The Grand Return of Jewelry Trailblazer Alexis Bittar
Six years after selling his namesake jewelry label to the now-bankrupt Brooks Brothers, the New York designer is relaunching with inclusive campaigns, a craftsmanship ethos, and a bullish retail strategy.
Alexis Bittar first broke into the jewelry industry after humble origins hawking his sculptural baubles on the streets of SoHo in the early 1990s. The self-taught designer enjoyed rapid-fire success thanks to his radical ideas that challenged fashion’s traditional beauty ideals, such as disruptive campaigns that often included older models. His collection soon appeared in luxury department stores like Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Harrods, and collaborations with Michael Kors and Burberry ensued; Bittar even designed the latter’s first-ever ready-to-wear jewelry collection in 1999.
Despite his label’s ascendance into an accessories empire in the aughts and early 2010s, Bittar offloaded his brand to Brooks Brothers in 2016 in order to take a step back from the fashion industry and focus on fatherhood. After the retailer’s recent bankruptcy filing, however, Bittar has re-acquired his brand and yesterday announced its long-awaited relaunch. “Everyone knows the Halston story,” Bittar tells Business of Fashion, referring to the designer Roy Halston, who lost control of his brand in the 1980s. “He sold his name and never could get it back. I didn’t want to end up in that situation.”
Core tenets of his label, such as a focus on inclusive campaigns, seem distinctly of-the-moment yet pick up exactly where they left off. During his hiatus, Bittar observed the fashion industry’s response to cultural movements and felt compelled to revive his sizable platform to spotlight women changemakers whose stories often go untold. “Covid-19 really decimated the fashion industry and I believe that there’s a huge opportunity for a revitalization and a renaissance within this industry, which is exciting,” he continues.
The campaigns will accompany a bullish retail strategy that will see five boutiques open in New York this October and one to soon follow in San Francisco, all designed by Tony Award–winning set designer Scott Pask. Besides the standard fare of sculptural jewelry that runs the gamut from hand-carved Lucite link necklaces to 14k gold cuff bracelets made in his Brooklyn atelier, the brand will also start selling handbags, home decor, and scarves.