The fringe, an expression of freedom and fluidity, sensuality and body-conscious movement, has moved to centre stage this season. In a moment of style synchronicity, it is holding sway both on the catwalk – from glistening boho-luxe edges on necklines, hems and sleeves at Burberry to headpieces at Gucci and glamorous, chain-fringed tunics at Molly Goddard – and in jewellery, where it radiates an exciting new energy.
I remember being seduced some years ago by a fringed pinky-ring worn by Solange Azagury-Partridge. Little strands of gold chain covered its flat top and spilled over the side, slithering over her knuckle as she gesticulated. The designer, whose family are from Morocco, was inspired by rich, exotic, fringed carpets, but also by the image of a “long-haired rocker – chains swinging like hair”, she says. “I love the boho look, but I also think jewellery should be tactile, and fringes are comforting – like worry beads.” Her Fringe rings and bracelet (all POA) – gold chains tipped with bezel-set diamonds – are bestsellers, and the latest iterations have different proportions, incorporating more diamonds or multicoloured sapphires.
The London-based jewellery designer Jessica McCormack also uses fringes to modernise and energise her vintage-inspired diamond pieces, adding a provocative edge – quite literally in the case of her arc-shaped ear-climbers that dangle diamond strands and emerald drops, and a gold bangle whose lush, irregular diamond fringe falls over the back of the hand (all POA). In her Trip The Light Fantastic collection, architectural art-deco style translates into fountain-like fringes on short or long earrings and “party jackets” slotted over a classic single-diamond ring or ear stud (from £5,000).
The fringe is perhaps at its most dramatic when it dances at the ears – a fresh take on the traditional drop earring that creates a lively new silhouette against the face or neck. For Greek designer-jeweller Nikos Koulis, it is an expression of “innate Greek energy, the drive to pursue joy in life – a whimsical element to add dynamic flair”, but it also reflects his love of art deco. “I believe in movement and fluidity,” he says. “Fringe earrings are about small but critical details: how the diamonds are set, how to master the behaviour of gold so that it flows.” Koulis reinvents the classic hoop in his Oui collection, adding a fringe that tapers like an arrowhead; and in Energy, where a fringe of baguettes or round diamonds shimmer inside and beneath a diamond circle (€35,000). Earrings in his new Feelings collection contrast colour, sheen and texture, as thick, gold snake-chain is twisted into sumptuous nautical knots with diamond fringes tumbling through them (from €16,700).
Tatiana Verstraeten, who designed costume jewellery and head ornaments for Chanel before turning her hand to high jewellery, infuses her creations with fashion and fantasy. The theatrically long and lustrous fringed earrings in her 1920s-influenced Diamonds Rain, Pearl Pearl Rain, Shooting Stars and Tzigane collections are the Paris-based designer’s standout pieces: silky fringes falling from behind the ear onto the shoulders; diamond-scattered chains glistening like rain or fizzing with shooting stars; or sensuous cascades of gold and pearls.
At Amrapali, the fringe is an edgy evolution of the quintessentially Indian tassel motif. The brand’s fringed earrings are updated by incorporating coloured stones from opals to sapphires and rubies – such as its domed, diamond-topped drop earrings fringed with strands of cabochon sapphires bezel-set in yellow gold.
Tumbling light and colour evoke sunlit sea foam in Van Cleef & Arpels’ new fringed Brume de Saphirs earrings, where supple threads of bezel-set diamonds – with blue or pink sapphires, shaded light to dark – ripple straight down from the ear. The series was inspired by the brand’s 1978 Palmyre collection, giving the sashaying fringes something of a disco vibe. Exaggeratedly long fringes are also the standout feature of the latest Tasaki high jewellery collection by creative director Prabal Gurung, launched during Paris Couture in July. The Waterfall earrings are composed of torrents of diamond strands pouring from a large, diamond-strand-wrapped, white South Sea pearl.
While these fringed earrings look arrestingly contemporary, there’s an underlying classicism to the season’s necklaces. The fringe collar, with flexible elements radiating out around the neck and over the collarbone, is rooted in antiquity; it was revived in the late 19th century and endlessly interpreted through the 20th century. Today it’s staging a confident comeback, flavoured with vintage elegance – as in Chaumet’s majestic, feminine Soir de Fête necklace, which frames an intricate floral, openwork diamond collar, inspired by a historic Chaumet fuchsia tiara, with drops of white and yellow diamonds or rubies.
The fringe is implanted in Chanel’s jewellery DNA through its founder’s iconic 1932 diamond collection. It makes a star appearance in this year’s Le Paris Russe de Chanel collection, exploring Gabrielle Chanel’s infatuation with Russian splendour and the influx of cultured émigrés to Paris after the revolution. The Blé Gabrielle necklace and earrings (all POA) make a rich and clever reference both to 1920s Paris and to the traditional Russian kokoshnik head ornament that evolved into the European fringed tiara (which converted into a necklace). The wheat-ear motif at the centre of the design – one of Mlle’s lucky symbols, associated with the sun – adds another layer of meaning to the intricate golden strands of the fringe, which tapers into the kokoshnik ogive shape.
Golden fringes have long been elements in Carolina Bucci’s signature Woven collection, but the fringe itself is the main event of her newest necklace – a woven band encircled with slinky, shimmery gold threads in white, yellow or rose gold, or all three. “Necklaces like woven scarves are my favourite things,” she says. “This one feels like silk, and it’s sparkly and but also appropriate for everyday wear.” Bucci wears hers layered with other necklaces: a heavy chain and pendant or colourful hard-stone beads: “I wanted it to be a statement jewel but also a base, like a uniform.”
De Beers’ Portraits of Nature collection, launched during couture, links diamonds and their origins to the animals of Africa, and the highlight of the Chapman’s Zebra series is a fringed collar where articulated diamond rays tipped in grey mother-of-pearl capture the graphic beauty of the zebra and its habitat. In similar territory, inspired by the rays of the desert sun, Messika’s Sun Tribe necklace features gold sunbeams threaded on a corded chain and scattered with occasional diamonds. “I immediately imagined the fringes in yellow gold, and for once I didn’t completely cover them in diamonds,” says Valérie Messika. Deceptively simple, the extreme fluidity of the necklace demanded great skill and some 500 hours of work. “I always think of movement,” she adds. “I wanted the lines to be in motion and fit perfectly on every woman – like a second skin.” Intensifying the tribal mood, Messika’s fiercely dramatic Black Hawk collar in rose gold and diamonds (POA) is fringed with elongated, pointed oval elements carved from ziricote, an exotic Central American wood whose lightness and individual graining enabled the designer to add volume, tone and texture to the piece.
Tribal elements meet art deco sophistication in the striking Grosgrain necklace from Boucheron’s new high-jewellery collection, Paris, vu du 26. Fringed around the neck, creating an immaculate circle of bar-shaped elements of onyx, malachite and diamonds, the linear design and strong colour contrast show the art deco influence, while the form and choice of material – particularly the malachite – allude to African or colonial art in the 1920s and ’30s.
Yet, says creative director Claire Choisne, the piece also pays tribute to Frédéric Boucheron’s upbringing as a draper’s son, surrounded by ribbons and fabrics, which infuses the necklace with a couture spirit. Which brings things full circle to the fusion of jewellery and fashion that has generated the current fringe festival. It has resulted in designs with dynamic fluidity, femininity and sensuality, classical elegance and a sophisticated twist on tribal styling. Fringe benefits indeed.