Ippolita Rostagno (1963 –) Born in Florence, Italy in 1963, Ippolita, whose first name is her trademark and brand, is a designer of fine jewelry and based in New York City. She is a pioneer in the concept of “cool,” fine jewelry that can be worn every day as well as for all occasions. In fact, she states that everything she designs has to meet her criteria of “cool enough to covet, classic enough to keep.”
Ippolita is the daughter of a father who was an experimental theater director and whose mother was a decorative painter. She was brought up and educated in Tuscany, where she attended elementary school in a one-room medieval schoolhouse. She studied sculpture and earned her degree at the Istituto D’Arte in Florence.
She moved to the United States at twenty and first lived in New York, but then moved to Los Angeles where she received a degree in English Literature from Occidental College. During this period, she also founded an alternative dance company called, Rime.
She returned to New York after graduation and first worked in publishing at Harper and Rowe (now Harper-Collins.) She married a fashion photographer and gave birth to her daughter, Maya, in 1988. It took until 1999 before she could pursue what has become her life’s work.
A desire to work at a craft led her to set up a bench in her home. She made friends with a woman whose child was in Maya’s pre-school and who told Ippolita she was a jewelry designer. Having never considered that as way to make a living, Ippolita asked the woman about her work which was children’s beads on a string.
Ippolita’s desire to help her friend led her to explore what was on the market. Because her background was in art not fashion, Ippolita made her first foray to Banana Republic, who had shifted from their original safari identity to a fashion business aesthetic but did not have a jewelry line.
She suggested to them what their jewelry should look like and offered to do business together. They agreed because they had no plan and no merchants attached to supply jewelry to the company.
The venture began in three stores and quickly grew to 300. Banana Republic did not pay Ippolita for her designs only for the manufacturing of them.
After a few years, Ippolita decided to produce her own line which was not costume jewelry like she had been designing for Banana Republic, but “everyday” fine jewelry. She started designing casual, fun pieces that she herself wanted to wear. She referred to it as, “jewelry for me and you.”
In 1999, Bergdorf Goodman became Ippolita’s first customer. The fashion director saw Rostagno’s original designs—oversized, gold pieces that looked more like sculpture than jewelry, and displayed some in the window as an experiment. They sold and Ippolita’s business grew from there.
One of her very first designs was an 18-karat ‘squiggle bangle, ’that led to her iconic 18-karat-gold collection. Her dedication to craftsmanship and her background in sculpture meant that every piece of her jewelry is handmade, using tiny hammers and chisels. Ippolita went from using only gold to using every stone imaginable but says her favorite is turquoise.
When she founded her business in 1999, she began by blending uniquely sculptural design aesthetics with bright diamonds and colorful gemstones. Ippolita brings a modern touch to the ornate Renaissance style that influences her work.
Each hand-soldered, formed or cast piece of jewelry is an example of incredible care and craftsmanship and is a signature of this high fashion designer. The attention she pays to the quality of her brand has led her to develop her own signature color of gold that ensures her pieces flatter every possible skin tone.
Ippolita pieces are wearable, always trendy, and hip enough to wear with any outfit from day-to-day as well as in the evening. Her most recognized and popular pieces include stackable bangles, layered necklaces, earrings, rings, and pendants.
In 2007, Castanea Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, bought a controlling interest in Ippolita. After opening its first boutique on Madison Avenue in 2012, Ippolita has grown internationally.
Ippolita collections are sold in department stores that include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, as well as through independent jewelry stores. Internationally, her jewelry is sold at Harrods, Holt Renfrew and specialty retailers throughout the Caribbean.
Rostagno holds the position of Creative Director and leads the design and manufacture of her lines which include collections in 18k gold, sterling silver, rosé (a proprietary alloy of sterling silver with 18k gold and 18k rose gold) and non-metal materials, such as Resin.
Celebrities who have publicly worn her designs include Jennifer Lopez, Angela Bassett, Marisa Tomei, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, and Queen Latifah among others.
In August 2011, Ippolita was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Also in 2011, Ippolita’s sculpture and video installation exhibit “Reliquary” was showcased at Highline Stages in New York City.
In late 2015, Fashion Week Daily reported that Ippolita Rostagno had entered the digital age in support fellow artisans. She launched an e-commerce site and online magazine called artemest.com that displays collections of home decor, design, jewelry, and art pieces made in Italy.
The site offers more than 1,600 handmade products from more than 100 Italian artists, from glass masters to goldsmiths, like Bruno Gambone, Antonio Sciortino, and Giacomo Moor. Each artisan has their own virtual store and the site’s team updates content regularly with articles and with interviews of international art and decor experts.
As for the future, Rostagno says, “We are looking into all categories and launching our men’s line, but I don’t really have the hankering to go into the lifestyle business. Our lifestyle concept is wearable fine jewelry. We don’t need the handbags and clothing lines. I feel there has been a lifestyle madness in the past ten years and it isn’t often that brands can do a lot of different categories well. It always ends up being one thing done well and everything else riding that one thing’s coattails.
“I only want to do one thing well: To dominate in the space of fashion fine jewelry.”Sell Ippolita Rostagno All Artists