Lulu Frost Founder Lisa Salzer on Her New J.Crew Line

LULU FROST "Modern Pioneer" Spring/Summer 2011 Collection

There’s something really special about Lulu Frost, the jewelry line started in 2004 by 28-year-old Lisa Salzer. And we’re not the only ones who think so: The designer, whose pieces are vintage-inspired with a modern edge, has now collaborated with everyone from Urban Outfitters to J.Crew. We spoke to Salzer about her new fine jewelry line, what it’s like working with Jenna Lyons, and her suggestions for finding the best antique pieces.

The High Low: Jewelry is a family business for you. Was it always assumed that you’d go into jewelry design?

Lisa Salzer: My grandmother, Elizabeth Frost, wasn’t in the design business, but for 40 years she was a manager for Park Place Estate Jewelry in Pennsylvania. I grew up visiting her every weekend at the store, and it really made an impression on me. She would give me a piece of Nouveau or deco jewelry for every birthday and holiday and that’s where my love of estate jewelry was born.

THL: Lulu Frost has a distinctly antique-y vibe. Aside from estate jewelry, where do you find inspiration?

LS: What’s amazing to me is the combination of different decades and styles. That’s what makes it feel modern for me. I can reference any time period and any culture — for example, pairing something from the Victorian era against 1950s Bakelite — and that’s what is really exciting, when you get these clashing and contrasting styles. Our current collection, which is about to hit stores, is called Modern Pioneer. We did a mix of vintage Native American jewelry concepts with a classic 1950s costume jewelry aesthetic. The hybrid was something I hadn’t really seen before in costume jewelry.

Long Goldtone Quill Necklace from the Modern Pioneer collection, $395, Lulu Frost.

THL: You’ve collaborated with both designer-level and mass-market retail brands. How did the line with J.Crew come about? What excited you about the opportunity?

LS: It was a very serendipitous kind of thing, and when I had the chance to meet Jenna Lyons I was so excited. I just always loved J.Crew. In an amazing stroke of luck, a mutual friend saw Jenna wearing a Lulu necklace and said, “Oh that’s my friend’s necklace.” That girlfriend brought Jenna to one of my presentations two years ago. We started doing one-of-a-kind pieces for their bridal boutique, and within the first day they had almost sold out. Mickey [Drexler, the CEO of J.Crew] called me on the phone and was like, “We need to get more stuff in!” And my staff and I stayed up all night making more pieces.

It became obvious that it was a great match between brands. We do the same thing — the modernization of something traditional. There is a new six-piece collection coming out this spring that is really beautiful. It has a Bohemian feel with lots of color, long layered necklaces, and stunning earrings.

A bracelet from the current Lulu Frost for J.Crew collection, $105.

THL: What are your go-to sources for antique jewelry?

LS: To buy the bulk of it, I go through private dealers, but I have a couple of wonderful stores in the city that I go to in a pinch. My favorite is called Archangel Antiques. I love the owners — they travel the world to find interesting things. It is a little bit more expensive, but it is the best stuff and just great quality.

There’s a great antiques market called the Antiques Showcase in Chelsea. It’s indoor, three stories, with permanent booths. They have the most incredible Native American dealer there. It’s more expensive again, but worth it.

Whenever I have the time I love to collect — now I have an excuse to kind of be a hoarder! I go every chance I can to events at the Javits Center and to estate sales.

THL: Fine jewelry is an investment — how would you recommend that people start their collection? What are the must-have pieces?

LS: I’ve been asking myself this question also. We’re starting a fine jewelry line right now, Lulu Frost Code, and it’s just launching (look out for a big piece in W Magazine). We’re doing 14 and 18 karat pieces with diamonds — rings, studs, necklaces — pieces that will retain their price and will always be in style.

Earrings are an important thing for any woman. You can wear them all the time and in different ways. A great pair of Deco earrings from our line never goes out of style. I can wear them with jeans and a tee and boots and look instantly more polished. They have this timeless estate feel to them.

THL: How have the Internet and social media changed the way you work? Do you feel like Twitter and Facebook are valuable for connecting with your clients?

LS: We’ve felt the oncoming wave of the e-world for a while. Just last month we launched our e-commerce site. It was a large investment, but it’s already paying off.

I’m really thrilled about it. I think that we are just starting to realize the importance of building up cool and interesting content. But it is a full-time job to make your social media relevant and intriguing, and if I had the time to do it myself I would. I am looking into it, though.

It’s pretty cool that we can make a one-of-a-kind piece and take a photo of it and upload it, and immediately someone across the world can see it and comment on it. It’s really exciting.