Friday, March 16, 2012


If you've been thinking about statement jewelry, and frankly, who hasn't been on the hunt for a necklace that's so big it hangs to your knees, you might seriously consider picking up a few Kazuko pieces. They make a statement, a big statement that says, "SUGOI"! (Trans. "Wow"! We'll get back to that a lil' later).

Just who was Kazuko?
a) A New York nightlife fixture
b) A new age fairy draped in monochromatic robes who's bangles and baubles also possessed healing properties
c) A Fullbright scholar
d) All of the above

Answer: D. Duh.

Born in Tokyo in 1942, Kazuko (One name. Think Madonna.) came to the states in her early 20s. A true Renaissance woman, she studied drama at NYU, made video art and shot photography, as well narrated documentaries on her native Japan. Upon her arrival in New York, she was immediately ensconced in the city's Downtown art scene.

Legend has it that while walking past Barney's one day, she saw Barney's window crew setting up a display that featured a baroque 18th-century-inspired dress courtesy of the Emanuel's (Lady Di's wedding dress designers). Kazuko remarked to the artist-in-charge that she like the display but felt that it lacked, you guessed it, Sugoi! From the folds of her black wrapped Yohji Yamamoto ensemble, she produced a hand-sewn veil onto which she had painstakingly applied crystals. The artist encouraged Kazuko to strike out as a jewelry designer and an accessories career was born.

Kazuko made a name for herself with her bangles and baubles which featured organic shapes and a rough-hewn aesthetic with large semi-precious stones "strung" together that Kazuko called "All-in-one Healing Structures". Her pieces were adored by the members of the Studio 54 set, often donning the necks, wrists and ears of nightlife fixtures such as Gloria Vanderbilt and Bianca Jagger. She also made Madonna's veil for her "Like a Virgin" video.

Wild, wonderful, kooky and creative, Kazuko was known for her persona as much for her fantastic creations. A monochromatic dresser, Kazuko abandoned her all-black looks, claiming that they were giving her "Nun's syndrome". She then switched to all-white hues instead. She believed that her canary Bobi tweeted suggestions on what to wear every morning. She believed she had psychic powers and that by holding her hands in front of someone's stomach, she could release their bad energy. A true innovator that applied her creativity to everything that entered her life, she even viewed that esophageal cancer that eventually claimed her life as an "art project".

She often manned the two counters at Barney's that showcased her wares. She also never stopped acting; you can see her in a bit-part in "Six Degrees of Seperation" and she also understudied for Hervé Villechaise (Tattoo on Fantasy Island) at the renowned avant-garde theatre La Mama. As Hervé's role was a non-speaking part, he often didn't bother to show up for performances, leaving Kazuko to fill his shoes. She performed so often, that allegedly, the cast often joked that she was the hardest working understudy in the business.

Sadly, this visionary passed in 2007 at the age of 65. Personally, I've been obsessed with her creations for years. The word unique is used all too often in fashion, but Kazuko's pieces, which have always looked to me like relics from a future era, are truly unparalled in their singularity. And, while I may not be an authority on the metaphysical, I often hold a Kazuko crystal wrapped in gold wire to my temples and solar plexus when I have a migraine and I swear, the headaches are zapped away. Take that Imitrex.

So, I was thrilled when they online team suggested posting all Kazuko creations for Friday's Steppin' Out selection, I was thrilled. They picked necklaces, charms, earrings and bracelets that not only will bump up your Sugoi factor in a major way, but just may unblock your chi faster than a series at the acupuncturist. Of course, I recognize that that sounds like SoCal speak, but if you wear Kazuko and notice negative aspects of your mysteriously disappearing, you and I'll both know why.

Oh and a little fashion trivia, that window artist at Barney's who pushed Kazuko into becoming a designer? You just may have heard of him. Does the name Simon Doonan sound familiar?

Click here to shop Kazkuo gems now!