In case you hadn’t heard, Sarah Jessica Parker has added a new job to her already loaded résumé: curator of a new jewelry site that launches this spring, called WeTheAdorned. And you should probably be a little concerned for your bank account, because the e-commerce site will be releasing a limited-run designer collaboration every Monday, with names like Pamela Love, Fenton, Dannijo and Lulu Frost already on board to produce exclusive pieces.
With a stint as president and chief creative officer of Halston Heritage and as the designer of her own shoe collection (coming out in February), Parker is no newbie to the behind-the-scenes fashion business. So how did the founders of WeTheAdorned, Tim McElwee and Cyia Batten, nab the actress for the job?
It all starts with T.Cyia, a Los Angeles-based jewelry line that McElwee and Batten launched in 2006 on top of their day jobs as a model/actor and dancer/actor, respectively. Soon, T.Cyia began getting traction with stars like Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Carmen Electra, and not long after, the “Sex and the City” movie came knocking to commission a bold, drapey chain piece with customized onyx for the costume department.
As the founders of T.Cyia experienced firsthand in the wake of the recession, jewelry designers face a number of hurdles, including being locked into exclusive deals with department stores or multi-brand websites and dealing with requests from crucial accounts to water down designs or materials in order to hit a lower price point. At a certain point a jewelry business can plateau, McElwee said, and the only option for growth — if growth is indeed the objective — is to saturate the market and start selling to outlets that aren’t top-tier.
“It’s a bummer to have your hands tied like that,” McElwee said.
WeTheAdorned is designed to be an alternative avenue for growing a jewelry business. It takes off those metaphorical handcuffs and helps designers produce limited runs of pieces that may be too risky for some stores. “Risky” here doesn’t necessarily mean working with ridiculously extravagant materials, but conceptually — in designs that may not have mass-market appeal. Because these are one-off deals, designers avoid conflicts with retailers who carry their existing lines.
So the two got to work fleshing out the business model and hired a technical team to build an alpha version of the site, which was sent to editors for feedback. But, like any young brand, they needed an ambassador, and when the time was right they reached out to the fashion-conscious Parker through a connection.
“When we came to [Parker] with this we said, ‘Look, every single one of these designers is having the same problem. The business has changed so dramatically, and it’s not going to change,’” McElwee said.
In McElwee’s words, the courtship was relatively short. He and Batten sent Parker a gift from their own collection last spring as an example of the product they would offer their customers and explained what they were doing. She came on board.
“She’s lovely,” McElwee said. “Super kind, super gracious. Very intelligent, very thoughtful.”
Each collaboration is meant to be a team effort between McElwee and Batten, the designer and Parker. Depending on the designer’s process, the work begins with sketching or playing around with their materials; McElwee and Batten then come in to develop the product, and when everyone feels good about the design, they’ll submit it to Parker. The conversations continue at that point, with Parker weighing in on design details.
Although Batten and McElwee live in Los Angeles, they plan to carry out most of their meetings with Parker and the designers face-to-face in New York, even if that means flying in for two days to take 15 meetings back-to-back. At some point in the future, they will likely open offices in the city.
The first designs to appear on the site will be produced in batches of 200 to 300 to keep things ultra-exclusive, although production runs will likely increase to 1,000 over time. That means being the only girl at a party with a one-off Pamela Love piece, which is a pretty sweet concept. WeTheAdorned will be members-only when it launches, with a membership fee that gives users access to the sales.
The site’s official launch date is under wraps for now — all we know is “Spring 2014″ — but when it does launch, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to get on it stat.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that McElwee and Batten are a husband and wife duo. Although the two have a child together, they are not a couple and were never married.