Launch party marks another milestone for '04's jewelry line

by Leslie Adkins | 11/8/06 6:00am

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Lisa Salzer '04 started her jewelry line Lulu Frost during her senior year.
by Courtesy of Lulu Frost / The Dartmouth

The Lulu Frost line, started by Salzer during her senior year at Dartmouth, includes a variety of jewelry, belts and other accessories that feature antique accents and architectural fixtures.

When The Dartmouth last spoke to Salzer, a wide range of stores in the United States had picked up her jewelry. Two years later, her line has become increasingly popular, being featured in the pages of Elle, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, The New York Times and Italian Glamour among others. Her unique implementation of antiques into classic jewelry pieces also earned Salzer the Best New Accessories Designer award at the Gen Art's annual Styles Competition in 2005.

"It was an international competition, so competing against over 800 designers and winning was such an honor for me," Salzer said.

Adding to Lulu Frost's accomplishments, the line has recently expanded into England as well as Jakarta, Hong Kong, Japan, China and other parts of the East thanks to a new Japanese sales buyer. Between 50 and 60 stores in the East now carry the line, including the well-known department store Takashimaya, Japan's equivalent to America's Bergdorf Goodman. In addition, Salzer's new men's line, Johnny Frost, will also soon kick off overseas, featuring accessories such as pocket watch chains, belts and bracelets.

The young designer stated that her mission in creating the Lulu Frost line was to get across a unique design aesthetic, but also to make the line accessible to many different people by showcasing the beauty of antiques in a very modern way. Using Victorian brass buttons as centerpieces for necklaces, and iron shoe buckles and antique compasses as funky new takes on the popular dangling earring, Salzer has expertly blended classic time periods with the mode of modernity.

While at Dartmouth, Salzer began selling her products to her friends and Dartmouth professors, who increased the demand for her creations. She found an eager market in Upper Valley stores -- including Juliana's Boutique -- and quickly found a home for her creations among the high-end, high-quality wares of Barney's New York. In addition to the number of small New York boutiques that carry the Lulu Frost line, Saks Fifth Avenue and Anthropologie also sell Salzer's distinctive designs.

Salzer (known by her family as Lulu) found her love for jewelry and the foundations of her business in the work of her grandmother, Elizabeth Frost, who owned an estate and antique jewelry store in New Jersey. Weekends spent in this shop no doubt honed Salzer's knowledge and love of antiques, watching period pieces gain renewed vibrancy in the hands of a new owner.

"My grandmother would give my mother, aunts and I a necklace or bracelet or earrings at a birthday or major occasion, so jewelry has always been a symbolic connection between women in my family," Salzer said.

The power of this symbolism is also reflected in the line's most popular product to date, the Plaza Number necklaces of the 2006 Spring Collection. Beautifully summarizing her luxe, timeless focus, each necklace features an authentic brass room number off of the doors of rooms in the famed Plaza Hotel in New York.

"I had begun thinking of a theme for a product, and numbers seemed like a great idea since they are such an universally appealing and personal thing, whether it be something like a lucky number or a birthday," Salzer said. "I was in the store of a salvaging company that went in and removed things from the hotel that would have ended up being destroyed, but might have had some unexpected value. I came across the numbers and bought them gradually -- but as they started selling, I went back and bought all of them. It's pretty much luck that I came across the numbers."

A philanthropic purpose and sense of environmental awareness also distinguish Salzer from other designers in her field. Salzer works closely with Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization in New York dedicated to keeping the Hudson River and its watersheds clean. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Amanda Hearst are members of the executive board of this influential and dedicated organization.

With the two-year anniversary of the Frost line, Hearst and the Blue Tree boutique, owned by former actress Phoebe Cates, sponsored a party Tuesday, Nov. 7, that benefited the Riverkeeper organization.

The event was also the launch party for Ecologie Collection, a new collection of products with a natural focus and theme. A more modern '80s-inspired collection will follow in spring or summer of 2007.

Salzer attributes to Dartmouth the development of many of the skills that have brought her to such a competitive and successful level. She credits the social aspects of Dartmouth as well as the large amount of support received from teachers and students, with helping her gain confidence in business.

An art history and studio arts major, Salzer also mentioned the Tuck Business Bridge Program she attended after graduating in Summer 2004 as instrumental in guiding her through the foundations of business. She currently employs five full-time employees, but has also had a number of Dartmouth interns contribute to the Lulu Frost line. Their responsibilities give them a hands-on experience within this realm of business, requiring them to make jewelry, pack and ship boxes, deal with buyers and prepare press books.

"My life has changed in many ways I never anticipated. It didn't occur to me that I might work from my home. I've met so many people in the fashion world that I admire. I have so much access to inspiration. In general, I direct my own life in a way that is really empowering," Salzer said.

Just as she inspires Dartmouth students to follow their interests and pursue their grandest dreams, Salzer's own aesthetic dedication has clearly inspired an independent life and career path.