My latest lace jewelry collection, Orlando's Identities, is a presentation of androgynous designs, inspired, in part, by the dreamy, witty, and poetic 1992 film Orlando, which itself was loosely based on Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel of the same name.
For the designs, I turned to the finest and most feminine and curvaceous of laces: European Chantilly lace. But my intention was to use it in creating a feminine/masculine juxtaposition. I cut and shaped many of the designs to display the universally recognized masculine-Mars shield and spear, and/or the feminine-Venus mirror on a handle. What's more, I made most of the designs geometric, which has traditionally been viewed as masculine. But I wasn't finished there. Also featured in the collection are a necktie and a pocket square brooch – traditional haberdashery accessories reinterpreted in a lush and shimmery new mode. The pocked square doubles as a necklace that can hold flowers.
And I gave each jewelry piece a gender-neutral name – such as Skyler, Alex, and Drew.
A few words about Orlando, the film: It starts off tracking the life of a young English nobleman, played by Tilda Swinton, in the early years of Elizabeth I's reign in the late 16th century. The queen instructs Orlando that he can keep his estate forever if he promises to remain young, fresh, and ageless. Centuries pass; he indeed retains his youth. But one morning, without much ado, he wakes up transformed into a woman – Tilda Swinton, once again. The movie has become a cult classic that presages today's focus on gender fluidity and sense of transcendent, expanding identities.
I found it especially appealing that the cinematic Orlando wears lace both as a man and as a woman. That commonality between masculine and feminine intrigues me, leading me to spell it out with readily recognized symbols that help us communicate and give resonance to our identities.