The Fortunatos’ Grandmothers

They’re involved—as in, they even help with production.

Lizzie Fortunato, with constant help and occasional prodding from her business-minded twin Kathryn, has been making and selling jewelry since she was a teenager. Two of the sisters’ earliest collaborators, teachers, and inspirations were their grandmothers, who love them always—even when they don’t approve of their color palettes.

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PATERNAL
Marian Fortunato a.k.a. “Granny”
Born: February 7, 1930, in Wilmington, Delaware (where Lizzie and Kathryn also grew up)
Pictured: With Kathryn (left) and Lizzie (right)   

Lizzie: “She’s very much a maternal figure. She has three sons, and she’s the grandmother who, for every one of the grandchildren, embroidered the stocking at Christmastime and made a baby blanket—and these are not bootleg baby blankets. She’s an amazing knitter. I can remember being young and traveling with my grandparents, and she was trying to teach Kathryn and I to knit mittens or something. We failed spectacularly. Since then, she really has become integral as I’ve become more interested in, say, doing needlepoint, which we used a lot in our spring/summer 2010 collection—to the point where I was having production issues and literally sent her a pile of things to make. She was like, ‘I just received your package. Can I change colors?’ She has this kind of hilarious, tell-it-as-it-is attitude.”
 
Kathryn: “She said, ‘I don’t really care for the neon.’ Well, Bergdorf does! For her birthday last year—it was her 80th—we made her a press book of every story that included a piece with cross-stitch. It’s undeniable that she’s had a very big role in shaping the company—the inspiration, the design, and the production.

image

MATERNAL
Hope Fremont a.k.a. “Nama”
Born: April 19, 1931, in Queens, New York
Pictured: With Lizzie at her college graduation
 
Kathryn: “Our maternal grandmother is this beautiful, traveling, chic, classic woman. Her first job was in the Empire State Building. She didn’t have any money to her name growing up, but she did sew. She talks about spending so much money on, like, a cuff that she embroidered onto her jacket for dinner one night—she had this appreciation for high fashion even if it wasn’t that she was buying it.”
 
Lizzie: “When we went to her and my grandfather’s house as a kid, she always had her sewing machine and Vogue Patterns out. She would be cutting and sewing wool coats. Her style is really just incredible.”
 
Kathryn: “Lizzie’s made one-off pieces for her—like gigantic coral necklaces—and they’re some of our favorites. She just wears them so marvelously. I can’t imagine a better model for them.”

The Fortunato twins did it again! Get their dreamy cuff before it’s gone!

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A Short Film with Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato

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Oh, what’s this? An Of a Kind MOVIE? We couldn’t be more thrilled to give you the chance to catch of glimpse of our past edition coming together and to see the two smart, stylin’, and supremely articulate women behind Lizzie Fortunato in action—like, words coming out of their very own mouths and stuff! And, speaking of twosomes, Youngna Park and Jacob Krupnick of Wild Combination made this video magic possible. Okay, time to press play! —erica

Of a Kind: Lizzie Fortunato Jewels from Wild Combination on Vimeo.

Check out the Fortunato’s pretty (oh so pretty) new edition now!

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A Short Film with Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato

Oh, what’s this? An Of a Kind MOVIE? We couldn’t be more thrilled to give you the chance to catch of glimpse of our latest edition coming together and to see the two smart, stylin’, and supremely articulate women behind Lizzie Fortunato in action—like, words coming out of their very own mouths and stuff! And, speaking of twosomes, Youngna Park and Jacob Krupnick of Wild Combination made this video magic possible. Okay, time to press play! —erica

Of a Kind: Lizzie Fortunato Jewels from Wild Combination on Vimeo.

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The Fortunatos’ Grandmothers

They’re involved—as in, they even help with production.

Lizzie Fortunato, with constant help and occasional prodding from her business-minded twin Kathryn, has been making and selling jewelry since she was a teenager. Two of the sisters’ earliest collaborators, teachers, and inspirations were their grandmothers, who love them always—even when they don’t approve of their color palettes.

