Catbird and Leith Clark Collaborate on Moonstone Pieces and “Ribbon” Jewelry Inspired by Suffragettes
Catbird co–creative directors Rony Vardi and Leigh Plessner have a way with words. They’ve described their tiny, almost-invisible chain brackets and necklaces as “sparkly air,” and Instagram photos of new items are often accompanied by lines of poetry, not prices or instructions on how to buy them. They refer to their customers as “kittens” or “fairy queens,” not babes or baes. The #hotgirlsummer thing likely hasn’t made its way onto their radar.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise to hear that Vardi and Plessner were big fans of Lula, the dreamy magazine Leith Clark started in the early-’00s, and her current book, Violet. “Lula had all the beautiful fantasy you want in a magazine, but also so many words,” Plessner says. “It’s really fun to read and delicious if you love words, which we do.” (Same!) “We’ve always really admired Leith for how wide and searching her view [of fashion] is, and how deep it is,” Plessner continues.
Clark was at the very top of the Catbird duo’s list of “dream collaborators”—a short list, and not a particularly official one, either, seeing as collaborations aren’t really a Catbird “thing.” But after meeting Clark in person and floating the idea the threesome set to work on the capsule launching today: a romantic, vaguely mystical array of “ribbon” earrings, delicate necklaces, and etched pendants, all of which were two years in the making. The launch is dovetailing nicely with a major milestone: Catbird’s 15th anniversary. (Yes, that tiny shop on Bedford Avenue really opened in 2004!)
Unlike a lot of collaborations, this one was a departure for everyone involved: Clark had never designed jewelry before, and Catbird rarely creates “real collections” at all, instead focusing on single pieces. The capsule also features a stone you don’t often find in that Bedford shop: moonstone, Clark’s favorite gem. “I’ve always gravitated towards it, but I can never find moonstone pieces that I want to wear,” she explains. “They’re either too tiny, or they’re really big in an ‘Upper East Side lady’ kind of way, which doesn’t make sense for the stone.”
An iridescent choker threaded with tiny moonstone beads is a particular standout, along with a domed ring with little stars and a diamond hidden within the stone. Both were brand new concepts for Catbird in terms of skill and scale: “We came up with so many ideas, but a really natural editing tool for us is figuring out if we can hand-make a piece in our studio using our recycled metals or diamonds,” Plessner says. “Stringing beads is a skill unto itself, and it isn’t something our studio does. So we played around with the idea of stringing moonstone beads on gold, which was a really exciting solution.” Women who’ve followed Catbird over the years will note that most of the jewelry is on the smaller, more delicate side, so the substantial weight of the moonstone ring was also a happy departure.
Every piece drew inspiration from “a trove of photos” the women had gathered—photos of people, vintage jewelry, art, snippets of poetry, textiles—and Clark’s own time spent in the jewelry room at the Victoria & Albert Museum. “I think our planets are very much aligned—Rony and Leigh understand my universe and what I want it to look like,” Clark says. “The crossover for [our tastes] is so vast that the hardest thing for me was to narrow it down. I feel like we could have done 100 things, and we wouldn’t have run out of ideas!”
As for the gold ribbons on necklaces and “ear climbers,” Clark was thinking about the jewelry and fabric pendants suffragettes wore a hundred years ago. Modern-day women with a cause might adopt Clark’s gold pendant instead, etched with a tiny girl raising her fist. “We designed that two years ago, but it feels prescient now with what’s happening in America,” Clark says. To give the sentiment an extra punch, the trio chose Planned Parenthood as their charitable partner for the collection. (Clark is on the international committee for the organization.) “If you’re celebrating the feminine, the first thing you think of is making sure the feminine is allowed to be free,” she says.
That lines up with Catbird’s mission to “draw a line between femininity and strength,” as Vardi tells it. “We like to think about people wearing jewelry in their own way, layering it with stuff they have that may be old or meaningful to them.… There’s a lot of freedom and individuality in that.”
The capsule is launching online and in stores today, with prices starting at $178; visit catbirdnyc.com to shop the limited supply.
Originally Appeared on Vogue