Haley interviews Duchess of Malfi’s Heidi Lavold
by haley sherif
It’s all about skulls this summer! Whether downtown with an edge or in diamonds for some uptown glamour, skulls are the hot ticket item of the moment. Duchess of Malfi designer Heidi Lavold’s collection of charm and skull pieces is a definite summer must have. Her collection is sold at all Blue & Cream locations and can be purchased online. With fun and hilarious pieces, the extensive Duchess collection which includes charms, skull, coral, and more is a collection which will continue to mark its spot on the fashion scene. Heidi Lavold dishes on the name of her collection, her favorite pieces, and how Bridesmaids inspired one particular popular bracelet.
HS: Describe your style.
HL: I’m not a dress girl. I definitely love shoes and accessories more than clothes. So, I wear a lot of black..and mostly jeans and heels. You’ll never see me in flats at night. I’m known for my shoes…and jewelry.
HS: What’s one accessory you can’t live without?
HL: I love my vintage Rolex I bought years ago which I layer up with Duchess bracelets. I normally wear one Duchess skull wrap, one modern charm chain (which is a ball chain bracelet with charms) and a big chunky quartz bracelet with skulls…of course.
HS: How did you get into the designing business?
HL: I used to manage rock bands and when I was on tour I’d collect old antique charms and watch fob tassels and make them into “Gin and Tonic” charm chains. I also created bracelets out of the pieces. I’d wear them out at night and people would ask where I got them and I started making custom orders.
HS: Did you always know that this was what you wanted to do?
HL: No, never! I wasn’t really into wearing much jewelry and just a few basic pieces. Now I layer up so many Duchess pieces that my sister has to edit it down.
HS: Where did the name of your collection, Duchess of Malfi, come from?
HL: My mom thought of the name. It’s a tragic play, in the same genre of “Romeo and Juliet” written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612-1613. My sister came up with the crest and motto “The Eternal Feminine Leads
Us Upwards.” The crest if very traditional and English in style and the name we think quite regal. It’s so hard to think of a brand name that hasn’t been done or is contrived and/or cheesy.
My sister also thought of the packaging which is recycled tea tins from France and England which we then put the piece of jewelry in the actual teabag, with the Duchess tag and package it as though you are receiving a tin of tea. The feedback is extraordinary!!! People love getting the little tins with the Duchess of Malfi jewelry inside!!!
HS: Did you ever think your brand would become as popular as it has?
HL: It has grown so organically and through word of mouth. I’m pleasantly surprised. Every time I go to a party or out with my girlfriends someone will come up to me and say oh you design the Duchess jewelry which is really amazing! Blue and Cream has been great carrying it in all their stores in New York, the Hamptons as well as online. They have been really supportive and gave me the confidence to really get it out there in a retail environment.
HS: Who is Duchess great for?
HL: Duchess is great for the hipster that wants a skull and for the Vogue fashionista that wants a skull with the addition of beautiful quartz sourced from Europe which gives it an elegant twist. The hip mom who wants to stay downtown chic even though she lives uptown. I surprisingly sell almost more guy pieces than girls. The abalone sharkteeth which are hand carved on a ball chain with a skull are one of the top sellers in summer as well as the men’s bracelets. The girls also love wearing the sharktooth as it’s so summery and beachy. I even did little girls’ bracelets this summer so when hip mom’s are shopping at Blue and Cream, there is something for their daughters to buy. They are one of kind with quartz and really pretty, sparkly stones.
If I’m out and people notice my jewelry, just as often, a guy is trying to convince me to give them my bracelet as a girl.
HS: What’s your favorite piece in the collection?
For summer, I love the red coral, the wrap bracelet with skulls, in the Hamptons they sell a lot of the FuckBuddy wrap bracelets in ode to the Jon Hamm line in “Bridesmaids” as well as the “Summer Fling”
aspect of hook up’s. LOL! Girls buy them for their boyfriends and vice versa. Guys buy them for their crush!
I also love the charm necklaces, like the unicorn with tassel, because you can throw it on with any outfit and it is a conversation piece. The long chain is so elegant and you can dress it up or down. I can’t leave the house, day or night now without a Duchess piece dangling…I feel naked or under dressed at least without it! I call them “Gin and Tonic charm chains” as I began this whole adventure with antique charms bought in England.
I make custom charm chains for clients depending on their interests. Everything from antique tennis racket charms to hedgehogs and all sorts of equestrian motifs. It is such a unique gift because it reflects the person so individually and their personality that you can’t really beat it for the person who has everything….or you just can’t bear to give another scented candle as a gift!!! I even made a men’s chain with an antique boat with an articulated motor for a client in Maine. For Blue and Cream, I make antique tennis rackets with skull chains as it’s their crest and on their clothing line.
For fall, I love the smokey quartz pieces. Big, chunky quartz. I’m also using snow quartz to look like snow and ice. I also love the new serrated sharktooth which will continue for fall.
HS: Any future fun projects in the works?
HL: I am doing a limited edition collection for the surf line “Harvest” which is great because it will be on the West Coast; in California and Hawaii. I am taking the skull and synergizing it with shells and materials from the ocean which are sustainable or recycled. For example, old shells found on the beach.
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