1960s Kenneth Jay Lane Jeweled Gold-Tone Belt w/ Milk Glass & Rhinestones
About the Item
Kenneth Jay Lane
The father of so-called “fabulous fakes,” Kenneth Jay Lane was a spirited innovator within the jewelry industry, designing elegant and luxurious pieces without the use of real jewels. And while Lane aspired to create classic designs for earrings, bracelets and necklaces intended for everyday wear, his pieces caught the attention of celebrities, royalty and socialites.
From a young age, the Detroit, Michigan-born Lane was a lover of fashion. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Michigan. He pursued a design career in New York City, and a failed start in the art department of Vogue magazine led to a decade of designing shoes for the likes of Delman and Christian Dior.
Lane would occasionally develop shoe designs for friends he had in the fashion world such as Bill Blass and Arnold Scaasi. A show for the latter afforded him the opportunity to beautify shoes with rhinestones and create bangles and earrings to pair with the footwear — he found plastic bracelets at discount variety store and had them embellished by craftspeople at a shoe factory.
A love for costume jewelry design emerged thereafter. Lane created his own collection and admirers such as Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor showered him with praise. A pearl necklace he designed was worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the early 1960s, ready-to-wear pioneer Hattie Carnegie purchased Lane’s jewelry line. Lane was given the position of design director for Carnegie but he soon changed course, moving instead into a small studio and pursuing his own path.
Lane worked with milk glass, gilded silver hardware, faux coral and other materials, and sold pendant necklaces, dangle earrings and modern bracelets to private customers. He was fond of renowned fine jewelry houses Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels and designers such as Jean Schlumberger, and cited having found inspiration in Egyptian and Indian jewelry over the years as well as Art Deco jewelry. Lane’s designs, which he called “faque” and “junque,” became well-known for their distinctive color combinations and clever characteristics such as embroidery. By the time he purchased a small jewelry factory in Providence, Rhode Island, where his accessories would be made during the 1960s, Lane had secured relationships with top Manhattan boutiques and his work had caught the attention of fashion magazines.
Directed by the filmmaker Gisèle Roman, a 2018 documentary about Lane’s life and work called Fabulously Fake: The Real Life of Kenneth Jay Lane features interviews with legendary fashion designers Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg.
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