PATERNAL
Marian Fortunato a.k.a. “Granny”
Born: February 7, 1930, in Wilmington, Delaware (where Lizzie and Kathryn also grew up)
Pictured: With Kathryn (left) and Lizzie (right)   

Lizzie: “She’s very much a maternal figure. She has three sons, and she’s the grandmother who, for every one of the grandchildren, embroidered the stocking at Christmastime and made a baby blanket—and these are not bootleg baby blankets. She’s an amazing knitter. I can remember being young and traveling with my grandparents, and she was trying to teach Kathryn and I to knit mittens or something. We failed spectacularly. Since then, she really has become integral as I’ve become more interested in, say, doing needlepoint, which we used a lot in our spring/summer 2010 collection—to the point where I was having production issues and literally sent her a pile of things to make. She was like, ‘I just received your package. Can I change colors?’ She has this kind of hilarious, tell-it-as-it-is attitude.”
 
Kathryn: “She said, ‘I don’t really care for the neon.’ Well, Bergdorf does! For her birthday last year—it was her 80th—we made her a press book of every story that included a piece with cross-stitch. It’s undeniable that she’s had a very big role in shaping the company—the inspiration, the design, and the production.

MATERNAL
Hope Fremont a.k.a. “Nama”
Born: April 19, 1931, in Queens, New York
Pictured: With Lizzie at her college graduation
 
Kathryn: “Our maternal grandmother is this beautiful, traveling, chic, classic woman. Her first job was in the Empire State Building. She didn’t have any money to her name growing up, but she did sew. She talks about spending so much money on, like, a cuff that she embroidered onto her jacket for dinner one night—she had this appreciation for high fashion even if it wasn’t that she was buying it.”
 
Lizzie: “When we went to her and my grandfather’s house as a kid, she always had her sewing machine and Vogue Patterns out. She would be cutting and sewing wool coats. Her style is really just incredible.”
 
Kathryn: “Lizzie’s made one-off pieces for her—like gigantic coral necklaces—and they’re some of our favorites. She just wears them so marvelously. I can’t imagine a better model for them.”

Lizzie and Kathryn are back with a so-rad edition tomorrow! Get on our email list to score it.

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Lizzie Fortunato Gets her Blog On

The internet is the jewelry designer’s latest medium.


Lizzie’s blogging pose.

Since Lizzie Fortunato launched her blog A Fortune Found this summer, it’s become a killer outlet for her—a passion project, even. Storytelling is a big part of her namesake line of complex, reference-melding accessories, and, as her sister and business partner Kathryn puts it, “Expanding her narrative has been good for her.” It also helps that Lizzie has tremendous taste and follows sites that we are outraged to only be learning about now. She talks through her five favorites below.

Another stellar new Lizzie creation? The thread-wrapped gold bracelet she made for Of a Kind. There are just 30, so look now!


Decade: “Bernadette Pascua, who illustrated our past two lookbooks, is so talented, and she couldn’t be more modest and adorable. Her blog’s so inspiring because she does a lot more than post her own creations. But, her fonts are amazing, and so are her watercolors. Kathryn bought me one for Christmas, and it’s hanging in my room.”


Solid Frog: “I’m not addicted to any fashion blogs, per se. I’m more interested in interiors and travel for inspiration, and this one posts all interiors.


The Brickhouse: “For our fall and spring collections, I was looking at a lot of mid-century California structures that are really simple but high-design. This blog comes from California near Palm Springs. “


The Epicures: “This is a couple based in Brooklyn, and their photography is extraordinary. They go to amazing places and tell all these stories.”


Broken English Blog: “We found this store in Santa Monica, and it has a nice blog. I can’t look at a ton of other costume jewelry because it’s just too overwhelming and nerve-racking, so I appreciate the fine jewelry here.”

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The Fortunatos Make Collaboration Magic

These jewelry phenoms know how to work a runway.

Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato have quite a partnership going: Lizzie is a design force to be reckoned with, and Kathryn boasts incredible business savvy. Though the twins push each other plenty, they’ve found that one of the best ways to evolve their own work—to try out new techniques or incorporate untested materials—is to partner up with like-minded clothing designers who are looking to round out their collections with awe-inspiring accessories. Here, a look at the diverse aesthetics the twins have attacked with their runway collaborations, what they’ve learned along the way, and where they want to go next.

