Laura Ciccarello has spent all of her life immersed in art and fashion. Growing up in Virginia with her brother and parents, her creativity was strongly encouraged. As a child she drew and painted constantly, and her family would often sit and draw together. Her obsession with gemstones was also fueled by her upbringing. Some of her favorite earliest memories are of digging through her mother’s jewelry box and wearing the jewelry – and not just for dress-up. “My mother said I could wear whatever I wanted,” she recalls, “and she had a collection of fine jewelry. So when I was in kindergarten, I wore chunky sparkly necklaces to school. I probably looked like a nut job, but I was happy.” She grew up to sell her oil paintings as a young teenager, win an international design competition by The Sak Company, complete pre-college at Pratt and college at FIT, design for multiple brands including Fernando Sanchez, provide fashion consulting services to major retailers, and found the company Red Lipstick Inc., under which she launched her eponymous brand Laura Ciccarello. Her creative origins continue to inspire the “glamorous yet organic” aesthetic of Laura Ciccarello Collection.
Laura Ciccarello Collection started with scarves, then extended to handbags. The product category Laura is most excited about right now is jewelry, which launched at the Accessories Circuit trade show just this fall. Every piece in her Metal Lace and Gemstone Jewelry collections is made of silver or gold, with the latter bearing evidence of her childhood gem fascination. She sees her jewelry as a bridge between costume and fine jewelry, two of her favorite things. Each piece is handmade in Manhattan’s Diamond District. Manufacturing close to home is challenging because the production landscape is dominated by ready-to-wear and it can be hard to find people who identify more with stones than cloth. “It would be cheaper to make the jewelry somewhere else,” Laura says, “but I like to do things the better way. New York is higher quality. Overseas uses ‘flash’ plating that wears off in two months and we use ‘heavy plating.’”.
Laura’s design process is serendipitous but clearly effective. “The process of creating a collection starts with me going out all the time and getting a lot of random ideas from what I see. The idea starts out with a sketch, and then I do more sketches, maybe change a few things, before doing the painting. Then I infuse photos I take with Photoshop and start to digitally print the fabric.” This process caters to our ever more technology-focused world with fabulous and luxurious results. With names like Queen of Everything and Diamonds Are More Than My Best Friends, the five scarf collections are full of motif surprises. These include Marilyn Monroe, Karl Lagerfeld, and even handcuffs, which have a subliminal feel when infused over her colorful abstract paintings.
“My perfect situation would be designing all day and making thousands of SKUs,” Laura says, “but that’s not the reality.” As a business owner, Laura spends much of her time on manufacturing and logistics in addition to design. When designing a collection, she chooses the best thirty or forty ideas to produce. The scarves and bags are manufactured in India and China, but Laura is seeing an industry shift to South American manufacturing, thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a growing workforce that is becoming more educated in patternmaking and manufacturing. Fashion has a reputation as one of the world’s fastest-moving industries, where everyone discusses Fall when it’s spring outside and work on a collection must begin a full year in advance. This is not an issue for Laura. “I am hyper-decisive,” she says, “so I take less time than average to complete a collection. I always like to be ahead of the curve, so I exceed my deadlines.”
In a volatile industry where a large number of brands are selling similar products to similar markets, Laura Ciccarello Collection stands out. “Individuality is the biggest trend that no one’s talking about. The woman wearing my clothes values individuality above all else. She wants something bold, something beautiful, not just trendy,” Laura says. “It’s about standing out, doing something different, and having a quality product. This matters more than artificial marketing and grey-area-press. Press and marketing are making major changes right now. The reality few are talking about is you don’t sell from publications anymore, you sell to people.”
Laura herself wearing the Kryptonite scarf
Laura Ciccarello Collection has received attention from many high-profile sources, like Neiman Marcus and Miss Universe. Laura tells me that her PR success comes from networking. “I like to go out, go to events, go to parties, and I meet so many people,” she says. “You need to be out and present. I have seen people pass up big opportunities because they stayed at home all the time. Home is a very comfortable place, but as a designer you’ve got to put yourself out there.” But she is quick to note that networking comes with a caveat. “My favorite show is VH1’s Behind the Music,” she tells me. “I don’t go crazy like the celebrities in Behind the Music. I have fun but I keep my priorities straight. I always want to be 100 percent on point. If I were swinging from a chandelier, I would be sending a business email from my phone with the other hand.” That might be the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Laura Ciccarello Collection has a website and a presence on Facebook and Instagram, but Laura’s ambitions for the brand center around wholesale. As someone with extensive experience designing for department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and The Home Shopping Network, pitching her own brand to high-end retail is a natural progression. She is excited about expanding into a new product category and “going outside my design comfort zone.” Can’t wait to see the results!