Deborah Pagani’s fine jewelry is a representation of the designer herself: alluring, smart, and glamorous. Since starting her line in 2008, New York-based Pagani has created designs that sparkle with Art Deco motifs and edgy, modern twists. Her jewelry imbues an appreciation of history’s boundary-pushing women, Americana, and glitz.
Deborah invited us to her bejeweled Midtown Manhattan studio to have a look at her latest collection, give us a peek at her sketches and chat about inspiring American fashion icons, from Grace Jones to Joan Crawford. -Jenna Fain for The Stone Set
“Over the past season, I really took some time to think about what my clients want. I spoke with them, looked at the way they dress, and listened to what they were really looking for. I heard time and time again they they don’t want to look too trendy or that they don’t want to look like they are trying too hard. Effortless, timeless and chic was my vision for Americana, with my signature Art Deco motif shining through. I wanted to create sexy pieces with real wearability. Americana is not about the object d’art, it’s about everyday luxury and glamour.
For Americana, my research was influenced by what American fashion icons were wearing over the years. I literally found every picture of Jackie O and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. I was also designing for these women, imagining my jewelry is what they would wear now.
Lastly, I wanted to make sure the collection was versatile. I purposely designed the earring jackets to be interchangeable with the studs. I designed pieces that would have an extension to their look, so that they could be worn and paired in many different ways. The women who wear my jewelry are very different but they are all in-tune with fashion and femininity. I feel like my jewelry can really be worn by a woman at any age. My clients who are fifty plus feel that they are getting a piece that’s fun and sexy, but still can fit in with their high jewelry. My younger clients feel they are buying something that works with their fashion and can wear over years to come.
I worked in the beauty industry for 14 years before starting my career in jewelry. I learned a lot about a women’s desire to feel sexy and feminine during that time, which has translated into designing jewelry. Similar to how products and beauty regimes make us feel, jewelry can make a woman feel instantly empowered, feminine and beautiful. Everything I have ever done was basically all about the woman.
My muses are usually women before my time. Inimitable names like Joan Crawford, Tina Chow, Bette Davis, and Grace Jones. For Americana, the Muses were all the American socialites of the past. Carolyn Bessette Kennedy (her wedding band sapphire and diamond was the color inspiration for the pave version of Americana) Jackie O, Lee Radziwill, Babe Paley, and the rest of the Swans. I’m inspired by the ultimate femme fatale, an archetype of literature and art.
Right now I am wearing the Horseshoe Ear Jacket and Iris Stud. They are perfect for evening, they literally go with anything and have amazing movement. For day, any of the “Pill” pieces. The Horseshoe and Pill are really fun but without being juvenile. The tennis necklace fits everyone like a glove. The clasp is adjustable. and can be turned around to wear as a choker for a more casual feel. New York City is the main source of my inspiration, and my aim is to create classic, timeless, Art Deco pieces for women who live, work and conquer the city. The pieces, though sometimes delicate, should be worn day and night—it’s about mixing and matching classic and urban.
I love to sketch; it is meditative for me. But also doing the research on my muses. So much goes into a collection; it’s almost like the “Lee Strasberg method” for designing. I have to be open-minded when designing collections to make sure they are as commercial and wearable as they are creative. I’ve learned to really listen to my clients while also staying true to my design ethos and brand.” –Deborah Pagani
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set