Lulu Frost Designer Shuns Handbags, Splurges on Shoes

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Lisa Salzer of Lulu Frost in her studio. Photo: Melissa Hom

Lulu Frost jewelry designer Lisa Salzer knows how to appeal to both the high-fashion and mass-market crowds. Last winter she launched a collection for Urban Outfitters and garnished models on the Wren catwalk, and her Plaza Hotel letter necklaces are currently on display in DKNY's twentieth-anniversary ad campaign. Her new line of accessories for Ann Taylor Loft (Lisa for Loft) benefits breast-cancer research, and this month she's launching a collaborative line of statement-making headwear with Hats by Selima Atelier. We caught up with the Long Island native to talk about recession dressing, flea-market hunting, and shopping splurges.

How did you get your start in jewelry?
My grandmother, Elizabeth Frost, ran an antique-jewelry business in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I grew up going to the store and fell in love with estate and vintage jewelry. My senior year at Dartmouth, I started making necklaces and belts and selling them to friends.

Your collections incorporate vintage and antique trinkets. Any go-to sources?
My mom is my buyer, so it’s kind of a cool family tradition. She visits fairs and estate sales upstate and throughout the northeast, and I take care of scouting in the city. I go to The Garage every other weekend. I bought original room numbers from the Plaza Hotel at Olde Good Things.


What inspired the current line?
I went to Tulum, Mexico, for New Year’s with friends. My boyfriend's a photographer and he shot all these gorgeous images with amazing colors. The line feels like a multicultural mash-up, mixing Deco pieces with African vintage beads.

Who are your favorite designers?
I’m obsessed with Alber Elbaz from Lanvin and I love Vena Cava. Those girls are always on the forefront of what I want to wear as a New Yorker in her mid-twenties.

What’s the first designer item you ever bought?
A Vivienne Tam dress when I was 12 years old. It was very nineties, with a Mandarin collar. I thought I was really cool. I grew up on Long Island, so I’m positive I wore it to a bat mitzvah.

Where do you shop?
I go to the fifth floor of Bergdorf Goodman for Phillip Lim, and to Sucre in the West Village for accessories. Downtown, I shop at Curve and Opening Ceremony, which is around the corner from our studio.

Which other jewelry designers do you admire?
Paris Kain has a beautiful line called Abraxas Rex. And Jessica Kagan Cushman makes those carved resin bangles. I met her in the middle of this crazy neighborhood in Japan, where we were both doing trunk shows.

What trends do you like?
Definitely big costume jewelry — it’s one thing that’s selling well during the recession. It seems like people are sticking to the basics of their wardrobe and layering on chunky statement accessories.

And hate?
Suspenders, on both women and men.

What’s one item you’re saving to buy?
I just bought a beautiful pair of Marni platform sandals. They have shiny black plexiglass heels and leather straps of all different colors, so they go with everything. It was a bit of a splurge — I don’t skimp on shoes. But I spent all winter not buying anything, so it felt justified.

What should every woman have in her closet?
An American Apparel or J.Crew tank top that you can layer with everything. I wear a simple white ribbed tank every day with a great skirt and shoes, especially in the summer.

What’s something you never leave the house without?
My Comme des Garçons wallet. It’s a beautiful sky-blue zip wallet that’s really versatile — I use it as my handbag at night and just throw my cell phone and keys in there. I don’t believe in buying multi-thousand-dollar handbags; I’m a wallet girl. It’s easy and it’s not ostentatious.