VPL


LFJ x VPL spring 2011

Kathryn: “Four years ago, when we were just starting out, I asked Lizzie, ‘Who would you want to collaborate with right now?’ And she said, ‘There’s this clothing line called VPL—the designer’s named Victoria Bartlett, and she’s so amazing about collaborating with jewelry designers.’ She had worked with Alyssa Norton, Brian Crumley—all these people that we really liked. And a season later, sure enough, Victoria approached Lizzie to collaborate with her.”


LFJ x VPL spring 2009

Lizzie: “We worked with her first for spring 2009. There was all of this origami. We found a girl on Craigslist who made origami birds—that was her thing.”


Necklaces from LFJ x VPL spring 2009 and spring 2010

Kathryn: “Victoria was amazing in terms of giving Lizzie incredible freedom. She was like, ‘The sky’s the limit. You can do whatever you want.’ The inspiration would be broad—like underwater, flying, the human body.”

Suno


LFJ x Suno fall 2010

Kathryn: “The same sort of thing happened with Suno that happened with VPL. Lizzie said, ‘Have you heard of this line Suno?’ I hadn’t—it was really early. We didn’t know anything about them, but she just really liked the aesthetic—they appreciate textiles, and so do we. And it was so weird because in January of 2010, four weeks before fashion week, we got an email from Max Osterweis, who is the founder, saying, ‘Hey, I’m Max from Suno. I was in Paris, eating dinner with a friend of mine, and she was wearing an incredible necklace that you made. So I looked you up, and I want to talk to you guys about doing some jewelry with me.’ Whoever that girl in Paris was, bless her heart!”


LFJ x Suno spring 2011

Kathryn: “He and Erin Beatty, the designer, came over to our old live-work space on East Broadway. We used their fabrics, and our jewelry was incorporated into something like seven of the 25 looks. It was really exciting, but it was only a small sign of what was to come. The next season 24 of the 25 looks had our pieces, and there were about ten necklaces on each girl. We started producing the jewelry as it’s own collection.”


LFJ x Suno fall 2011

Lizzie: “For fall 2011, they wanted a more polished look. It was the first time I had ever done so much metal!”
Kathryn: “The collection was inspired by a Diana Vreeland, older-lady character who had been around the world and had this Upper East Side mentality. It was incredibly flattering that Erin came to Lizzie when she could have gone to a number of people who excel in metalwork—Lizzie had never, ever done anything like that. This forced Lizzie to go out of her comfort zone, and, even though she hated it at the time, it was such a blessing in the stars because we probably wouldn’t have evolved our own collection as we did otherwise.”


Metal cuffs from the LFJ spring 2012 collection

Wish List
Lizzie: “In terms of other people we want to work with, there’s something I like about collaborating with lines that are just getting going. We just started working with the retail arm of Jenni Kayne. We love her aesthetic—it’s sleek and amazingly crisp. It would be cool to do clutches with beaded, graphic shapes.”
Kathryn: “This is definitely a dream one, but obviously Rodarte would be incredible. Lizzie has incredible respect for them.”
Lizzie: “It would be fun to go crazy and dive into a whole new market—to do something for Matthew Williamson for London Fashion Week. You know, to open doors that are really out of our minds.”

Speaking of collabs: Don’t miss out on the edition the twins made just for Of a Kind. Get on our email list for a reminder.

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Meet Lizzie Fortunato Jewels

Serious demand practically forced the sisters to launch a line.

Most designers worry about the sales of their wares covering things like rent and groceries, but when Lizzie (left) and her twin Kathryn (right) got started, they were primarily concerned about paying for spring break. As undergrads at Duke University, the two Wilmington, Delaware, natives sold their attention-grabbing jewelry at on-campus trunk shows, drawing in swarms of girls looking for something stand-out to wear for a special occasion. “If a trunk show started at 6p, there would already be a line at 5:30, and everything would be gone by 6:15. They would be madness—like, sorority girls gone wild,” Kathryn recalls.

