The scene at Michael’s today was positively Fellini-esque. Just when the joint was firing on all cylinders (even every seat at the bar was spoken for), the dining room was stunned into silence when the ladies who lunch led by Joan Jakobson at Table One gave an impromptu acapella performance of “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” You get it all here, folks. Cobb salads with a serenade on the side. This being Michael’s, of course, the power lunch crowd gave the gals the floor just long enough to belt out their tune and then, without missing a beat, turned their attention back to hatching their next big deal. Alrighty then.
I was joined today by Janis Provisor and Debi Wisch, the dynamic duo behind Janis Provisor Jewelry whose business cards boast the tagline “wildly eccentric beaded collectibles.” They are also just gorgeous. Janis, an accomplished artist and painter whose work has been shown all over the world, including at the National Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, got into the jewelry business by accident. “It started out as a hobby, turned into a job-y, and now it’s a full-fledged business!” Janis told me.
It all began in 2006 when Debi, a former marketing consultant and publicist, got Janis to do a trunk show in Debi’s Manhattan home. Janis and Debi had met a decade before when they were both living in Hong Kong and Janis, who was developed a carpet collection, showed up at Debi’s home with a swatch. Years later, over lunch, both women were wanting to do something new and came up with the idea for Janis to make one-of-a-kind necklaces from the stones she’d collected from her worldwide travels. Voila! Janis’ oversize beaded necklaces, luxurious lavalieres and chunky chokers (all boasting unexpected pairings of precious and semi-precious stones) were an immediate sell-out among the stylish set. “Our customers are smart, independent women with their own money,” Debi told me. “Rarely do I hear, ‘I have to ask my husband’ before someone buys something.” And it’s a good thing. Entry points range from $1,400 for earrings to $4,000 to $7,000 for a necklace. Not exactly something you could pass off with the usual, “Oh no, this isn’t new. I’ve had it forever.”
While most of the collection is sold at invitation-only trunk shows at swanky locales (If you happen to be in Kona in August, you might want to drop in on the next show at Seaside Luxe, but do RSVP first ), the luxe looks are also sold at Julianne in Port Washington and Gail Rothwell in East Hampton. Janis also has an exhibition of the jewels at Winston Wachter Gallery in Chelsea. By foregoing the usual retail route, the partners have been able to build the business (“People just find us”) carefully offering one-of-a-kind pieces and other collectibles to a very discriminating clientele. (CNN’s Alina Cho is a fan) “The goal is to make only what we’d want to own, and that’s what we continue to do,” said Debi, who was adorned with several of Janis’ dazzling designs today.
Janis told me she often sits with the artisans in China while the pieces are being made to personally describe her vision for the design (“I don’t cast”), and she works with the craftsman in Bali where her 22kt gold work is done. “I am very hands-on,” she said, “with everything.” I’ll say. The company is 100 percent self-supported, and the women wouldn’t have it any other way. It seems to be working. Janis Provisor Jewelry will be moving into a brand new studio salon this summer where Janis and Debi hope to put together small groups of “interesting women” to exchange ideas, network and, of course, buy some serious jewelry.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. “The Glad Girls”: Joan Jakobson, Betty Sargent, Helen Houghton, Jeannette Watson Sanger, Barbara Lazzar Ascher and their two very well-dressed ‘road guys.’ After the group’s surprise lunchtime performance, I just had to go over and get the scoop. It turns out Joan and her glee club have performed at various haute spots around town, including Doubles, The Harmonie Club and The Burden Home for the Aged. A little birdie told me that besides the requisite lilting voice, entry into the exclusive club requires a wardrobe of chic black dresses and freshly done (blonde) highlights. Oh, and all of these ladies have each published a book. Yes, really.
2. Du Jour’s Cindy Lewis, accessories maven Mickey Ateyeh, Chicago producer Fran Weissler and Marcia Levine
3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Cynthia Brill and Sarah Simms Rosenthal. Joe told me he’s off to London for Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee. Do give William and Kate my best.
4. Linda Wachner and Mica Ertegun (who was here last week with Peter Brown)
5. Stan Shuman
6. Most of ‘The Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Michael Kramer
7. Janis Provisor, Debi Wisch and yours truly
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Cornelia Guest whose new cruelty-free handbag line is fabulous.
9. The perennially dapper Euan Rellie who was nice enough to introduce me to the newly engaged Stuart Rhodes. Congrats! “My wife (Lucy Sykes) is a mentor to Stewart’s fiance, so I’m going to make him my protege!” said Euan. This afternoon marked Stewart’s inaugural visit to Michael’s. Welcome to the club!
10. Fern Mallis and Tom Florio
11. Inside Edition‘s Deborah Norville, who looked better than ever, and Susan Magrino
12. John Jakobson, Patrick Murphy and some pals we didn’t recognize
14. Anderson Cooper, who arrived with his backpack slung over his shoulder, and Orin Snyder
15. CBS spinmesiter Gil Schwartz
16. United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky
81. Mitch Kanner
17. Michael J. Wolf
18. New Line Cinema’s Michael Lynne
19. Matt Rich with Ava Roosevelt (of those Roosevelts, so we’re told)
20. Literary agent Frederica Friedman
21. The Municipal Art Society’s Vin Cipolla
22. PR maven Catherine Saxton with Marianne Strong and Carmen D’Alessio, who, it should be noted, was the ‘Queen of Studio 54′ in its heyday. Here’s a fun fact: Both Anderson Cooper’s mother (Gloria Vanderbilt) and Cornelia Guest’s mom (C.Z. Guest) were very much part of that glittering disco scene where Carmen reigned supreme back in the seventies.
23. Joel Moser
24. Louis Vuitton’s Nancy Murray
25. Tom Goodman and Shelley Rosenstock from The Hospital for Special Surgery
26. Judy Slotkin
27. Former New York City Council president Andrew Stein
28. Prep Power: Town & Country‘s Jay Fielden and Ralph Lauren’s Dan Lalonde
29. Jim Needham
Faces in the crowd: Alpha Media’s Jack Kliger, Bob Guccione, Jr. and Mark Leavitt, media man Barry Frey with Dr. Phil Romero at separate tables in the Garden Room… Designer David Biscaye, who ducked in for a quick lunch at the bar. David tells me he’s off to London for the upcoming art fairs. Cheerio!
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