Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ERIKA PENA

With the backdrop of looming coconut trees and billowy white clouds, Boqueron Beach of Puerto Rico is a dream setting.

We stand on the toasty, white sands looking out across the ocean's clear, turquoise waters contemplating our options: kite surfing, cycling, or scuba diving. Puerto Rico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Erika Peña.

Head-turning, statement-making, and stunning pretty much sums up Peña's incredible four-year-old fashion jewelry line. With nine collections and counting the Parsons the New School for Design alumna's love of fashion served as the catalyst for her passion for jewelry design.

"The inspiration of my jewelry line comes from my move from Puerto Rico to Manhattan, "she says," I try to convey this experience through my jewelry, which is a bit rough and edgy, like New York, and a bit light and airy like the Caribbean."

At the age of 18, the ambitious designer moved to New York and upon graduating from design school she worked with couture designers Josie Natori and Donna Karan.

Those experiences led Peña through an experimental period that included her short-lived clothing line called EPE. As she continued on the wave of exploration, Peña's collaborations with different designers ultimately led to the launch of her spirited jewelry collections.

Peña's earring designs, in particular, are some of the boldest designs I think I have seen. Their structure is light and flirty, but they pack a wallop of unmistakable drama. In my opinion, earrings like Peña's Egypt Red Earring shouldn't peek out from between strands of loosely hanging hair; cute ponytails and elegant upsweeps all the way. The Egypt Red Earrings, as well as others, are perfect for accentuating, and drawing focus to the face.

"My goal is for those who wear my jewelry to feel good. I want to reach every woman and for everyone to be able to experience my collection," she says. Peña fashions her luscious creations from 14-, 18-, and 22-karat gold vermeil, coral, malachite, lapis, Lucite, Charlotte beads, and Crystallized Swarovski Elements. Her Gabriela Cuff Bracelet, from her Jules Collection, is another spectacular example of Peña's vibrant creativity.

Items from Pena's collections have been featured in Vogue, Elle, OK, and Glamour, and are sold around the world in over 300 boutiques.

Inevitably celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Brooke Shields, and Jessica Alba are loyal fans of the line.  Last year, Peña launched her first unisex jewelry line called Simon.

"This collection centered on cultural, religious, and magical icons combined with the force of energy between men and women, the yin and the yang to create a powerful form of wearable art for both."

Peña's future plans include designing handbags, and another clothing line.
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Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Gold Fill Wire Gemile Earrings Stranded with Cobalt Swarovski Crystals from the Classics Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): 14-Karat Gold Fill Hard Wire Carlota Necklace with Swarovski Rhinestones from the Jules Collection

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