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Lane, Kenneth Jay

LANE, Kenneth Jay

American jewelry and accessories designer

Born: Detroit, Michigan, 22 April 1932. Education: Studied at the University of Michigan, 1950-52, and at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1953-54. Family: Married Nicola Samuel Waymouth, 1975 (divorced, 1977). Career: Art staff member, Vogue (New York), 1954-55; assistant designer, Delman Shoes, New York, 1956-58; associate designer, Christian Dior Shoes, New York, 1958-63; founder/designer, Kenneth Jay Lane, New York, from 1963; Kenneth Jay Lane shops located in the U.S., UK, France, and Austria. Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics special award, 1966; Tobé Coburn award, 1966; Harper's Bazaar International award, 1967; Maremodo di Capri-Tiberio d'Oro award, 1967; Neiman Marcus award, 1968; Swarovski award, 1969; Brides Magazine award, 1990. Address: 20 West 37th Street, New York, NY 10018, USA.

Publications

By LANE:

Books

Faking It, with Harrice Simons Miller, photographs by John Bigelow Taylor, New York, 1996.

On LANE:

Books

Bender, Marylin, The Beautiful People, New York, 1967.

Morris, Bernadine, and Barbara Walz, The Fashion Makers, New York, 1978.

Shields, Jody, All That Glitters, New York, 1987.

Becker, Vivienne, Fabulous Fakes, London, 1988.

Ball, Joanne Dubbs, Costume Jewelry: The Golden Age of Design, Schiffer, PA, 1990.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

Articles

Lynden, Patricia, "Kenneth Jay Lane: Faking It with Style," in Northwestern, November 1986.

Lane, Jane F., "Ballad of Kenny Lane," in W, August 1987.

Mehta, Gita, "The Fast Lane at Home," in Vanity Fair, November 1988.

Hawkins, Timothy, "Excellent Adventure," in Egg, March 1991.

Rubin, Robert H., "Kenneth Jay Lane," in Night, March 1991.

Shaw, Daniel, "Confessions of an Extra Man," in Avenue (New York), November 1991.

Nemy, Enid, "The King of Junque," in the New York Times, 27 June 1993.

Espen, Hal, "Portrait of a Dress," in the New Yorker, 7 November 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "A Mature Mugler, Demeulemeester and Lang," in the New York Times, 18 March 1995.

Menkes, Suzy, "On the Road with Kenny Lane Jewels," in the International Herald Tribune, 10 June 1997.

Doran, Pat, "Kenneth Jay Lane at the Museum at FIT," in Fashion Planet, September 1998.

Menkes, Suzy, "Kenny Lane, Unreserved," in the International Herald Tribune, 3 April 2001.

***

Acclaimed by Time magazine as "the undisputed King of Costume jewelry" and called "one of the three great costume jewelers of the 20th century" by Women's Wear Daily, Kenneth Jay Lane transformed a previously undistinguished field into the height of fashion. "I believe that every woman has the right to be glamorous and have always believed that a woman can be just as glamorous in costume jewelry as million-dollar bangles and beads," Lane has said. "Style has little to do with money and expensive possessions; attitude and flair make all the difference."

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Lane attended the University of Michigan for two years, then went east to earn a degree in advertising design from the Rhode Island School of Design. After a brief stint in the art department at Vogue in New York, he went on to become the fashion coordinator at Delman Shoes, New York. Later, while working as an associate designer for Christian Dior Shoes, he spent part of each summer in Paris under the tutelage of the preeminent French shoe designer, Roger Vivier. He also designed a shoe collection for Arnold Scaasi in New York. In 1963 while adorning shoes with rhinestones and jeweled ornaments, he began to experiment with making jewelry.

"A whole new group of beautiful people began to exist," Lane said. "They started dressing up and costume jewelry was rather dull. I believed it didn't have to be." The thought that fake jewelry could be as beautiful as the real thing grew on Lane. He bought some plastic bangles at the dime store, covered them with rhinestones, crystals, leopard and zebra patterns and stripes, and a new era in costume jewelry was born.