Lizzie handled the design end of things, and Kathryn fielded the business and marketing side. But when they moved to Manhattan after graduation, they pursued the kind of careers that come with a regular paycheck and health insurance—Lizzie headed into fashion PR and Kathryn into a job at Goldman Sachs. Some of their college pals infiltrated the New York fashion scene, though, and commissioned Lizzie to create hulking necklaces or layered bracelets for photo shoots or runway shows. Soon enough, the interest basically demanded that the girls launch a full-blown collection.

Their fanbase grew exponentially from there—with clothing designers like Suno and VPL wanting to collaborate, too—and the Lizzie Fortunato Jewels loyalists remain as hardcore as ever. “It’s amazing: The girls who used to buy three pieces back then are still the ones who get a piece every season,” Kathryn explains. “Some of them have collections better than anything we have of our own work.”

Scoop up the (2nd!) piece the two designed for Of a Kind on Tuesday. Join our email list to be the first to hear about the release.

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The Fortunatos’ Four Material Obsessions

They’re as skilled at combing old jewelry factories as beaches.

If you get to talking with Lizzie and Kathryn, it becomes immediately clear just how much work goes into each attention-grabbing necklace and intricate bracelet they create. One little setting might involve five people, a new production technique, and a handful of countries. These components, which they’re using in their current collection and the one they recently unveiled for next spring, are ridiculously beautiful, and the stories behind them are about as compelling.


South American Wood
Lizzie: “I don’t know how I got so preoccupied with this notion of setting wood, but I just got really obsessed with it. I source cocobolo, which is a type of rosewood, and ebony, and I found this amazing guy in Austin, Texas, who’s doing all of the cutting and polishing for me. He also built these little recessions that our stone-setter then places the citrine into. My model-maker and I developed these bezels. I wanted something that was really heavy and industrial but still kind of mod.”
Kathryn: “It’s got a Studio 54 look, but it’s still modern.”


Crystal Spikes
Lizzie: “I did a huge sourcing trip to Rhode Island with one of my assistants last fall to these defunct costume jeweler manufacturers, and we found this spike piece. It had been used in the forties and fifties in this costume-jewelry broach, which we took apart and started casting like a million times. Kathryn and I both fell in love with it—the fact that it has a setting for stones but is also kind of tough. It shows up a bunch in our fall collection. It’s interesting how many times you can combine these components and get aesthetics that are so different.”

The Fortunatos used 14 spikes dotted with lilac and charcoal crystals in the necklace they made exclusively for Of a Kind. Click here to buy it.


Snake Clasps
Kathryn: “The snakes were a really smart invention of Lizzie’s halfway through this summer.”
Lizzie: “There are so many people who do the insect, the animal, the rodent very literally—and very well—but I didn’t want to do that because it’s not really my style. I actually have a vintage snake necklace from eBay, and on mine, the snake isn’t the clasp. But I just love the idea of the snake, and I wanted to make it functional. So I started sketching, and I found some cool semi-precious stones. I was really into squares, ovals, and triangles for the stones, and of course they—squares in particular—are the hardest shapes to find because no one likes to cut them. Everyone likes to cut round stones.”


Conch Shells
Kathryn: “For next spring, we got really inspired by this shell that Lizzie brought home off the beach in Costa Rica and we cast. Similar to the spikes that show up in very different iterations, the shell pokes its head up throughout the collection, but it doesn’t necessarily do it in an obvious way. You actually have to look at something for awhile to realize, ‘Oh, wait, there’s the exact same conch shell in this necklace and in that necklace.’”
Lizzie: “And the shell almost didn’t make it back! I had a huge bag of seashells in my backpack leaving Costa Rica, and the customs officer said, ‘You can’t bring these unchecked.’ I threw a fit and was like, ‘Can I keep just one?’ He let me, so the one that shows up throughout the collection is the lone survivor of a bunch of shells I spent hours searching for.”


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The Fortunatos Weave a Lookbook Narrative

This is how you put an English degree to good use.

Before Lizzie decided to make a career of jewelry-making—which took a lot of pressuring from fashion-industry pals who refused to let her squander her creative talents—she thought she wanted to be a writer. Now she’s found a way put her English-major skills to use by crafting a story around each season. “You can see this progression as you’re flipping through the lookbook. That’s one of the most fun parts about shooting it—that we really try to follow this narrative and use props and wording to complement the jewelry and make them more than accessories—really portray a mood with them,” the designer explains. For fall’s “Fly Me to the Moon” collection, Lizzie and her sister Kathryn tell the tale of a woman trying to break out of her domestic prison filled with cinched waists, six o’clock dinners, and powdered noses. Here, Lizzie shares the highlights.

