Since their beginning, I have been a fan of Fancy Sexy Me, a New York based jewelry company, that creates contemporary pieces for both men and women. The jewelry is modern, and made with exceptional quality, with both ready-to-wear and Couture lines. Ronen Aminov (RA) and Cynthia Cattera (CC) are the founders of FSM, and are establishing them selves in a market that is highly competitive ; But when you are looking for the best, it is an obvious choice to select pieces from Fancy Sexy Me’s Diamond District show room, where you can pick edgy, gold, knuckle dusters, or make an appointment for a one of a kind, custom designed and made, couture necklace. I recently interviewed the duo on there latest line of reworked vintage jewelry, Vintage Sexy Me. This collection is composed of beautifully reworked vintage pieces, to create modern and one-of-a-kind jewelry, entirely by hand. Ronen and Cynthia share their experiences and vision with Master the Art of Style….
DP- Ronnie and Cynthia, please Tell me about your background, birth place, schooling, trade.
RA - I was born and raised in Queens, NY. My parents came here from the USSR so my perspective has not been always "American" growing up. I was too ethnic for the American kids and too American for the Russian kids. With this, I became culturally diversified understanding a vast variety of what people desire. I learned almost everything from my brother Gabriel who is a master goldsmith & setter in his company D'Elegance Fine Jewelry,(www.delegancejewelry.com) a high-end jewelry company that designs and makes every piece from A to Z, working with such companies as Graff, Winston, & Fred Leighton. I learned from the best. I also went to FIT for Jewelry Design, learning technical design skills, but more importantly I learned to open my mind and express myself through my jewelry.
CC- A city girl at heart, I was born & raised in Ohio, which allowed me to develop my creativity at a young age. I've always been designing accessories & clothing, while styling head-to-toe looks. However, my heart has always been for accessories, since they are the finishing piece to every outfit, and have the ability to transform one look to another. I finished my schooling in Fashion Design, and currently work in the fashion industry during the week.
Vintage Tassel Necklace, Price upon request, by special order, Vintage Sexy Me Arisanal
DP: What inspired the both of you to start Fancy Sexy Me? What year was it found?
RA- FancySexyMe was founded in December 2008. For me, though it was great working for my brother day to day, I felt I needed to find my own road and artistic expression. Every artist- be it music, literature, sculpture, etc had to feel scorch of the real world. I wanted FancySexyMe to be a work of art, not just jewelry. So I left D’Elegance and the safety net of my brother to find myself. Initially to make a living, I worked as an accountant to support myself and the business. In the beginning there was very little success, until Cynthia with her vision of what FSM could be, came in and helped mold the company to what it is today. Being a fashion designer and in-the-know with the fashion world, we created a synergy that customers right away fell in love with.
CC: FSM was a successful result to a struggling economy and Ronen's entrepreneur instincts. With Ronen leaving the luxury jewelry business, which a year ago was on unsteady ground, and relocating into the accounting, we both felt the urge to create something of our own. Like many designers, we wanted to design through our own label, and this was the perfect opportunity to take the dive. We both realize there was a huge gap in the jewelry business, where the customer was left far & in between. It was either high end luxury, or disposable costume pieces. With Ronen's high end training, and my fashion forward sensibility, we knew we could bring a desirable product to the table. We wanted to create innovate designs on a luxury level, with each piece having an artistic expression while also having a desired price.
DP: What is FSM about… are you selling an image or a certain lifestyle?
CC/RA: Our image is wearable art but also luxury with an attitude. We can’t say if we are selling an image or lifestyle – we are presenting designs and pieces to customers with our edge and interpretation of the what piece is and hopefully the customer sees what we are trying to convey. If not, maybe they like the piece and it fits into their lifestyle or image. In the end, we are all individuals and that one piece means something to that one person in their own way… I guess we are selling our artistic expression to simplify the answer.
DP: Tell me the inspiration for the re-worked jewelry… is there a story behind each piece?
CC: On a recent trip back home for the holidays, I stopped at the local antique and vintage markets and boutiques in search of some original designs I could re-work into our FSM image. I have always been attracted to vintage jewelry and clothing ever since I opened up my grandmother's jewelry box. My grandfather worked as a furrier back in the 40's and 50's and seeing his hand-made fur coats inspired me of the craftsmanship of handmade pieces which were so prominent of that era. Now, almost everything we buy has a mass appeal, dumbed-down atheistic to it; and I was in search for those one-of kind pieces. For example, our bird-cage pendant is a hand-made wire cage, with functional door, complete with a bird inside. I refurbished the piece with required cleaning, placing the bird back on its pedestal and re-working the chain detail, adding in Swarovski crystal, vintage chandelier crystals and adding in various vintage chains for the completed look.
One-of-a-kind Vintage keys on gold chain and crystals, price upon request, by special order, Vintage Sexy Me Artisanal
DP: What is your approach to design? Is it by instinct or more thought out?
CC: It usually depends on the piece. We are currently working on an actual line, which we can present to stores, however many of my custom pieces are all instinct. Although I religiously peruse through fashion magazines, It doesn't feel natural to knock-off a design. I have my table at home, which I have all my materials, and pull from one thing to another, mixing textures, finishes, and techniques, until I feel as though a piece is complete. For example, last night while draping on my mannequin, my end result became a necklace I’m entitling “ Metal Lungs”, resembling a rib-cage and vertebrae.