In 1963, while still designing shoes, he worked nights and weekends creating jewelry. "I started moonlighting jewelry," he said. Since he was being paid by Genesco, Delman's parent firm, to design shoes, "I thought it would be in better taste to use my own initials and not my name for jewelry." His work was enthusiastically received, written about, and photographed by the fashion magazines. Neiman Marcus in Dallas and Bonwit Teller in New York placed orders for rhinestone earrings. Within a year, his jewelry was bringing in $2,000 a month wholesale and by June 1964 sales had risen to $10,000 a month wholesale. His part-time jewelry business became a full-time career. In 1969 Kenneth Jay Lane Inc. became part of Kenton Corporation, an organization that includes Cartier, Valentino, Mark Cross, and other well-known names in fashion. Lane repurchased the company in 1972.

Lane considers himself a fine jeweler and eschews the traditional methods of making costume jewelry. First, he fabricates his designs in wax by carving or twisting the metal. He often sets the designs with opulent stones highlighted by their cut and rich colors. Many of these stones, particularly the larger ones, he has created for himself. "I want to make real jewelry with not-real materials," he noted. He sees plastic as the modern medium: lightweight, available in every color, and perfect for simulating real gems. He likes to see his jewelry intermixed with the real gems worn by his international roster of celebrity customers. Lane is proud of the fidelity of his reproductions and claims some of his "faque" stones look better than the real ones.

"I work in less commercial ways than most manufacturers of costume jewelry," says Lane. He is realistic about the source of his designs. "My designs are all originaloriginal from someone," he said. "There are original ideas, but a lot of good designing is editorial, choosing what is available idea-wise and applying these ideas practically. I think it's called 'having the eye'. It isn't necessarily reinventing the wheel."

Lane is as much a showman as a talented designer. In addition to receiving numerous fashion awards, his jewelry was regularly featured on several soap operas, including Another World, Guiding Light, and Days of Our Lives. He has also created jewelry for the Costume Institute exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In addition to being a fixture on the social circuit, Lane is frequently named on the International Best Dressed Men's List. "All you need is one person and you can meet the world," he said. Dinner partner and friend to some of the world's most fashionable women, his clients have included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Nancy Reagan, Joan Collins, Babe Paley, Brooke Astor, and Lee Radziwill Ross. Former First Lady Barbara Bush wore his "pearls" to her husband's inauguration, and the triple-strand became an integral part of her signature style. He sent his $21 saxophone pin to another former First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In 1993 Lane celebrated his 30th anniversary in business. The New York Times called him "the man who made costume jewelry chic and, more important to his bank account, readily available to what is loosely referred to as the masses. Chanel had done it earlier, but to a more affluent clientéle" (27 June 1993). Additionally, Lane is wildly popular on QVC, the cable television home-shopping network. In 1997 Lane took in about $1.5 million during each four-hour, bimonthly appearance.

Through his designing and socializing, Lane has achieved a level of fame comparable to the women he adorns. Faking It is Lane's 1996 memoir of his 30-plus years as faux jewelry master. Written with Harrice Simons Miller, the book is full of Lane's recollections of his many adventures and friendships with society women. The book includes photographs by John Bigelow Taylor. Lane followed the launch of the book with a European road show, celebrating with hundreds of fans in Rome, Madrid, London, and Paris.

Suzy Menkes asked Lane why he never made the switch to real jewels. He cited security, recalling the famous mock-up necklace he created for Jackie Kennedy Onassis so she could leave the original in the safe. With priceless gems, "You don't have the freedom," he told Menkes. "And I'm too lazy to pick up an emerald if it falls on the floor!"

Further proof of Lane's lasting influence on the fashion world came in 1998 when the Museum at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) presented an exhibition of the Lane collection, showcasing everything from his 1960s pieces to recent designs. The FIT museum contains the world's largest collection of costumes, textiles, and accessories.

Janet Markarian;

updated by Lisa Groshong

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