NEW YORK — At Catbird, the jewelry brand founded by Ronnie Vardy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that celebrates two decades in business this year, the thing to do is get going.
Catbird heads to D.C. – Washington Post
by aparodyoflife ·
The zapping process goes like this: You sit at one of a number of tables — about the size of a nail salon’s pedicure station — and a specially trained technician attaches your wrist to a length of string pulled from a reel. (Catbird employees are always tattooed, with an excellent baroque haircut.) They carefully measure the chain for comfort, trim it with pliers, wear sunglasses and advise you not to look directly into the light. Then – go! -It’s welded to you forever.
It’s the “original” Forever bracelet, there’s a sign outside reminding you, casting a shadow over Cartier’s Love bracelet like Elizabeth Taylor threw diamonds at those gambling boys. (Catbird began in 2017 — long after the Cartier Love Bracelet was introduced in 1969, though this piece and other competing “permanent” jewelry require the wearer to periodically fasten the bracelet with a tool.) Stuns start at $98 for a bracelet called “Sweet Nothing,” although larger diamond-encrusted chains are available for more than $300.
The launch is a synthesis of the Catbird spirit: subtle, affordable, and sweet, with a feel-good undercurrent. (Like a powerful indie rock song!) A souvenir, Victorian in its romance and delicacy, yet contemporary in its flexibility: what it means is up to the wearer.
Engagement rings, featuring a nice vintage touch like bands of warm diamonds, or elegant prong stones, were a must-have for brides who wore flower crowns and decorated their weddings with Masonic vessels. But even as those trends fade, Catbird is still, for women who adore Caroline Polaszek and get married in used dresses, the equivalent of a Tiffany engagement ring for women who were president of their organization and walked down the aisle in a $10,000 Vera Wang. dress.
“Catbird makes special objects that look like jewelry,” says designer and editor Leith Clark, one of the line’s early collaborators. “Catcold makes you nostalgic for something completely new. How is that even possible?”
The once small company has been growing — with two more stores in New York, as well as locations in Los Angeles, Boston, and as of this week in Washington, D.C. A space in Georgetown, on M Street, is now filled with antique furniture and pops of color. Lighting fixtures, sparkling gems and lightning bolts.
It’s time, it’s time to spread our wings. “We have a good customer base in D.C.,” Vardy says. The affordability of the pieces has made them particularly attractive to college students, who then grow up and continue to patronize Catbird, are drawn to the more expensive pieces, including the brand’s popular engagement ring designs, and keep busy. Every time the company opens a new store, it designs a themed charm, which can be stuck on your ZAP piece or any other piece. The capital will be like a cherry blossom.
“It’s a really beautiful storefront,” says Lee Batnick Plessner, Catbird’s creative director. “It feels like a nice way to meet customers where they are.” When Vardi was working at the store in Brooklyn over the holidays in December, she met a number of customers who were visiting from D.C. “I was like, ‘Oh, good news!’
The reason behind the longevity of the Catbird is the fact that it has retained its essential sweetness. Her small gold rings, like the best-selling Threadbare ring — $48, in 14-karat gold loved by Meghan Markle — or her tiny necklaces, designed to be layered and barely visible, are the accessible foundation for jewelery for millennials suffering from Permanent financial distress set.
The look was the brainchild of Vardy’s own style. She never took off her jewelry, stacking and layering it and letting it wear a little or even break, but “it’s still gold and diamonds,” she says, sitting at a table on the second floor of the Williamsburg outpost, which is filled with antique cases and rugs, while The Cocteau Twins were playing on the stereo. “You should feel really good when you wear it. You should feel like you made a good decision.”
“It’s the jewelry that you are no “You want to quit,” says Patnick Plessner, 44. “It’s jewelry that makes you feel better when you wear it in the morning when you’re at home having your coffee.”
Since 2004, when Vardy, 54, opened the 200-square-foot Catbird a few blocks from his current location, that sensibility has remained, even as the neighborhood’s businesses have shifted from warehouse spaces, bars and alternative centers. Fashion for physical spaces for direct-to-consumer startups. (Walking from the L Train to Catbird’s Williamsburg flagship store is like walking through your Instagram feed: Everlane, Parachute, COS, Glossier, a Google store, a coffee shop that’s actually a bank…?!)
Catbird is the creator, survivor and flourisher of the early hipster wave that Williamsburg symbolizes. Even if Bedford Street was practically unknown to anyone who lived there when Vardy launched Catbird, she says the neighborhood’s attitude remains essential to the brand.
“There were a lot of artists, designers, editors and models who[lived here]and they would shop at Catbird. It was their local jewelry store. They would buy Catbird and wear it on the runways and wear it everywhere. So there was a real spread of the brand around the world because I lived in Williamsburg. (Vardi now lives in Carroll Gardens.) When she started her business, she mostly sold the work of fellow local jewelers, and she still sells many of them today.
“It’s definitely hipster in origin, but not particularly in the PBR/beard/burlesque way that became a trademark of the early hipster era,” says Nicolette Mason, brand consultant and strategist. She sees it in a different world: “the cool, funny, eccentric counterpart to ‘indie sleaze’.” I think they’ve been able to retain a lot of these parts of their identity without feeling dated.
The aesthetic was so strong that in 2015, French department store Le Bon Marché had a Brooklyn-themed pop-up that featured Catbird.
Many of the brands (and bands) that were popular in the early Catbird era seem outdated, or no longer exist now — the American Spirit cigarette has been replaced by the vape, and Urban Outfitters is better known for its executive-suite Republican leanings than the cynical T-cigarette. -Shirts – And remember American Apparel? But Catbird’s aesthetic was luckier. More recently, one of her most famous clients, musician Phoebe Bridgers, has become a collaborator. Catbird made three toothpins for Bridgers’ Boygenius group, and the trio has since released compilations with the band and musician – one with Bridgers, in 2022, and a separate compilation with Boygenius in 2023, with a new compilation due out this week. Nylon magazine wrote in November that the first round of boyish tracks “broke the internet.”
Catbird has been at the forefront of a number of jewelry trends over the past two decades. This may seem trite, considering that jewelry is considered a luxury, but adornment and investment treasures deeply reflect cultural norms. They were early advocates of the trend of smaller, more delicate jewelry, moving away from the larger stones that were popular in the late 20th century.
“You have to get up close and see it,” Batnick-Plesner says. “You hold it close to yourself. You won’t be able to see it from across the room, it requires intimacy to really interact with it.”
Catbird’s accessible stores and fun e-commerce site have also led the way in reshaping the entire concept of engagement ring shopping — couples often shop together, Vardy points out, something Catbird was early to encourage. Couples will “ask” what He should Do this, or what should I do?” says Vardi. “And dispelling those rules is part and parcel of what we do.”
“Nothing is quick and then it’s over,” Clark says. “They have a completely different way of creating, on their own schedule. That seems very feminine to me – to do things differently, with more meaning, at a slower pace, more intentionally.”
Sustainability was also an early focus for the brand; It uses almost exclusively recycled gold, and 95 percent of the diamonds it uses are recycled.
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Many other brands adjacent to Catbird in Williamsburg, or known for providing other millennial lifestyle options, started with a similar ethical promise. But the jeweler is one of the few who have managed to hold on to it, one go after another.
“As a shopper, when I buy, I just want to feel confident that the person I’m buying from is doing the right thing,” Vardi says.