Trend: Not Your Grandmother’s Pearls

Trend: Not Your Grandmother’s Pearls

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”.

Vermeer, 1665, on left. Emma Watson, 2014, right, at the Golden Globes.

Vermeer, 1665, on left. Emma Watson, 2014, right, at the Golden Globes.

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.

Chanel's chokers

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.




Double Pearl Necklace  |  Faux Pearl Statement Choker

3.1 Phillip Lim’s spring 2014 collection brought the pearls down into embellished tops and exuberantly lavish varsity jackets.

3.1 Phillip Lim's dandelion-embellished crop top.

3.1 Phillip Lim’s dandelion-embellished crop top.

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.

Ad campaign images for Anita Ko's second jewelry collab with Tibi.

Ad campaign images for Anita Ko’s second jewelry collab with Tibi.

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.



 Dannijo Lypton Chain and Pearly-Detail Crossbody Bag  |  Dannijo Lenox Pearly Leather Clutch Bag

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.



Nicholas Kirkwood Nepal Suede Courts  |  Nicholas Kirkwood Channie Ankle Boots |   Nicholas Kirkwood Pearl-Embellished Suede Pumps



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Fallon Jewelry Swarvoski Pearl Earrings | Spinning Stone Ring Satomi Kawakita Double Pearl Studs  |  3.1 Phillip Lim Mixed Media Shirt


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Anita Ko for Tibi Pearl Necklace  |  Anita Ko for Tibi Double Pearl Ring  |  Anita Ko for Tibi Multi Pearl Ring  |  House of Harlow 1960 Orb Cuff


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Baublebar Pearl 360 Studs  |  Chloé Darcey Faux Pearl Ring  |  Diane Von Furstenberg Faux Pearl Blazer  |  Alice + Olivia Dress



Celine | Writer, Graphics
Ab167 | Editor
Bhoka | Graphics

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?

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