Ippolita Rostagno visited the newly renovated jewelry department at Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue for a trunk show on Friday, November 22. I spoke with Ms. Rostagno about the success of her business in a very competitive industry.
Born in Florence, Italy, to artsy parents (an American mother and an Italian dad), Ms. Rostagno studied art and sculpture before coming to the United States. She went from New York City to Los Angeles (to get a degree in English Literature), and back to New York City to start her jewelry business. Prior to designing jewelry, Ms. Rostagno’s artistic career began as a sculptor, which explains the unique shapes and forms in her jewelry.
On what fashion designers she likes to see paired with her jewelry, Ms. Rostagno shares, “I’m a fan of designers Vince and Theory for everyday clothes. They reflect in a sense the exact same spirit with which my jewelry is designed – very simple, comfortable and well-made. You don’t have to worry about what order you put them on, same with necklaces – they layer beautifully and you look better than you did before. Easy, comfort, sexiness without a lot of work.”
Sharing the secret to her success, Ms. Rostagno explains, “My favorite saying is ‘Love life and life will love you back.’ That has always been my guiding principle. If you really have a passion for what you do, you will have the strength and motivation to carry on and the ability to really create focus in your life and and in your work. Passion is very contagious and people love to follow someone with a very clear point of view.”
When starting out in the business 20 years ago, Ms. Rostagno wanted to find her own niche. She shares, “First of all, I didn’t want to duplicate what was out there. On top of that, I wanted to make jewelry for women that was affordable, good looking and comfortable. There weren’t very many female jewelry designers at that time. It was mostly big brands with male designers. I started out by creating a more feminine look by layering delicate pieces – one, two, three or four to create a look that was more elegant than putting on one giant piece.”
On purchasing other brands of jewelry, Ms. Rostagno responds, “I collect Victorian English jewelry and Italian pieces, mostly from the 17th through 19th century. I have a wall in my office where I hang all of it. I also love the ‘memento mori’ jewelry: skulls and things that remind you that you are human, life is fleeting, and the ashes return to ashes idea.”