Philip Crangi

One to one: Philip Crangi

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When Philip Crangi’s jewellery ambitions took some knocks in the 1990s, he patiently waited for the world to catch up with his concepts.Laura McCreddie finds out how his business took off in the 2000s

The correlation between books and covers is, according to cliché, not entirely symbiotic; apparently the latter is not always an accurate representation of the former. The same is definitely true of people in general, and Philip Crangi in particular. In pictures, the eye is drawn to his many tattoos; his gaze into the lens is defiant, challenging and, in conjunction with the body art, creates an impression of someone who could be more than a little intimidating in the flesh.

The reverse is the case in person. Crangi still has a commanding presence, but combined with his American accent and neat shirt and jumper ensemble, the impression is more Gatsby-esque gentleman. In fact, the toughest-looking thing in the room is the jewellery.

“This collection was inspired by Japanese armour techniques,” says Crangi, gesturing at a bracelet that comprises beetle casing-shaped segments connected to one another with woven leather. “I wanted to create something that was tough but feminine,” he says.

And the latest collection by Crangi’s costume jewellery brand Giles & Brother is certainly that. There is something of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in the armour-style bracelets, while the dulled metal of the chains that comprise necklaces and bracelets are straight out of the industrialist landscape of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Crangi originally got into jewellery through an obsession with history. “I grew up in South Florida, where there was no history to find, just a few buried sand dollars,” he says. “I was interested in history and wanted to create things that were outside of time and space. The idea of ‘if I found them in a flea market would I be able to place them?’”

Crangi’s education in gold and silversmithing at Rhode Island School of Design, with emphasis on learning traditional techniques, played on that love of the historical and he left in 1994 on a high and set off to New York to wow the inhabitants with his jewellery.

“My collection was very editorial,” says Crangi. “So I approached stylists such as Patti Wilson and Lori Goldstein with my jewellery. I was told that ‘nobody uses jewellery in fashion shoots’. It seems unbelievable now, but that was the case.”

Rather than continue to bang on doors that didn’t want to open, Crangi decided to wait until the world was ready for him.

Over the next few years he designed homeware and did restoration work on 20th century decorative art. “It really informed my design. I was always inspired by things other than jewellery. I look at textiles, furniture by Emile Ratier. Every time I am in Paris I go to the Museum of Decorative Arts and look at Lanvin’s apartment that they had moved there. It is a very baroque version of art deco and I’ve been looking at it for a long time trying to find a way to interpret it. I think I’ve found a way.”

Family matter
Crangi returned to jewellery when his sister, Courtney Crangi, moved to New York and began running his fine jewellery business, named Philip Crangi, in 2001 as chief executive. The same year the duo also launched Giles & Brother, of which Courtney is also chief executive. The business was named Giles & Brother because Courtney’s nickname is Giles and because Crangi wanted something that acknowledged both their involvement.

The concept was to create something affordable but that still had the great design associated with Crangi’s fine jewellery line, an ethos that many designers have adopted as metal and stone prices continue to rise.

“For me, fine jewellery feels a little restrictive right now. With Giles & Brother, I can experiment and create a collection where it is not the metal or the stone that carries the value, but the design,” he says.

Crangi believes that this new emphasis on design rather than materials is partly because, both in the UK and New York, people who don’t have formal jewellery training are becoming jewellery designers.

“I think that sometimes, people who have classical training can be trapped by technique and that macho flexing of technical muscle,” he says. “There is an obligation of a creative person to look elsewhere for inspiration.”

And Crangi certainly practises his own creed. Apart from Japanese armour, his influences are everything from railroad spikes – which are turned into bracelets – and maritime knots to art deco and the way the jewellery houses of that period interpreted the snake.

“However, I always go back to that leather and brass combo,” says Crangi. “I like things that are a bit equestrian, a bit maritime but with an articulated quality.”

The next collection will have an even more industrial classic feel, mixing dark green with silver, and oranges with brass.

Leading by example
Despite production now being done on a large scale, Crangi still makes all the prototypes himself.

“Until last year, we made it all in the studio,” he explains. “I would figure out how to make something then show everyone else in the workshop. I think with my hands; in a way I work more like a draper. So I still make all the prototypes and then I send it to the manufacturer.”

Getting a manufacturer involved doesn’t mean the pieces are losing their design edge. “I’m really having fun with their capabilities,” says Crangi. “I like giving them concepts to work out.”
Aside from working on new ways to knot metal together, the other thing that drives Crangi is other designers.

“I don’t look at other designers’ work to inspire my own; I look at it to see whose makes me jealous. It encourages me to up my game,” he explains.

However, with the cult following his fine collection has gained, and the success of Giles & Brother, Crangi’s probably the one inspiring jealousy. As US writer Washington Irving said: “There is never jealousy where there is not strong regard.”

