AS A BUDDING JEWELRY DESIGNER, CHRISTINA CARUSO STRUCK GOLD WHEN HER DESIGNS WERE FEATURED ON HBO’S SEX AND THE CITY. TODAY, AFTER YEARS OF HARD WORK UNDER THE TUTELAGE OF BIG FASHION NAMES, SHE’S RELAUNCHING HER NAMESAKE BRAND, AND THIS TIME AROUND SHE’S PROVING SECOND TIME’S A CHARM
BY ELIZABETH HAZARD • PHOTOS BY ERIC COLEMAN
The year is 2000. Sex and the City has become a cultural phenomenon, making Carrie Bradshaw and the character’s eccentric taste the epitome of style. Patricia Field, the show’s acclaimed costume designer, became almost as famous as the lead characters themselves. It became every designer’s dream to have their work seen on an episode of the hot new show that was breaking down barriers faster than a New York minute. So, just imagine being an ambitious young student at Parsons School of Design when Field discovers your work and asks to feature it on Sex and the City’s very own Sarah Jessica Parker?
Christina Caruso didn’t have to imagine. Her work was about to be featured on TV’s hottest show. Looking for new high/low designers to feature on the show, Field discovered the burgeoning designer and liked her work. Soon, Caruso was seeing her own made-from-hand jewelry and accessories on the television screen as Carrie Bradshaw stylishly sauntered her way through the streets of NYC and a storied dating life. Caruso knew immediately that this would change her life. “Fashion became a fifth character on the show,” she said. “To have Patricia Field discover your work, I knew that my life was changing then and there.”
Just 20 years old and still making her jewelry and accessories by hand at home, Caruso knew she had to seize the opportunity. Right away, she put a collection together to present to Henri Bendel, then the jewelry and accessories mecca of the Big Apple. They bought the collection immediately. While she was enjoying success other design students dream about, Caruso recognized that everything was happening fast – almost too fast. “I was making everything by hand, things I found and put together,” she said. “I hand-crocheted bags that were of the time. I was still learning how to run a business. I knew I had to make this a brand, but I also knew I had to go and learn more about the business and gain more experience. I couldn’t yet compete with other established brands.”
Caruso decided she wanted to work for other established designers before she became a brand herself. She landed a job with powerhouse designer Isaac Mizrahi, where she said she found herself in a fun environment with an “anything goes” mentality. Here she worked on the designer’s runway collections and his collaboration at the time with Liz Claiborne. From there, Caruso brought her skills to Banana Republic, where she immersed herself in learning a new market. She proudly reflects on her contribution to the brand’s bib necklace, famously worn by the late Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Known fondly as the “dissent necklace,” it was initially gifted to the late justice in a swag bag from Glamour’s “Woman of the Year” event in 2012. When Katie Couric famously asked Ginsburg why she chose it as her dissent collar, she said “it looks fitting for dissents.”
From Sarah Jessica Parker to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, no shortage of prominent names have donned Caruso’s designs. After years of learning the business side of the fashion industry, the now-seasoned designer decided in 2020 that it was time to relaunch her namesake brand. This time around she had both the right amount of knowledge and experience. She also knew that she had a great partner in her business-savvy husband, noting, “I knew that in going back to having my own brand, I wanted to have someone with the business acumen to handle that side of things. Luckily my husband was just that person.”
Launching during the height of the pandemic, Caruso started with a collection of ten pieces presented virtually during New York Fashion Week. This time around the designer said that with years of experience under her belt, she now knows what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. She focused on starting with 8-10 pieces, all signature pieces that she considers art, not jewelry. She works one on one with local artisans to create designer pieces that are crafted from sustainable materials, like recycled brass and gold. Even the packaging is reusable. “We make the investment,” she said. “Love and intention go into every piece of Christina Caruso jewelry.”
Intentional and invested in each piece, Caruso is also committed to making a personal connection with her customers. Having moved to Rumson during the pandemic, she said she’s made genuine connections within the community and has hosted several successful trunk shows locally. “I’d love to expand on that kind of connection between designer and customer, explaining how and why we designed certain pieces; having that one-on-one interaction is why I love what I do,” she said. Caruso is excited to continue the momentum and is focused on partnering with the right stores and brands organically over time.
When asked who inspires her as a designer, Caruso noted that as a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, she’s constantly kindled by jewelry from those decades. Noting fashion icons like Halston, St. John, and classic American brands, she said her mother has also been someone whose style she looks up to. “She’d always pick us up from school looking glamorous, with jewelry on no matter what kind of day it was,” she added.
In creating her most recent collection, the designer explained she finds inspiration in almost anything: a color, surrounding nature, even a doorknob. “I like to find a balance: modern with organic, architecture with clean lines. Keeping the plating the same color and shine is important. Everything ties together nicely in the collection.”
Christina Caruso christinacaruso.com