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Pearls used to be exclusively bastions of grandmotherly heirloom style and sorority formal staples. But in the past two years, designers have taken the traditional pearl necklace and studs and brought a modern, refined-punk style to these popular accessories.
If your style is more mikimofo than Mikimoto (that was an awful pun but please forgive me), I’m happy to present a timeline of the unconventional pearl trend. I’ll discuss the brands that began it all, and how pearls have been reworked into embellished tops, sculptural heels, and handbags.
The fashion world’s infatuation with reinvented pearls likely began with Dior’s knockout ‘Mise en Dior’ tribal earrings (introduced for pre-fall 2013). They’re large, oversized pearls (okay, resin beads with a pearlescent finish)—and they became a huge It Accessory when editors and models were out and about during the fall 2014 fashion weeks. Style Closeup has a comprehensive set of street style pictures with people like Anna dello Russo sporting them.
And Emma Watson (my style hero!) deserves credit for pushing a punkish single-earring Dior look in so many of her red-carpet excursions. Dior obligingly suggests on their website that these are intended “To be worn alone or as a pair”.
It didn’t get quite the same level of frenetic press, but Chanel’s S/S 2014 show pushed some interesting pearl jewelry in the form of oversized, asymmetric chokers. (They look kind of like headphones to me. Expensive, acoustically-useless headphones.) They were everywhere in the show, mixed with some interesting reinvented tweeds. Fun fact: Lagerfeld dug into his archives for this style, since he originally explored the choker idea in 2000.
These have been ripped off to no end, and you can find fast-fashion pearl chokers from Zara and Forever 21 to dip your toes into the style.
3.1 Phillip Lim’s spring 2014 collection brought the pearls down into embellished tops and exuberantly lavish varsity jackets.
And we’ve got more brands exploring pearl accessories—Anita Ko, for her second collaboration collection with Tibi (released this summer!), did sequences of smaller pearls in a few cool ways.
So what can a pearl obsessive look forward to in the fall? DANNIJO, the brand beloved by Leandra Medine of Man Repeller, has interpreted the pearls into tough, urban handbags that use pearls where we’d expect spikes or pyramid studs.
And Nicholas Kirkwood, “renowned for his sculpted, architectural shoe designs and catwalk collaborations with emerging labels” (check out Business of Fashion’s profile of him!), has appropriately enough brought the pearls into his resort shoe collection.
It’s always thrilling to see designers tread new ground, and we have high hopes for how this trend will pan out in the coming months. Share your thoughts in the comments—how do you feel about pearls replacing studs in handbags, or pearls that are more punk-rock than prep-princess?