Gold and Lucite Durban Beak Ikat bangle from Bittar’s spring collection
Jewelry designer Alexis Bittar
Alexis Bittar was churning out his Lucite bangles and graphic jewelry long before he was named CFDA’s Accessory Designer of the Year in 2010. In fact, the Brooklyn-born entrepreneur started out selling his designs on the streets of Soho in the early ’90s.
Today, Bittar has three NYC boutiques and runs a Dumbo-based studio where 250 employees hand-make the sparkly accoutrements coveted by downtowners and uptowners (and the first lady!) alike.
Your 2013 resort collection was inspired by ’80s New Wave—how did that come about?
I grew up in the 1980s, and it helped shape my viewpoint. The decade also had a music and fashion revolution, which created an energy that was very exciting to me.
Your favorite new piece?
The Pansy earrings. I’ve never sculpted such detail into such a small item.
You often use Lucite, a notoriously difficult and pricey material. Why?
Lucite has been an old friend of mine for 22 years. Pushing the boundaries of design has become like a Rubik’s cube that I enjoy tackling each season.
You’ve collaborated with a slew of designers (Kors, Wu, Basso, Ferretti). Who’s next?
I’d love to work with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons—she’s an absolute genius, consistently pushing boundaries and influencing fashion in ways most people aren’t even aware of.
How did you find out Michelle Obama was wearing your jewelry?
My mom, who’s a massive fan of hers, saw her wearing my pieces and called me!
Your designs have gone from the street to Bergdorfs. Does the success surprise you?
Not really. I embarked on this journey knowing what I wanted to accomplish. The biggest stumbling block has been running such a large company—management doesn’t always go hand in hand with creativity.
As a native of Bay Ridge, do you prefer old or new Brooklyn?
New—as long as it doesn’t become too much like Manhattan. Old Brooklyn was too segmented into ethnic neighborhoods; if you found yourself in Bensonhurst and you weren’t Italian, you could get the s**t kicked out of you. Today Brooklyn is increasingly multiethnic and cosmopolitan.
We hear you were quite a partier back in the day—have any outrageous New Year’s Eves?
I can’t really remember. But New Year’s Eve is for toddlers. The real question is, “How much did you party during the week?”