CV
2008
Won the CFDA Swarovski Award for Accessory Design
2007 Runner-up winner for CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award
2001 Crangi launches his first collection, called Steele and Gold fine jewellery. In the autumn he launched his costume jewellery brand Giles & Brother
1994 Crangi graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Jewellery and Light Metals

Philip Crangi

How to Wear Man Jewelry, featuring Philip Crangi

How to Wear Man Jewelry, featuring Philip Crangi

 

Pulling off man jewelry can be tricky and daunting at times. Which pieces to pair together, how much is too much, how to keep it all looking masculine, etc.

Who better to show us the ropes than my favorite jewelry designer, and one of our style inspirations here at TSB.com, Philip Crangi.

Philip is not only one of the most noted industry leaders and trendsetters in jewelry design, he’s also a friendly, down-to-earth guy with badass personal style. Between his fine jewelry collection Philip Crangi which combines age-old techniques with a unique palette of gold, wrought iron and steel, and his edgier diffusion collection Giles & Brother (a collaboration with his sister Giles), Phil has managed to find the perfect balance between fineness and ruggedness in order to put out some of the most wearable pieces in the men’s jewelry game.

Here, we caught up with Philip in New York’s meatpacking district so he could give us a taste of what he does best.

1. Let the Jewelry Speak

“Here I’m keeping it simple with just enough personal jewelry to make this basic look mine“.

Let the jewelry speak for itself. A simple, well-fit neutral look is a great canvas to showcase some statement pieces. You don’t need other elements competing for attention (i.e. other accessories, bold colors, etc).

Bonus Tip: Although hand-crafted with fine jewelry techniques that Philip studied at the renowned Rhode Island School of Design, the majority of Phil’s pieces have a toughness and manliness to them – an embedded dagger in one neckless, and an anchor in the other, for example.

Stainless steel necklace and 14k gold necklace both by Philip Crangi. Shirt by Louis Vuitton. Vintage trousers. Shoes by YSL. Shades by Bottega Veneta. “Arceau” watch by Hermes.

2. The Importance of Scale

“The cuff is a lot fancier in this look – it’s from my fine jewelry collection, but its scale keeps it chic and casual. Scale is one of the most important things to consider with men’s jewelry. It’s better to have several smaller pieces – one big chunky thing rarely looks masculine and always looks dated”
Bonus Tip: A man of true style shows his taste level in everything he does. Take a look at the decor in Phil’s amazingly chic home.
 

Rail road spike ring in 14k by Giles & Brother. Stainless steel and 14k gold cuff and Iron and gold anchor necklace both by Philip Crangi. Shirt by American Apparel. Chinos by RRL. Sandals by Baleciaga. Double belt by Comme des garcon. “Cape Cod” watch by Hermes.

 
The man also understands the importance of a good pair of shades. These were only the few pairs that were on his kitchen table when we arrived…
3. Amp Up Your Classics
Another example of keeping it simple and adding personal touches with jewelry.
“I’m feeling pretty classic this summer with just one or two perfect pieces of jewelry – my favorite watch, a simple leather cuff (a new classic from my Giles and Brother
collection) and my gold rail road spike ring”

Bonus Tip: Philip wears his watches to the inside of his wrist, since they seem to twist halfway around on him naturally anyway. It’s a great unique touch and also a good way to protect the watch face from banging around.

Bonus Tip II: Few things work better than rugged man jewelry and cool skin art.

 

Rail road spike ring in 14k, Leather “visor” cuff bracelet and Striped rope belt all from Giles & Brother.  Oxford by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece. Trousers by Acne. Shoes by YSL. “Cape Cod” watch by Hermes. Shades by Cutler and Gross.

4. Transformative Effect

“Here’s a good example of layering to get volume, plus i’m wearing all my fave’s together – a good summer look”

This look proves the power that the right jewelry can have. The pieces here completely change the look and feel of this tank + shorts + sneaker outfit. Genius.

Rail road spike ring in 14k, Leather “visor” cuff bracelet, Striped rope wrap bracelt all from Giles & Brother. Stainless steel and 14k gold necklaces both from Philip Crangi.

Tank top by Dries Van Notten. Shorts by Kolor. High tops by Gola. Timepiece by Swatch. Vintage Wayfarer II shades by Ray-Ban.

Thanks, as always, for reading – and special thanks to Philip for participating!

More awesome features to come.

Yours in style,

SB

Photography by Brent Eysler. As usual, all pictures are click-to-enlarge for hi-res.

Philip Crangi

Philip Crangi Q & A with ELLE magazine

The jewelry designer defines his aesthetic, picks his favorite piece, and reveals what he loves to see women wear

 July 21, 2010

Philip Crangi is the go-to designer for seriously sophisticated jewelry you never knew you had to have. He refers to an evolving blend of architectural, worldly, and historical references in creating an unexpectedly chic collection of thoroughly original pieces that defy categorization but are, somehow, exactly what you never knew you always wanted.

