How I'm Making It: Bande Des Quatres

Bande des Quatres is a very cool, very promising new jewelry line by a young New York-based designer named Erin Wahed. Despite having launched less than six months ago, Erin’s eye-catching and somewhat mind-blowing collection of rings has already caught the attention of Vogue.com, Elle.com, Brad Goreski and Jessica Alba (via Brad who is apparently styling her now!). Erin studied fine art photography at NYU and then worked (and still does, full time) as a production manager before launching her first collection of Bauhaus-inspired rings. Regardless of whether or not you know anything about art, these rings will make you do a double-take because of the optical illusion they create. The 18 kt yellow and palladium white gold rings appear to float on the wearer’s hand--they’re sort of like the inverse of a knuckle ring. The line of high-end jewelry wasn’t something Erin had planned to do, but the result of a project that kept getting the attention of both friends and strangers. However, it wasn’t a huge stretch--her mother, Janis Kerman, is an established fine jewelry designer in Erin’s hometown of Montreal. We’ll let Erin tell you more about how the line came about, where it’s going, and what it’s like working with mom.

I never realized before but it kind of looks like a bar is going right through your finger. People kept stopping me at restaurants, on the street, on the subway and I thought it was kind of really interesting that it was getting so much attention and I thought, I have the resource, I have the talent behind me to make these things, I’ve always wanted to collaborate with my mother.

So you were interested in making jewelry with your mom before this? I’d always enjoyed making jewelry but I don’t have the patience for sitting at a bench filing metal. I’ve always had ideas to push her jewelry further, so it was the perfect outlet for me to fully do it myself with her rather than encroach on her design. I don’t think she thought it would become what it’s become. My mom was supportive because obviously she was making it and she was in it, but I think it’s been a surprise where I’ve taken it in five months, so I’m extremely happy.

What’s it like working with her? Who all is involved? I’ve never had a knack for drawing. It’s always ideas for me, so she can read my mind in the sense that I’ll point to something and pull inspiration and be like, “I like this part of it” and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and translate it, so that really works very very well and it wouldn’t work with anyone. I think you have to have that family bond to be able to do that.

She handles production, which is great, in our studio in Montreal, but I do everything else in terms of PR, brand, creative, all of that is here in New York. Getting into stores, managing the stores, that’s all here. Obviously, it’s a little challenging because she is running her own business as well as producing for mine and she has one assistant, so she’s handmaking her own line plus my line, which is a lot for two people to do, but there’s room for growth. It’s only been five months.

What did you do before you started Bande des Quatres and how has that influenced your work? I studied photography. For me, the photography that I do is all about colors, shapes and lines. It’s totally abstract. I taught myself photoshop when i was like 12 or 10 and I was taking advantage of the internet and recreating compositions. A teacher told me I couldn’t take images from the internet and steal, so it was about recreating them through the lens of a camera. Ultimately, I knew I didn’t want to be a photographer, but you need to train your eye and be able to direct people and creative direction has always been kind of a goal and that’s kind of where I see the line going. I see this as a more jumping off point. I see Bande des Quatres being the nest of a big creative agency that I will ultimately create.

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Besides eventually growing into a creative agency, what’s next for Bande des Quatres in a more immediate sense? It’s going to expand. Right now, we’re doing bracelets and will be going into more tangible things...well jewelry is tangible, but other accessories. I’ll leave it at that for now--definitely other accessories.

What designers are you inspired by? My favorites are Rick Owens, Rad Hourani, Alex Wang, Helmut Lang. For me, it’s always about the craziness, the black, the edginess--that was kind of who my target was when I was thinking of who was I making these rings for. But I have people who’ve bought the rings from 15 years old to 80 years old, so it’s quite a wide range, which is great because it’s extended my market.

What has the response been like from press/stores since you launched? How’ve you gotten the word out so fast? It’s basically a one woman show--I’m the PR, the creative director. The idea was I didn’t want to just show product shots of these rings. I wanted people to know how they look on the hand because the illusion comes alive on the hand. It [the look book--see below] was inspired by the Sartorialist, jak & jil, so that was kind of the idea, taking every day and putting a ring on it. From there, people kept being attracted to the website and wanting to write about it, which was totally great and totally the reaction I was hoping for.

I started approaching stores and I got into Eva New York and a beauty supply store that carries high end lingerie and jewelry. There are also a couple of high-end jewelry galleries that carry them that carry my mother’s stuff as well and a couple jewelry galleries in Montreal that have them.

What is your main focus now? Outreach is what I’m working on right now and I’m hoping that continues and that will ultimately help me get into more stores. Right now, whats been the big push has been through reaching out to stylists and the response has been incredible. Recently, Jessica Alba has been wearing the rings all thanks to Brad Goreski. He’s been the biggest help. And they were lent out to a number of other big stylists which is really great. I’m thinking that celebrities might be the way to go rather than editorial. Ultimately, when red carpet events start happening--Golden Globes, Oscars--I want to push my rings there.

**All photos by Hugo Arturi