Kenneth Jay Lane, who designed costume jewelry for basically every stylish jet-set woman who ever lived, has died at 85.
Women’s Wear Daily reported the news, and noted that he designed for such a wide variety of women as “Audrey Hepburn, Diana Vreeland, Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Diana and Nancy Reagan”—truly a magnificent cross-section of the 20th century. Also: Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill, Barbara Bush, Brooke Astor, Princess Margaret, Babe Paley, and Gloria Guinness. He got his start in the early ‘60s: “A whole new group of Beautiful People began to exist,” he once explained. “They started dressing up, and costume jewelry was rather dull. I believed that it didn’t have to be.”
Lane changed the landscape of costume jewelry, adding souped-up color, drama, luxury and a wide variety of ethnic motifs, and making it exclusive. Many of his customers combined his pieces with their “real” jewels…and it was often impossible to tell the difference. As he once put it, “Our jewelry is designed for people who want to be noticed.”
It is particularly unsurprising, then, that he was friends and worked with the larger-than-life Vreeland. Just last month, speaking to WWD, he recalled working with her on early Costume Institute exhibits: “She got these mannequins from Austria, I think, from a company called Schleppe. They were very streamlined, and she would say, ‘I need more Schleppies.’ She was a hoot.” To have been a fly on the wall!