehampton, I thought they’d want all the bling and instead, they all went for the Warrior collection. It was so interesting.
Our core customer? I’d say 20s and 30s. Urban. New York and L.A. Also Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, especially with our Lone Star line. I would say not so much for someone from Ames, Iowa but I hesitate in saying that because we’re living in a different world than we were ten years ago. You know, because someone like Tavi who’s so popular and where is she from? Minnesota? So people have that accessibility so that doesn’t mean anything. And everyone can watch shows in real time and stream runway these days. But from a core point of view, I’d say that’s where we are now.
SCS: Thank you so much for everything. One more question, how would you say that reality t.v. shows like Project Accessory and DIY blogs like P.S. I Made This are affecting the accessories design industry, if at all?
AH: Well, I’m not a huge Project Runway or Project Accessory fan because it’s basically like watching my life (laughs). But in terms of it showing how things are made… if you look back at the couture salons in the 30s and 40s like Dior and Chanel. There is something really lovely about that sense of mystery of how these fabulous concoctions were just dreamed up. So, I appreciate the accessibility that reality shows might bring to my craft but at the same time, I also want to create something. And you can’t teach vision. I will tell any employee of mine, people are really good at either big picture or small picture. And you can’t teach the big picture. I think its fun to watch these challenges like, “Make this out of this!” But it does put things in perspective.
As for the kind of do-it-yourself phenomenon that’s going on right now, there’s always going to be someone who likes to makes something. I will say though — in this day and age the most important thing to have, from a fashion point of view and from an emotional point of view in our country, is self-expression. And accessories are a great way to self express. So I’m all for the DIY stuff but I don’t think it affects how we, as designers, design.
Check out the full Mixology NYC Lookbook here!
To view current collections and shop Mixology NYC, visit shop.mixology.com.
Photo Source: Second City Style