After graduating from RISD, Crangi worked for William Lipton, Japanese artist Mariko Mori and sculptor Michele Oka Doner before launching the Philip Crangi fine jewelry line in 2001. Soon after, he launched a hugely successful lower-priced silver and costume line called Giles & Brother. He now runs both lines with his sister, and business partner, Courtney. Last Fall he two opened ‘Crangi Family Project’, the label’s first storefront boutique in a landmark area of New York’s Meatpacking District.

Crangi has collaborated with Phillip Lim, Vera Wang, Sue Stemp, Shipley & Halmos, and Jason Wu, among others, on runway jewelry collections. In 2008 he won the hotly-competitive CFDA Swarovski Award for Accessory Design, and has since designed a notably inventive capsule collection for Atelier Swarovski.

The Accessories Channel recently caught up with Crangi to get his take on everything from the power of jewelry, accessory designers on his radar, and what women really want…

What was your point of realization when you knew you wanted to design jewelry?

When I was a little kid, growing up in Palm Beach, I always noticed these women who would casually stack what looked like series of family heirlooms as jewelry. They would pile pieces on that looked like they had a history and came from different times in their life. It was all very casual, it could have been a stack of wedding rings piled on in a very natural way. I soon realized that they were telling a very personal story through their jewelry and jewelry in that way, can work as a very powerful tool.

Then, when I went away to art school I fell in love with the technique [of creating jewelry]. So , it was really a combination for my fascination with the technique and the lifestyle behind the pieces that made me want to start designing.

What kind of jewelry do you love to see a woman wearing? What are you in the mood to see, in terms for jewelry, for Fall?

I love personal layered pieces. Not in the early ’90’s way, but more a of an unexpected mix. It can be a few smaller, delicate pieces mixed in with an Elsa Peretti piece. I love when it looks ‘collected’ and specific. It can be something as simple as a woven bracelet, bangles, and a rubber band. I love the high/low mix; it’s very chic.

What do you find is the best thing about designing jewelry?

When you create pieces that help someone feel more like themselves. Whether it’s something that makes them feel more attractive, or, more authentically real- that’s what I strive to do.

How do you find it different, designing for men versus women?

The primary difference is: men want something that feels like it’s always been there. It has to be seamless and casual. People tend to think that men want bug, chunky jewelry; but, that’s not the case. Men want pieces that feel like they might have a history. I’ve had success in creating that understated piece that might feel like a token they’ve had for years but was missing.

For women, it’s a little more fun because they’re a little more daring. So you do a little more, be a little more experimental.

How would you define your aesthetic, and your design perspective?

It is a ‘collective’ aesthetic. I want my pieces to look like a treasure trove of a chic, world traveler, as if a women went around the world collecting all of these beautiful, specific things. Everything doesn’t necessarily look like it should belong to the same collection, when I design, but they somehow all work together.

If you had to pick, what is your favorite piece from your collection to-date?

I think it would have to be my leather lash bracelet with the brass hook. It’s a simple leather strap that wraps around your arm a couple of times and closes with this oversized brass hook. I’ll never forget seeing Vera Wang one time when I was wearing it and she goes, ” Honey, THAT is your Kelly bag!”

And, she was right. It’s one of our best sellers. It’s very basic but it’s one of those pieces that just become part of the vernacular. You don’t really even think about it but it’s that perfect piece that feels like you’ve had it forever and it never feels old or out of place. It’s something you didn’t really even know you were missing but before long you’re wearing it everyday. The lash bracelet would definitely have to be one of my favorites.

Who are your favorite Ready-to-wear and accessories designers at the moment?

Right now I’m really loving Proenza Schouler. What they’re doing with accessories is really blowing my mind. I always love to see what they’re doing next. They would have to be at the top of my list for accessory designers.

For clothing, I’m really caught up in the Phoebe Philo mood. What she’s doing right now at Celine really makes sense to me. I feel, in a lot of ways, it’s the ready-to-wear version of personal jewelry. It’s clean lines and very minimal, and, really what a woman wants to wear. Which is what it’s all about in the end- designing for what a woman really wants.

What do you love to do when you’re not working?

Sleep and read

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Not to toot my own horn, but, I’m an accomplished, well, avid needle-pointer.

What are you reading at the moment?

Let me preface this by saying, I cast a very wide net with my reading choices. Whether it’s Graham Greene, or P.D. James, I like to read a LOT of different things. But, right now I am completely obsessed with the True Blood series. I’m a little embarrassed but I’m completely obsessed., I have trouble putting it down! I almost want to get a quilted book cover to put on it when I read in public. But, I can’t stop—I love it!

If you had to pick one muse, who would it be?

Oh, that’s easy—Charlotte Rampling. She is just amazing.

What are you looking forward to in the year to come- both personally and professionally?

I’m really, really excited about next season. I’m working on some crazy things that I’m so excited about I don’t know, I just feel something in the air, I feel very inspired right now.

Personally, I look forward to traveling around the world with my boyfriend. We’re good travelers together which is important, so I’m looking forward to doing more of that in the next year.