Why Facial Jewelry is Sweeping Fashion Right Now

A lot of jewelry comes through the T&C offices (like, a lot). But, when 92Y announced that “emerging facial jewelry artist” Claudia Lepik would be their artist in residence, it seemed to be part of a larger trend sweeping the spring 2020 collections walking right now. Just in the past week alone, the designers Daniel Roseberry at Schiaparelli, Pier Paolo Piccioli at Valentino, and Giambattista Valli have all sent looks down their runways that put on vivid display exuberant, bejeweled facial adornments, embellishments, and accessories. These are not accomplishments in make-up artistry, but specifically designed decorative flourishes that extend the craftsmanship of luxury dresses to the face. And, they look pretty fabulous, too.Instant Views - Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Spring/Summer 2020Facial jewelry as seen on the Schiaparelli Spring 2020 presentation. Francois G. DurandGetty Images The prominence of these delicate accessories to enhance the eyes and the face may be a continuation of the influence of HBO's Euphoria on fashion designers; the fanciful eye make-up and beauty so boldly practiced in the show started to turn up on runways during New York Fashion Week.

Facial jewelry—an experimental approach to where and how jewelry can be worn that is more advanced than simple facial piercings—is nothing new, of course. But a new generation of designers has been quietly taking it to exciting new levels.

Valentino : Details - Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Spring Summer 2020Facial jewels as seen on the Spring 2020 Valentino runway. EstropGetty Images Lepik, who is from Estonia, was initially inspired by a group of Estonians called Setos, who wear layers of coin-like necklaces that make silvery tinkling noises as they walk around. But she didn’t want to make replicas, and instead applied the jewelry to her face.
“I started thinking about hiding myself behind my jewelry,” Lepik said. “This is not for a laid-back person, it’s wearable but never commercial.”imageClaudia Lepik wearing one of her face masks. Kristiin Elman

Lepik's pieces block and distort the face, sometimes in ways that are conventionally attractive, and other times in ways that challenge conventional expectations of jewelry.

imageOne of Claudia Lepik’s newest pieces made at 92Y. Courtesy 92Y Lepik is part of a small, but growing group of facial jewelry artists, who use the medium in new and thought-provoking ways. Sometimes the message is political: product designer Ewa Nowak created an elegant gold mask that blocks facial recognition technology through strategically placed disks.imageEwa Nowak’s Incognito mask. Courtesy Ewa Nowak

And Central Saint Martins graduate Joanne Tan in London crafted a series of gold, pearl, and diamond nose rings that don’t require piercings, but rather “allow wearers to customize their features at will.” Similarly, Japanese jewelry designer Akiko Shinzato uses her jewelry to boost the self-esteem of the wearer, without requiring any physical modification other than slipping on a well-placed gem. And Parisian Camille Moncomble, whose sculptural eye jewelry has appeared in fashion editorials, explores these forms that crystalize human emotions.
imageA pearl and gold nose ring (no piercings required) by Joanne Tan. Courtesy Joanne Tan

In the age of digital filters and photoshop, facial jewelry might be the next step into how we present ourselves to the world.

At the very least, it is a good excuse to fit in a few extra diamonds.Claudia Lepik will be showing her collections at 92Y’s Hall of Mirrors during New York City jewelry week (November 18–24) visit 92Y for details.

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