Brooke Garber Neidich defies categorization. She exudes warmth, confidence, and substance and always makes us feel like we’re the only people in the room. Her fine jewelry line Sidney Garber is in a class all its own with elegant, modern lines and shapes and a commitment to ethical craftsmanship. Brooke donates all profits to children’s mental health, education, and arts organizations.
Her dedication stands out in particular. Whether sharing a story about a new jewelry design, her grandchildren, art, or philanthropic endeavor, Brooke is passionate and all in.
Do we even need to mention she’s a total style dynamo? From a single gold Domed Cuff on her wrist to a tangle of effortlessly layered chain necklaces, Brooke knows how to command attention with a signature twist.
We met up at Barneys Madison Avenue on a crisp afternoon to tour the Sidney Garber counter with the legend herself and reflect on her journey over classic cocktails at Freds. Don’t say we didn’t warn you: Sidney Garber jewels are at the top of our holiday list and will be on yours too. -Jenna Wise for The Stone Set x Barneys
How has Sidney Garber evolved under your lead?
My father was incredibly creative. He was also very mechanical. He was a stickler for detail, for quality. His eye…his taste was unerring but business was not his passion. Jewelry was his passion. He did what he loved. He didn’t care if anyone bought it or not, period. He just didn’t run it like a business at all.
In August of 2013 I was profiled by Elisa Lipsky Karaz for WSJ Magazine. I think it was Kristina O’Neill’s first issue as Editor in Chief. That’s when I said I was going to give my profits away. That’s also when my accountant called me and explained I didn’t have any profits.
Luckily in 2014, my friend Laurent Claquin suggested I hire Susan Nicholas as President of Sidney Garber. Thank goodness I listened. We opened our NYC store at 998 Madison in the fall of 2014. We have a website, an inventory system, we have a booming wholesale business. We launched men’s jewelry at Barneys.
We admire your commitment to philanthropy. What causes are nearest and dearest to your heart?
Actually there are three causes I care about deeply: art and theater are what I love, The Child Mind Institute is what I owe. I always wanted to be on the board of Lincoln Center Theater. It is the jewel in the crown of American not-for-profit theatre. I love theater; it is an amazing escape but also lasting and thought provoking. A sticks-to-your-ribs kind of experience. I wanted to be an actress when I was young. I dated an actor, a director. I saw a lot of theatre. LCT was actually the last board I was asked to join.
Then art, which was of course, the Whitney. Daniel and I started collecting art about 27 years ago. Beth Rudin DeWoody saw me in a gallery and said, “Are you collecting art?” I said, “Well, I don’t think we’re collecting, we’re sort of buying.” She said, “Okay, you need to get involved with the Whitney.” That was it. I joined the print acquisition committee. I learned so much. I was asked to be a trustee and then became co-chair of the board from 2008-2015 as we built the new Whitney downtown. It has been an extraordinary life-changing experience. I loved it and though I no longer co-chair the board, I am still here involved.
Not really last is The Child Mind Institute. It is what I believe I owe, really what Daniel and I owe, because our son, actually all three of our children, ended up with impactful brain differences. They all did well, but he was the oldest and it was a hard fight when he was young to diagnose and treat. Dr. Koplewicz is the doctor who figured him out. I was so grateful and said, “What can I do to help you?” He is now 36, so he was 12, I think, when I said that, and I’ve been with Dr Koplewicz ever since. We built the NYU Child Study Center, then we left and started again from scratch, which was a bit of a nightmare, but now we are flourishing.
We have a major research study, the Healthy Brain Network, and there’s a great website, ChildMind.org. It has been an incredible experience, but it’s exhausting. The Scientific Research Council comes to my house every summer. Scientists from all over country plus the heads of the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The scientists all supported us when we left NYU; they know how fragile children’s mental health is. No one values it. No one cares and the stigma is tremendous. If I had been raising money for pediatric cancers it would have been so much easier. Mental health problems carry a terrible stigma. Finally though, our #myyoungerself campaign has taken off. I know that will make a difference.
What moments have been most exciting for you?
When Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen launched their handbag collection at Barneys in July of 2011 they were wearing the Sidney Garber Domed Cuff and Snake bracelets. The next day we received an inquiry from Barneys and soon we were selling there. We have been one of Barneys’ top fine jewelry lines ever since.
How do you communicate the brand story?
Oh dear, not so well I am afraid. I don’t see Sidney Garber as a brand. I don’t really understand the brand thing.
What’s it like being both a Barneys customer and designer for the store?
It feels so right, so familiar. As I have begun to sell in other stores I only choose stores I would feel excited to shop in.
What’s your go-to order at Freds? Your Tito’s on the rocks is a fun choice!
That’s only in the evening! I crave the pizza but I order the Madison Avenue Salad with dressing on the side.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
For fragrance, Fracas—I never change. A few years ago in St Barth, one of my daughter’s oldest friends Hannah Bronfman said Fracas always smells like fun! I’m wearing a white cotton shirt and black pants by The Row. For jewelry, the Sidney Garber 5 Row II Serpente bracelet, Tivoli necklace with a a large white diamond clasp, my medium Door Knocker earrings, my Zodiac Pinky ring—we still sell this I have had mine since I was 16! Also, my Superlative chain with several SG charms: a Love, an Evil Eye, two grandson charms, a luminous white South Sea pearl, a special charm my daughter designed for me all in in white gold with lovely words and a tiny sapphire.
What jewelry and clothing is on your holiday must-have list?
I love our Pearl Flame ring. The Row Larina dress in white. I just bought the perfect Dries twill coat at Barneys. They have the best Dries Van Noten always and they have Doris Babic, who knows Dries better than anyone.
Describe your ideal weekend.
Sunshine, blue sky…having at least one meal with my children and grandchildren.
Share something about yourself that people wouldn’t know.
Give the world some advice.
Complete the sentence: Diamonds are _________…
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set
This story is in partnership with Barneys New York.