Lizzie Fortunato Jewels’ mantra is that high-end jewelry should not be limited to precious materials. Designer Elizabeth Fortunato uses ecofriendly found and reclaimed objects from around the world, while her twin sister, Kathryn, handles the business end of the company. The young women have grown from winning over their peers during their days at Duke to becoming favorites of Condé Nast editors, and they recently designed jewelry for VPL’s runway show. With their notably statement pieces taking New York by storm, we sat down with the dynamic duo to talk about old-school Betsey Johnson, Obama, and the open road.
Your spring line has a summer-camp feel. What’s your inspiration for fall?
Elizabeth: The collection is called “Long May You Run” and is inspired by the open road, particularly the American West. I was influenced by my own travels through the West and was thinking about this modern girl ditching the city in favor of a Harley and adventures in the desert. There’s lots of leather, studs, coral, and turquoise. It’s a little rougher.
Two other twin designers, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, have spoken of their special, psychic twin connection. Do you two share that as well?
Kathryn: We like to think we do. As kids, we used to pretend we could read each other’s minds.
Any advice for young, aspiring jewelry designers?
E: Work tirelessly; there is always another young jewelry designer in the wings ready to replace you. And oversee everything yourself in the early stages. No one can implement your vision like you can.
K: Even the best product will never sell if no one knows about it. Go out and push your product.
E: Alyssa Norton, Ligia Dias, Natalia Brilli, Philip Crangi, Irene Neuwirth, Scott Wilson … the list goes on.
K: Arielle de Pinto’s work is amazing as well.
In an ideal world, who would you love to see wearing Lizzie Fortunato Jewels?
E: Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Chanel Iman — she’s stunning.
K: Michelle Obama!
What was the first designer item you ever bought?
E: I got a pair of black leather and wood platform Betsey Johnson heels on a field trip to NYC in junior high. I was supposed to be in a museum.
K: I scored an amazing Miu Miu doctor bag from my mom’s closet. After that, a pair of Valentino spectator pumps.
Who are your favorite designers?
E: Vena Cava, Rachel Comey, Marni, Lanvin.
K: Mayle, Thakoon, Oscar de la Renta, and I really admire the ingenuity of Rodarte.
What current trends do you like?
E: Saving. ‘Tis the season for spending only on investment pieces.
K: TOMS. I got my first pair years ago and now they’re everywhere. It’s great to give back fashionably.
Where do you shop in the city?
E: Maryam Nassir Zadeh in the LES, Albertine in the West Village, Pas de Deux in the East Village, Stuart & Wright in Fort Greene.
K: 3.1 Phillip Lim in Soho, Chuckies shoe sales.
Any item you’re lusting over right now?
E: I love Richard Nicoll’s color-block shirts for spring, Dieppa Restrepo’s loafers, blazers from Jeffrey Monteiro and the Row, and Golden Goose boots with brass hardware. My fall/winter Western-bound girl would definitely rock those. But I’m buying a plane ticket to India instead.
K: A Wayne Thiebaud cake painting for my bedroom.
What do you think every woman should have in her wardrobe?
E: The perfect, properly fitting blazer. And statement jewelry.
K: Well-tailored black pants.
What’s something you never leave the house without?
E: Chains, needles, threads, and wire in my bag. I always need something to do on the subway.
K: My Billykirk satchel. It fits look books, my BlackBerry, Moleskine, heels, my current reading. My life is in there.