Madame Mathilde reinterprets vintage glamour
To Jennifer Kelling, a vintage brooch is more than a few rhinestones and a pin. Starting at 15, Jennifer would accompany her mother on her antiquing trips, soon developing an addiction that would dictate the direction her life would take 10 years down the road when she would create her brand, Madame Mathilde.
“When I first started [antiquing] with her I was immediately drawn to the jewelry,” Jennifer said.
Collecting costume jewelry became a hobby. Like treasure hunting, most of the excitement was in the find but when it came down to wearing the pieces, she was a little overwhelmed.
“I would have this large collection and I didn’t quite know what to do with them,” the 25-year-old designer said.
Then Jennifer started layering. She would pile necklace upon necklace, letting strands tangle and turn into something new. As time went on, the creations became more intricate, adding crystals and scarves. Finally, she stopped and realized something: she had a product.
Besides necklaces, brooches took up a big chunk of her costume jewelry collection. However, she felt jewelry wasn’t the best way to show them off.
“I had all these brooches and they needed a better place to be showcased,” she said. “A great handbag is really simple and it’s a way to preserve these vintage pieces from the 30s, 40s, 50s…”
Starting out as clutches, now Madame Mathilde offers multiple sizes but they are always a chic, small bag, meant to be carried delicately by the hand. Python is the newest material of choice. In the past she used snakeskin. The python receives the brooches better, allowing them to last longer and not get worn or break, the designer said.
The brooches alone are collectible items, sometimes signed by famous jewelers such as Kramer and Trifari.
Finding the perfect brooch for a bag is a thrill for Jennifer who said that although the pieces are brilliant, such as a rhinestone covered horse or a multicolored wreath, she manages to part with them.
“It isn’t hard to let them go,” she said. “It’s fun to find them but its kind of nice to know that someone is getting something.”
Recently the collection, which is only a year young, is underdoing a digital overhaul. Jennifer is having her web site redesigned and is hoping to unveil it in October. The new layout will display her clutches by size and her jewelry by collection.
Taking a peek at her jewelry, which has a clear aesthetic but distinct groupings, Jennifer realized that her pieces are heavily inspired by traveling. Her fine deco clip necklaces which feature a fur clip, imagined on a sultry European woman of the 1940s, is inspired by Eastern Europe. Now, she calls the collection “Kiev.” The new web site will separate her jewelry into five cities: Kiev, London, Vienna, Buenos Aires, and Palm Beach.
London isn’t subtle. The symbolism is obvious with antique pocket watches as the focus in the current interpretation of the British capital, a play on the Big Ben. Some are over-the-top statement pieces, with 4 or more clocks hanging from vintage silver strands, while others are more understated with a single watch dangling on a long chain.
Vienna is sophisticated. Each piece perfect for a night at the symphony or an evening spent at the opera house. Milk stones laid on delicately layered chains or a rhinestone-studded choker with hanging crystals are heavily nuanced by a city known for fancily clad royal families.
The two final cities, with their tropical locations, give a more relaxed, resort vibe than the other collections. Palm Beach uses bold stones in hues of purple, pink and red. Buenos Aires plays with a summer accessory, the scarf, by incorporating the silky fabric in a braided necklace or folding it between chains, offering an unexpected pop of color.
The Parsons grad only got her business going in late 2009 and it seems to be off and running. A look in the jewelry collection and almost every single piece has the word SOLD emblazoned next to the image. Always interested in design, it took Jennifer a while to figure out where fashion would take her. Starting out as a design student and graduating with a degree in design and management, Jennifer believes her studies represent where she would end up, it just took a bit to figure it out.
“I knew I didn’t want to be a clothing designer,” she said. “I guess it made sense doing half the design program and finishing up in the business program, which is geared towards entrepreneurs.”
Almost every day Jennifer adds new designs to her collections. Will the cities stay the same?
“For now, yes,” she said. However, certain cities may fade out while others remain.
“When everyone gets sick of crystals, Vienna might be out the door,” she laughed.
In the case of her cities such as London, which have become symbolic for the watches, she may start to reinterpret the cities and introduce new ideas.
The new e-commerce web site plans to launch at the end of October, which is coincidently the same month Jennifer will be getting married.
Will she be designing anything for the wedding?
Actually, Jennifer said her dress has too much embellishment to rock one of her necklaces. Are you surprised?
However, she didn’t leave the bridal party out. Her mother will be wearing the art deco necklace and Jennifer plans to carry the pearlized bridal clutch, which she sells on her site. Plus, she’s outfitting the bridesmaids in all her designs.
To see her designs, visit her web site at www.madamemathilde.com.