RA- I try to create something no else has seen before , to get that “Wow” reaction . We think of something the customer might like and it make extra-ordinary. For example, we sell at Artists & Fleas our “Tuff Love” ring, a simple idea like heart ring but with our edge . We made it into a two and three finger knuckle duster with the hearts resting in between the crevasses of their fingers.
DP: Each piece is one-of-a-kind and handmade; couture if you will… was it important to stand out when it comes to quality and not solely on design?
CC: As a designer, I'm naturally a dreamer, but as an entrepreneur I want my designs to be desirable by the consumer. Occasionally I will do a piece made for that conversation or to catch a viewer's eye such as our body jewelry or the necklace shirt I made with chain mail shoulders. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of wearable art. Throughout my schooling, I was obsessed with McQueen and Hussein Chalayan with his table skirt and electronic clothing which moves. For my finale senior show I presented my illuminated evening wear, using sheer fabrics and LED lighting inside the garments to make the glow. So yes, that’s what fashion is for, to make dreams a reality!
RA: I come from the thinking of you can have your cake and eat it – every piece is made with the highest quality, and at the same time our designs are not compromised.
DP: Does the history of a piece of jewelry hold any meaning or inspiration to the two of you?
RA: Every piece has a story or inspiration – I’m sure not everyone wants to hear the story behind every piece but the key is to a create piece with the story on it and let the customer interpret it.
Vintage Opal and gold Pendant on Flat chain, price upon request, by special order, Vintage Sexy Me Artisanal
DP: Which pieces would the both of you consider the highlights of the collection?
CC: Definitely our Body (chains) Jewelry and our Knuckle Dusters
CC: For our knuckle dusters and pendants, we generally use sterling silver or 18K Gold over brass. We also take any custom order for platinum and 18kt gold for our statement necklaces, I tend to use Swarovski crystals in my pieces.
DP: Where is the re-worked vintage jewelry available? Is each piece bespoke (made-to-order) or readily available?
CC: Our re-worked pieces can be found at several of our current locations such as EXHALE SPA at the Central Park South Location and ETHEREAL in Long Island City. For any special requests, customers are more than welcome to contact us directly
DP: Who is your customer? Define who she or he is?
CC: One of my favorite aspects of this brand is that our customer is so diverse. Everyone and Anyone is our customer. It's someone who wants to feel beautiful, or make a statement, someone who has the personality behind the piece. Every weekend, we sell at Artists & Fleas (129 north 6th st) in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Many times it's mother/daughter shopping day and both will find something FSM that's needed in their wardrobe. For the mother it may be the Onyx Swarovski chain mail bracelet, and for the daughter our "Though Love" Knuckle Duster. Many of our pieces especially our pendants and rings are unisex and made for everyone.
DP: Is it important to have a strong connection with each customer?
CC: Absolutely. The fact that Ronen and I spend our weekends selling at the market is one of our strongest building points. It allows us to interact with our customers on a 1:1 basis, getting instant feedback on our designs, and catching up with our regulars we see every week. I live in the neighbor we sell in, so it's great to hear the newest restaurant opening and
hottest bar to grab drinks
RA : I think one of coolest experience I had in the market with a customer was meeting and interacting with Kylie Minogue. When she came to my table I had no idea it was her till the end of the transaction and I was just going back and forth joking and getting her feedback on our jewelry. She ended up buying the classic two and three finger knuckle dusters for herself and her sister, but she also requested something extra for them – she wanted the top of the pieces engraved with something special…
DP: Does the FSM studio ever produce pieces that are designer-client creations?
CC/RA: Our shop is in the same location as our showroom, which gives us the opportunity to meet with our clients directly, and present their piece immediately. Many of our stores, such as SHAG BROOKLYN wanted a knuckle duster with the company name on it. We will also be collaborating with them on special Valentine Day "Love Dusters" At the markets we do on-the-spot custom pieces upon customer request. We love the challenge of a custom piece, since it brings the eyes of on client into a reality from our designs. It definitely widens our horizons with our design aesthetics.
CC: Ronen and I both hand-make all the pieces. While Ronen's specialty is in the metalwork with the rings and pendants, my specialty is the statement necklaces. We do, both bring new ideas to the table and challenge each other to push our designs to the next level.
DP: Do you have any upcoming trunk shows or events?
RA: We are have a special with Shag Brooklyn for Valentine’s Day featuring our Tuff Love heart rings with engravings check our website and www.weloveshag.com for more details.
Note: Vintage Sexy Me is available by special order at www.FancySexyMe.com or by appointment only at Fancy Sexy Me Atelier, 10W 47th street,Suite 508,New York, NY, 917.407.7026. Fancy Sexy Me ready-to-wear Jewelry is available at www.FancySexyMe.com, with prices ranging from $70 - $250, or visit them in Williamsburg, Brooklyn from 12-8pm at a young designer market, Artists & Fleas, 129 north 6th.street
All photos from Fancy Sexy Me NYC, 2010