Eddie Borgo Talks CFDAs, Muses, and His New Collection

eddie borgo
Photo: Derek Kettela
Designer Eddie Borgo.

Jewelry designers are, in general, rather low key. Maybe it's because they allow their baubles to do the talking for them. Eddie Borgo is certainly no exception to this rule.

Quiet and unassuming, the 32-year-old has made a name for himself with his edgy (yet luxe) pieces, which are featured regularly on Web sites and in magazines, including the latest issue of Vogue.

He's having quite the year, having been named runner-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. (The award nets him $100,000 and a mentor.) He's also up for the Swarovski Award for Accessories Design, which will be announced in June.

FashionEtc sat down with Borgo to talk CFDA, his muses, and his new pre-Fall collection.

Congratulations on the CFDA nom!

Thank you! I'm really excited. I wasn't expecting it.

Who is your Vogue Fashion Fund mentor?

Maureen Chiquet, who is the Global CEO of Chanel. She's really interested in entrepreneurial endeavors. She is very engaging. It's so exciting to be able to bounce ideas off of someone at her level.

How long does the mentorship last?

One year. She set up a visit for me to the Chanel factories—both the fine jewelry and the costume jewelry factories. It's been an incredible experience.

That's got to give you an idea of how to grow your company.

You know how people have preconceived notions of other people in the industry—you see someone's name around and you think they're "successful."

And we're all actually broke …

Yeah, we're all actually broke and can barely get by.

It's sad but true.

We're working out of a 200-square-foot space, there's seven of us—it's so tiny and our capacity is so small and our resources are so limited. To walk into an environment like Chanel and to have someone like Maureen Chiquet there to bounce ideas off of, to sit down and talk to her once a month, it's priceless information. You couldn't ask for anything more. Just to see how it's done at that level is absolutely aspirational.

You got the last page of Vogue this month. That's pretty huge.

And it was a total surprise. We've been so blessed, because there's no formula to what we do.

You're selling your jewelry on Lauren Santo Domingo's site Mode Operandi?

lady gaga

Photo courtesy of Eddie Borgo

A poster for Spring 2011 featuring Giovanna Battaglia

For us it's great because it's a pre-sale, so we get to see what's going to sell. What immediately is attractive to people. And as I go in to sketch the Spring 2012 collection, I can take all that stuff into consideration.

What are the best-sellers on the site?

The cone bracelet, all the cone pieces, the cone bracelet both with and without pavé, the cone stud earrings.

You've been doing the cone bracelet for years.

Yeah, we did it for the first time in Spring '09, and Barneys picked it up. It's kind of become the iconic piece of the collection. And that silhouette keeps getting introduced.

Looking back to where you started and where you are now, is there a point in the last few years where you thought, I made it, this is my moment?

In the most realistic, humble sense, I don’t think you ever really feel that way as a business owner. There's always a new benchmark. Have there been milestones that we've reached? Absolutely. One of the questions we pondered during the Vogue Fashion Fund process was what my definition of success was. And it was such a difficult question to answer.

What was your definition?

It's creating short-term and long-term goals for yourself and achieving them, and never stopping long enough to be boastful about what we've achieved. But to every once in a while—in the most humble way—stop and regroup, and as a team, globally appreciate what we have and all that we've accomplished in the last three years.

And still enjoy what you're doing.

Yeah, which is key but is probably the most difficult facet. You don't always have the time to do that. But we really try. And I can't thank our teams—our press teams, all of our editorial and retail supporters—enough because they make our brand. Without them, the brand doesn't exist.

But you're not in every publication as a choice. You're very selective.

Yes, we try. A lot of times it can go up and down with that strategy. What people tend to overlook with us is the brand is so small. We have very limited sample runs. I have to beg and plead with my business partners to get the samples done that we do have for the press. Those samples, luckily for us, are brought into closets. And it's difficult for us to traffic them to everyone. I can only hope that people realize we do appreciate all the support, but it's relative to our capacity, it's relative to our budgeting of the season.

Are you doing men's jewelry now?

To be completely honest, it's a difficult market.

A lot of men don't wear jewelry. And you don't want to be too niche.

Yes! I feel there's a broad scope of men who do wear jewelry. And you have to create a classic collection, which I feel that we do. The men's collection is evolving. It evolved out of the women's because our female clients were asking for things for their boyfriends, or their boyfriends would steal their rings and wear them on their pinkie fingers, which is really cute. I like that idea of jewelry that can be worn by both men and women. That is what separates the men's line from the women's line. The men's line is extremely androgynous. We sell it as much to women as we do to men. And it's androgynous in a very classic, refined, non-ostentatious way.

Would you ever do watches?

I would love to. I feel like with the men's there are so many things we can do. We could get into small leather goods eventually; belts.

eddie borgo cone bracelet
Photo courtesy of Eddie Borgo
The cone bracelet by Eddie Borgo, available this week at Net-a-Porter

With all the seasons you have to design for, and on top of it you have to do Twitter and Facebook now, do you ever hit a point that this is too much?

When we go up against the calendar, we strip it down. The way we work is: What's realistic? What are our priorities? What do we have resources to accomplish? How can we accomplish this to the best of our ability? And we get it done. If there are things that we cannot do we readily accept that we can't do them and we don't do them.

Because if you're not doing it right, why do it?

We've tried to rush things before and I don't work well in that way. I feel the end result is never what we wanted it to be. We also need to keep the collection humble and the growth process organic.

Do you feel there's pressure on young designers to be a huge success in two years?

Yes, there is a lot of pressure. But we knew a year, two years out exactly what we wanted to accomplish. We're not looking to take over the world of costume jewelry. We're just trying to introduce and reintroduce collections season after season that are impactful and that people enjoy. We're trying to create a quality product that's produced and manufactured in the USA. I feel very proud of what we're pushing out there.

You featured Giovanna Battaglia and Vanessa Traina in your poster campaign. Are there other muses? And who is your menswear muse?

This is so funny. I have a friend Jimmy who is my best friend's first New York boyfriend. He's a guy who's very kind of true to that New York rock and roll sensibility. He's a really interesting guy, he's super smart, multitalented, kind of a jack-of-all-trades and he's kind of a male muse. I'm also obsessed with Mick Jagger's son. He's so fantastic—James Jagger.

These [women in the posters] are the women in fashion we believe in. They're supporters of the brand, they have passion, they're modern women, and that's kind of what the campaigns are about. So it will be interesting to see how that continues to evolve.

Are there other projects coming up?

We did a pre-Fall collection that's about to hit Net-a-Porter, which is really beautiful. We did it exclusively for them, and it's our classic pieces in rose gold. The buyers wanted to do pre-Fall, so we did a couple of pieces for them and then we recolored 15 pieces in rose gold for them. It came out well, it's really great. I think we ship it this week.