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Jewelry designer Jacquie Aiche creates sexy vibe with 'lingerie' looks

Jacquie Aiche's lingerie-like jewelry a favorite with Rihanna, Victoria's Secret models
L.A. designer Jacquie Aiche specializes in 'jewelry as lingerie'
Layered is the look in jewelry right now, with L.A. designer Jacquie Aiche out in front

Four-stone knuckle rings that sparkle across four fingers; body chains and finger bracelets studded with diamond bezels; ruby teardrop ear cuffs, pyramid-shaped ear jackets and pave ear bands — the more the merrier.

Layered is the look in jewelry right now thanks in no small part to L.A. designer Jacquie Aiche, who has brought a new, free spirit to the world of fine jewelry.

"There's more creativity than ever to where women are adorning themselves and how much jewelry they are wearing," Aiche, 38, says of the trend during a recent visit to the Beverly Hills bungalow that is her showroom, where feather headdresses, petrified wood sculptures and a Stevie Nicks soundtrack cast a boho spell. "There are no rules about day and night. And no rules about buying. Women are buying for themselves all the time."

Drawing inspiration from ancient cultures and symbols and goddess imagery, Aiche's work mixes traditional gold and gemstones with one-of-a-kind crystals, fossils and bones for a vibe that brings to mind tribal body art. The collection ranges from $250 for a vermeil finger bracelet to $40,000 for a squash blossom necklace. She sources materials from all over the world, including butterfly-shaped tourmalines carved in Brazil, bone carved in Hawaii and shark teeth found on ocean bottoms. But all of the jewelry is designed and hand-made in Los Angeles.

No one has done more for the look — or Aiche — than Rihanna, who set the blogosphere on fire in 2011 when she was photographed in Barbados wearing one of the jewelry designer's body chains over her bikini top and who often posts photos of herself wearing Aiche's rings and finger bracelets.

"It's jewelry as lingerie," Aiche says.

So it's no wonder that the designer's lingerie-like jewelry is a favorite with Victoria's Secret models too. Alessandra Ambrosio and Candice Swanepoel wear her horn-shaped pendant necklaces, geode rings and amulets blessed by a spiritual mystic as part of their sexy off-duty look.

"All the models I work with, when they come to town, Jacquie's is the first place they want to go," says L.A.-based stylist Jen Mazur. "It's one of the few places they drop serious money. She makes so many teeny, tiny invisible pieces. You keep layering them to create an outfit of your own. Before Jacquie, body chains were such a cheesy thought, but she's made them cool."

"When a woman has a beautiful bra on, she knows it," Aiche says. "It's the same with my body chains.... They give you a certain confidence and sexiness."

The sentiment translates into the boho Cali beach girl imagery Aiche uses for her brand. Look books and ad campaigns feature topless models on the beach, long hair covering their breasts, with layers of body chains and pendants nestled in the cleavage.

Born to an Egyptian father and a Native American mother, Aiche (pronounced aye-eesh) grew up in the Hollywood Hills behind the Chateau Marmont. "We couldn't roller skate up in the hills, so as a kid, I was always digging in the dirt and finding fool's gold and pet rocks," she remembers. "I used to walk up and down the street trying to sell them to neighbors." She was also the kind of kid who skipped her classes at the Lycee Francais in West L.A. to take art and jewelry making courses at UCLA Extension.

Instead of going to college, Aiche started working as a saleswoman at the Dimani fashion boutique at Sunset Plaza, eventually running the store. "There was a missing gap with jewelry," she says of those years in the early 2000s. "Everything was either Tiffany & Co. fine jewelry, or plated."

So Aiche started making her own, wire-wrapping gem stones and druzy crystals to create unusual pieces that quickly attracted the attention of her celebrity clientele. In 2007, she left retail to focus on her collection, which she started designing in her garage. The same year, her husband Ygal also started his own business, a string of cool local sneaker stores called Kicks Sole Provider. The first pieces Aiche ever cast were to commemorate their wedding anniversary: matching gold brick pendants, one reading "yours," the other "mine."

Aiche's first retail accounts were Madison, Traffic and Curve in L.A., and now she sells to stores worldwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Shopbop.com, which stocks Aiche's fine jewelry as well as her lower-priced JA line. "Jacquie isn't only on-trend, she's a trend leader," says Stephanie Nelson, accessories buyer for Shopbop.com.

In addition to the body chain, another greatest hit has been the finger bracelet, which is a bracelet connected to a ring by a tiny chain that drapes across the top of the hand. The client who made it go viral? Rihanna again. The pop star is a regular at Aiche's showroom, stopping by as recently as April 20, and when she posts photos of herself online wearing the jewelry, Aiche can see the results translate into sales at her JacquieAiche.com store. "It's instant," the designer says.

Aiche has become hip to the power of social media to sell even the most expensive jewelry. Her Instagram account has just shy of 100,000 followers. She posts photos of new pieces with the hashtag #JATribe. And fans post photos modeling their latest purchases. "We've had $15,000 sales off of a Facebook post," she says. "Not often, but it does happen."

Recently, Aiche has begun expanding her peace-and-love vision from jewelry to accessories and apparel, creating exotic leather bags and jackets with eye of Horus, pyramid and marijuana leaf motifs that are available at Roseark and through her showroom. She's even selling metallic gold temporary tattoos designed to look like all her bestselling jewelry styles.

Clearly, Aiche has her eye on creating a lifestyle brand.

"We started out doing a lot of it just for fun," she says. "We were going to Paris to sell the collection, and I wanted all my girls to have leather jackets like a girl gang, a positive girl gang. People were stopping us everywhere asking about them."

"We made some lighters for fun, and I started thinking about how we could do beach towels and lamps and furniture," she says. "When I walk around the office and everything is running smoothly, I know it's time to kick things up a notch."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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