Designer Alexis Bittar got his start selling vintage jewelry on the streets of New York, and he still finds inspiration in the classic. To create a capsule collection for the St. Regis, the bijoux boy looked to the storied past of the posh hotel chain and its founding patroness, Gilded Age socialite Caroline Astor. The resulting styles — a floral brooch (shown, $385), a pearl necklace ($490) and drop earrings in his signature Lucite ($310) — are on sale at the downtown St. Regis (923 16th St. NW). All seem ideal to wear while sipping cocktails in the hotel’s swank bar.
How can a long-dead socialite inspire such modern jewelry?
We fused the future and a Victorian sensibility. Caroline Astor would do these midnight suppers and have famous people there, writers or socialites. We researched Astor as a muse, looking at her jewelry to extrapolate on it in terms of what a futuristic version of it might be.
Do you have a favorite in the collection?
The necklace, which is a mother-of-pearl-coated piece with a little Lucite lariat. It embodies the Victorian aesthetic with a futuristic twist.
What’s your own collection like for spring?
I design three collections: Elements, Miss Havisham and Lucite. For Elements, we used softer floral patterns but also components where I spent a lot of time on the carvings. The Miss Havisham collection leaned toward a cleaner sensibility. I was looking at early ’90s minimalism. For Lucite, we went toward this Lauren Hutton, safari, from-the-’70s feeling.
What’s one piece of jewelry every woman should own?
Every woman needs one large piece of jewelry, whether it’s a necklace or a ring. A statement piece is sometimes the most fun, which is important with jewelry.
Describe your personal style?
I’m trying to become more mature, because I’m still this kid at heart. I gravitate toward this Italian 1940s kind of male aesthetic. In terms of brands, it’s Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, just really classic brands that are well made, that aren’t too outlandish. I was a total punk rocker, so I’ve still got tattoos on my hands. I like the contrast of classic Italian with the remnants of the ’80s.
Would we ever see you at the grocery store in sweats?
It wouldn’t be sweats; it’d be a pair of Nike shorts and a T-shirt.
What do you do when you’re in D.C.?
I love going to the classic, historic sites. I’m big into the architecture. I always find it iconic.
Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz
Photo courtesy of Alexis Bittar Inc.