“The title of the necklace on the left, ‘Wayward Lady,’ insinuates that the main character in our narrative is starting to go off the tracks. On the facing page, we photographed Brillo pads next to two of our long pendant pieces—including ‘Vices,’ which suggests that deviled eggs and dish-washing just aren’t doing it for her.”

“The ‘Dinner at 6’ necklace is my favorite in the collection: The brown and black fabric is screen-print based on a vintage wallpaper I found and referenced throughout the collection. The opposite page pictures more fifties wallpaper, sourced from eBay.”

“I love our center spread—it’s actually blown up huge and hung above the desks in our office. The necklace is titled ‘Mary Go Round’ to suggest that our protagonist (Mary?!) is spinning out of control—her vacant eyes and perfectly coiffed hair make the shot. The playing cards are from a PanAm airplane, and we found the amazing green ashtray in a flea market.”

“In the last spread, our flea-market ashtray reappears with cigarettes that we had to smoke until we achieved the desired effect. Our model’s lipstick is blotchy, and her eyes a little smudged—as if her going-out preparations were interrupted by distractions and only the bustier and the necklace made it on her body. The title ‘Sister Morphine’ suggests our leading lady is officially off the edge.”

If you’re reading this in your Tumblr dashboard, you should check out our brand-new site at ofakind.com. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter.

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The Fortunatos’ Grandmothers

They’re involved—as in, they even help with production.

Lizzie Fortunato, with constant help and occasional prodding from her business-minded twin Kathryn, has been making and selling jewelry since she was a teenager. Two of the sisters’ earliest collaborators, teachers, and inspirations were their grandmothers, who love them always—even when they don’t approve of their color palettes.


PATERNAL
Marian Fortunato a.k.a. “Granny”
Born: February 7, 1930, in Wilmington, Delaware (where Lizzie and Kathryn also grew up)
Pictured: With Kathryn (left) and Lizzie (right)   

Lizzie: “She’s very much a maternal figure. She has three sons, and she’s the grandmother who, for every one of the grandchildren, embroidered the stocking at Christmastime and made a baby blanket—and these are not bootleg baby blankets. She’s an amazing knitter. I can remember being young and traveling with my grandparents, and she was trying to teach Kathryn and I to knit mittens or something. We failed spectacularly. Since then, she really has become integral as I’ve become more interested in, say, doing needlepoint, which we used a lot in our spring/summer 2010 collection—to the point where I was having production issues and literally sent her a pile of things to make. She was like, ‘I just received your package. Can I change colors?’ She has this kind of hilarious, tell-it-as-it-is attitude.”
 
Kathryn: “She said, ‘I don’t really care for the neon.’ Well, Bergdorf does! For her birthday last year—it was her 80th—we made her a press book of every story that included a piece with cross-stitch. It’s undeniable that she’s had a very big role in shaping the company—the inspiration, the design, and the production.”



MATERNAL
Hope Fremont a.k.a. “Nama”
Born: April 19, 1931, in Queens, New York
Pictured: With Lizzie at her college graduation
 
Kathryn: “Our maternal grandmother is this beautiful, traveling, chic, classic woman. Her first job was in the Empire State Building. She didn’t have any money to her name growing up, but she did sew. She talks about spending so much money on, like, a cuff that she embroidered onto her jacket for dinner one night—she had this appreciation for high fashion even if it wasn’t that she was buying it.”
 
Lizzie: “When we went to her and my grandfather’s house as a kid, she always had her sewing machine and Vogue Patterns out. She would be cutting and sewing wool coats. Her style is really just incredible.”
 
Kathryn: “Lizzie’s made one-off pieces for her—like gigantic coral necklaces—and they’re some of our favorites. She just wears them so marvelously. I can’t imagine a better model for them.”

If you’re reading this in your Tumblr dashboard, you should check out our brand-new site at ofakind.com. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter.

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