Mother and Daughter Team Franci and Sophie Sagar: behind the new jewelry at MAD
Franci Sagar is layered in various tactile gold and silver cuffs and bangles on her wrist including one of Istanbul’s premier jewelers Serhat whose 24K diamond ring she also wears. Dangling from her neck is a ultra long charm necklace of combined shapes and cuts of stones from different designers and a simple pair of single drop white topaz Stephanie Albertson earrings
Her daughter Sophie Sagar is wearing three rings that look like they are part of her daily wardrobe and have become part of her persona. Around her neck, she is wearing a gold wire choker with large stone drop. They both look chic, contemporary and like poster women for the philosophy of the opening of the new fine jewelry section at The Store at MAD (Museum of Arts & Design) in New York City—which they refer to as “Redefining Fine Jewelry”.
Franci and Sophie are the mother-daughter team and visionary force behind the global collection of jewelry which merges “art, craft and design” and which Franci, vice president of retail and brand development at MAD further describes as “jewelry which is responsive to our changing lifestyles. In today’s world we are constantly seeking ways to express ourselves as unique individuals. The jewelry choices we make are led by the desire to highlight our nuanced individuality rather than conform to the idea of traditional ‘fine’ jewelry.”
Although international independent designers have been blurring the lines and changing the rules of what is considered precious for some time, the idea of a highly curated and high ticket collection which features 18K to 24K gold with diamonds and natural gemstones is unique to a museum shop, which traditionally features costume pieces or those that are tied to various exhibits. “We are in a unique position to champion these designers due to MAD’s permanent collection of jewelry and the museum’s dedication to connecting with the artist.” Says Sophie, consultant on special projects for MAD.
The jewelers that Franci and Sophie have chosen all have singular aesthetics and distinctive ways in which they choose to work with the raw materials. Says Sophie, “It’s not about being a name brand, but rather the transformation of metal and gemstones and the diverse lives these materials take on in different jeweler’s hands.”
In a sea of trends and designers who messages and mediums cross-over at even the most inspiring of jewelry stores, Franci’s uncanny eye for what will play off each other meld together into a cohesive department which allows women to connect with the artist and zero in on the pieces that adapt best to their own personalities.
It’s not surprising, after learning that Franci’s background includes owning the Soho ‘concept’ shop Zona with her former husband, which they opened in the ‘80s before Soho’s retail boom that Franci possesses the ability to create a lifestyle approach to retailing. Zona’s cult following produced lines around the block to get in on any given Saturday or Sunday not unlike the hot Manhattan clubs in the early ‘80s. It expanded to include freestanding boutiques in the Hamptons and other destination spots in the U.S. as well as Italy.
“My mother always seemed to sense what people wanted and also would have the foresight to see lifestyle changes before they happened,” says Sophie who accompanied her mother on buying trips from when she was an infant through her college years and also worked with her at Zona.
Franci’s love for jewelry was awakened approximately 30 years ago when she traveled to Istanbul and saw the beauty and craftsmanship of the way in which fine jewelers worked in high karat gold. “It spoke to me and from there I started buying jewelry for myself and Zona.”
“For MAD we asked ourselves who is the modern women how does she wear jewelry? We feel it can’t be that precious. The customer of today wants to make their pieces part of their personal style and they don’t want to keep their jewelry locked up for special occasions; they want to wear everyday.” Explains Franci. “We also realized how much jewelry with a historical context inspires designers and how those designers then translate that to the person who purchases a piece or pieces. The wearer then imbues the jewelry with what it means to to them—keeping the history and the stories alive.”
The mix of jewelers chosen for this season and the theme “Redefining Fine” include those that have only done private work before such as Istanbul’s Serhat Geridonmez and Lilly Fitzgerald. There are also the limited edition pieces of Joan Horning mixed in with more recognizable artisan names like Lika Behar, Amali Fine Jewelry, Stella Flame , Marian Maurer, Stephanie Albertson and a range of emerging talents.
When talking about her own style in jewelry Franci says, “I purchased my very first piece 30 years ago and it was one of Lilly Fitzgerald’s. She sources the most sumptuous gems from around the world and revives vintage materials and rare artifacts from prior lives to create awe-inspiring combination of past and present, set into 22K gold. I am so excited that this is the first time she will be showing to the public.”
I’ve also been wearing Serhat Geridonmez, another private jeweler who I found in Istanbul. I was so taken by his 24K collectible pieces that blend his heritage with modern techniques he develops.”
Franci and Sophie are both vibrant and full of life and joy for the jewelry I can’t help but see if I can tie them into the recent Mother’s Day vignettes I have been publishing and I ask about the first piece of jewelry Sophie ever purchased for Franci.
“My mom’s go-to earrings have always been Stephanie Albertson white topaz single drops and when I was younger, I thought it would be so wonderful if she had them in another gemstone. Sophie explains, “I picked out blue topaz and almost had to use 50% of my savings to buy them for her. I took it out in cash and began feeling a little queasy but I knew she would love them. And, luckily I had an ‘in’ with the designer or else I wouldn’t have been able to afford them at all.”
“When Sophie gave them to me I immediately told her she had to return them.” Says Franci. But she would not hear of it and I knew it was a true gift from her heart and what it meant to her to give them to me. Every time I wear them I think of how close we are and how jewelry is truly connected to loved one and memories.”
“All three of the rings I am wearing my mother gave me as gifts for different occasions or just because she was on a trip and found a piece she thought I would love. “I received this ring when I was14,” she points to a ring which Franci found for her in Italy by Massimo Maria Melis who collects ancient Greek coins and then uses the impressions in different pieces of jewelry. Sophie continues, “But I never knew what the saying meant until I was in philosophy class in high school and learned that it meant ‘beautiful soul’. I haven’t stopped wearing it since. I also received this Hilat coral Byzantine ring and this Serhat eternity knot pave diamond ring from my mom.”
While Sophie is showing me her treasures, the event photographer wants to snap a photo of the duo and Franci asks, “Have you eaten anything yet, you are working so hard.” And then she laughs, “I am such a Jewish mother.”
She’s also a mother with taste and a dose of advice to other mother’s with daughters.
“Teach them to buy well and buy quality. It should be something they love and it should feel like it will last. If you can teach your daughters to think like that at 16, then, they will still be wearing those pieces at 27, and that definitely goes for jewelry.”
Franci surveys the store that is buzzing with customers trying on jewelry and continues, “You don’t have to purchase the most expensive. Oxidized silver mixed with gold is such a beautiful combination and it is more accessibly priced. You should always buy pieces that relate to who you are and not what the trend of the moment is.”
Sophie adds, Right now everyone is talking about statement jewelry but if you really think about, this doesn’t have to mean big and bold—what we personally say with our jewelry is the statement!”
To find out more about all of the designers in The Store at MAD please check out the website