“Accessories are like vitamins to fashion,” says flamboyant fashion editor Anna Dello Russo, in the launch video for her new H&M jewellery and accessories range. “They are vital. They give new life to what you already have in your wardrobe.”
The mock music video for the range, which lands in stores October 4 and has already caused a stir in the blogosphere, shows Dello Russo whirling enormous chains around her head and perching pin-up style in a colossal turquoise cuff.
Judging by the appearance of her new range – unashamedly fake-looking bangles shaped like serpents, crocodiles and zebras (from £24.99); gold mock baroque cuffs (£24.99); and crystal earrings (£14.99) – Dello Russo believes over-the-top bling is the perfect mood enhancer.
While the H&M range is cheap and cheerful, opulent costume jewellery – where making a statement matters more than precious gems – is having a fashion moment at the high end, too. At this season’s shows, numerous editors and stylists wore crystal confections by “It” brands, such as Shourouk and Assad Mounser.
Holli Rogers, fashion director at online retailer Net-a-Porter, says: “Jewellery has become a key part of head-to-toe dressing and is seen as an everyday essential, valued just as much as ready-to-wear pieces.” Citing this winter’s opulent trend, she says it has been evident in most designer collections. “I think the catwalk has played a huge influence.” At online boutique My-Wardrobe.com buying director Luisa De Paula says: “We have seen a 63 per cent year-on-year increase in sales of costume jewellery so far this season.”
Jessica Walsh, watch and jewellery editor at Tatler magazine, has Elizabeth Taylor in mind when experimenting with assertive baubles. “Big, fake, sparkly jewels make me feel like a little girl dressing up,” she says of her favourite Miu Miu earrings and a new Chanel cuff. “When I wear them, I’m a little bit naughty again.”
You wouldn’t necessarily associate naughtiness with meeting the Queen, so it took courage for Michelle Obama to wear a web of diamanté by American designer Tom Binns when she played host to the Queen in May. Her necklace looked like a punkish subversion of the crown jewels: equally sparkling but the diamond strands were twisted, asymmetric and, crucially, fake.
Designers such as Lulu Frost, Eddie Borgo, Erickson Beamon and Pamela Love base their excessive designs on heritage jewellery shapes. A current trend is to start with traditional designs – cameos, chandelier earrings, tiered necklaces – and then play with unexpected scale and sharp colours.
Modern costume jewellery has gathered speed on and off the catwalk, and each brand has its speciality: Prada has drop earrings, Yves Saint Laurent the big, modular cocktail ring, Lanvin reinvents pearls in a different capacity season after season, and Dolce & Gabbana has moved on from summer’s pasta shells to Virgin Mary pendants.
Designer Matthew Williamson has always been a fan of power necklaces. For winter, he has blended jewellery and clothes by sewing the jewels straight on to his cocktail dresses. “Embellishment has played a huge part in my collections from day one,” he says. “Costume jewellery is a natural extension of this and really adds to the luxury of a collection.”
Like Miuccia Prada, who invariably emerges for her after-show bow in simple attire and a pair of quirky earrings, Williamson knows that when accessorising your outfit to your jewels, more is not always more. “The bigger and sparklier your jewellery gets, the more pared back the rest of your outfit should be,” he says. Unlike in the early 1990s, when brazen designer logos were as loud as the jewellery, this time around, clothes play second fiddle.
But what about women in the workplace – can this trend work off the catwalk too? In the banking world, says Federica Pizzasegola, director of finance at Barclays Capital, it’s a question of finesse. “Yes, I would wear a statement necklace to the office, but nothing that shimmers. You have to keep the shapes clean and uncomplicated, otherwise, in this male-dominated environment, you’re in danger of not being taken seriously.”