September 2 2014

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Five Questions For Irene Neuwirth


Every morning, Irene Neuwirth gets up and goes swimming in the ocean near her Venice Beach home. But it’s no mere hobby for the jewelry designer. Since debuting her first collection of fine jewelry eight years ago, Neuwirth has looked to the water for inspiration and reflected its power and shape-shifting beauty in her designs. An element of the raw nature is a Neuwirth signature—and one of many qualities that has made her line a top seller at Barneys New York and tony boutiques around the country. This year, she was tapped as a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. The winner of the 2008 prize will be announced November 17; in the meantime, Neuwirth answers’s questions about life in the Top Ten.

What made you want to be a designer?

Designing jewelry was always my creative outlet growing up. I saw there was a niche missing in the jewelry world, so I set out to fill that void. I wanted to design pieces that are modern and clean, yet feminine and timeless so they can be passed down for generations to come.

What was the most rewarding moment of the CFDA/Vogue process?

The most rewarding moment was essentially the same as the scariest moment—the presentation. When else in my career am I going to have the ears of ten of the most influential people in fashion? The second I walked out that door, I had the greatest sense of accomplishment. It has also been so rewarding to get to know the other designers and have the honor to work with one of them, Richard Chai.

The top prize here is $200,000, but tell us, where did your first funding come from?

When I first started, I borrowed $1,000 to make my initial few pieces. Then I was able to get a proper loan a year later—the one I would now like to pay down.

Speaking of finances, what’s your up-and-coming designer’s take on the current economic crisis?

I feel lucky to be a jewelry designer. I believe that women want something that holds value right now, not a quick trend and not anything that all their friends are going to own, too. My pieces are special in themselves, and I have a large collection of one-of-a-kinds that have been selling consistently well through these tough economic times.

What are you going to wear to the awards?

My very dear friend, the amazing designer Gregory Parkinson, is making a one-of-a-kind dress for me.

Photo: Donato Sardella / WireImage