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Last Thursday evening, Alexis Bittar fans congregated at the jewelry designer's Newbury Street store to fete not only the company's Boston presence but also its fine jewelry launch. Currently, Boston is the only one of his ten stores to stock the Fine collection ($295—$16,000), complete with dainty settings (tennis bracelets abound) and precious stones. We took a moment to chat with Bittar about taxidermy (a signature element of his stores), the case of antiques for sale which he curated himself, and 1980s club scene influences.
What's the weirdest work of taxidermy you've ever seen?
Probably ours. We'll actually design animals with an artist [Frank J. Zitz]. One was a gazelle with swan wings and fluorescent. I think that's the weirdest. It's petite with beautiful wings, almost like a fairy. It's something you would never see but you would want to see.
Are there any really unique pieces currently in the antique case?
This here is a dance card [to the right]. It's all ivory and hand carved. When a woman would go to a dance, she would write on the dance card who asked her to dance. It you pull that piece out, it's like a pencil. The reason it was on ivory is that they could erase it.
How does the launch of fine jewelry fit into your big picture?
It's having intrinsic value and having a craftsmanship that with costume and fashion I couldn't really do. Working with diamonds and the setting—everything is so petite—and I think most people thought I was going to do huge pieces because of what the brand is. I kind of did the reverse and went toward a real 1990s minimalism with a 1950s aesthetic.
Is the former 80s club kid in you represented in your now very elegant designs?
I was going to clubs at 13, and I think it was pre-MTV, there were no videos, no online. There was a real excitement to dress up. People would literally be shocked. At an early age I appreciated the impact of fashion and individuality, and I try to drive that sense of individuality into the pieces now. Middle of the road is kind of like why do it? I still try to be sellable but there's a life force you want to drive through it.
Do you feel like some of your big collaborations catapulted different parts of your career?
I think in hindsight. Burberry was in some ways one of the most meaningful just because it was the first and also the complete opposite of what you would think of me.
And do you have a favorite?
I think Nicola Formichetti. I work a lot with Gaga and in general, she's someone that is fearless so she's a perfect canvas. She understands art and fashion.
· Alexis Bittar's New Home Welcomes You With Taxidermy [Racked Boston]
· Alexis Bittar [Official Site]