The Man who Faked It to Make It

Kenneth Jay Lane in 1970. Credit Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

I read that costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane passed away at his home in Manhattan last week. He was 85. Mr. Lane was regarded as the first American jewelry designer to make it not only acceptable but also chic to wear fake jewelry. “I myself am a fabulous fake,” he once said of his success. Born in Detroit, the son of an automotive parts supplier, the process to create his own persona started as a young boy when he first fell in love with fashion. He left home as a teenager to fulfill his destiny to be a designer – New York City his destination. His entrance into fake jewelry began almost by accident; he had been designing jewelry in his spare time when he was hired to design bejeweled shoes, some with rhinestone toes and heels, for a Scaasi fashion show. He suggested that he create matching earrings and and bracelets and designer Arnold Scaasi agreed. Mr. Lane went to a five and dime store to purchase plastic bangles and asked the shoe company to cover them with the rhinestones. Eventually, Mr. Lane would begin his own jewelry collection in 1962. His creations caught the fancy of high society and within a few years he was selling to most of the Fifth Avenue stores. Quickly, his name was in fashion magazines and society columns – he, himself, lived and jet-setted with his famous customers and friends, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Nancy Reagan and princesses Margaret and Diana.

But it was also his 20 year relationship with QVC where his costume jewelry designs would expand to the mainstream. I heard of Mr. Lane through QVC. Chris Sheppard, executive vice president of Kenneth Jay Lane, said a memorial would be held during New York Fashion Week in September.

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