Judith Ripka’s brick-and-mortar return

Judith Ripka, a luxury jewelry label that’s been part of Xcel Brands since 2011, is ready for a brick-and-mortar relaunch with a new store targeted to open at The Westchester in White Plains on June 7.

As Bob D’Loren talks to WAG from his home in Oyster Bay Cove on Long Island, formerly owned by fashion designer Geoffrey Beene, he is looking out on his gardens — including cascading forsythia, magnolia trees and a greenhouse beyond.

D’Loren’s is a life that is surrounded by beauty. An architectural student turned Wall Streeter — “I cracked the code on intellectual property-backed bonds,” he says — he was introduced to fashion by one of its greatest practitioners, Bill Blass. “He had extraordinary style,” says D’Loren, who inherited Blass’ entire collection of suspenders.

As chairman and CEO of Xcel Brands, D’Loren oversees the fashion labels C.Wonder, Halston and Isaac Mizrahi as well as the 125-year-old, artisan-driven home goods label Longaberger. The fifth brand in the Xcel portfolio is the jewelry label Judith Ripka, acquired in 2011 after the company, founded in 1977, was hit hard in the 2008 financial crisis and saw its 16 stores close. Now Judith Ripka is ready for a brick-and-mortar relaunch with a new store targeted to open at The Westchester in White Plains on June 7.

Former QVC host Albany Irvin will be on hand for opening night, which will be livestreamed.

“We’ve done $3 billion in sales livestreaming,” D’Loren says of Xcel Brands. “It will be exciting and fun.”

It goes without saying that these have been challenging times for brick and mortar, retail and brick-and-mortar retail. 

“First and foremost, we were scheduled to open last May,” he says. “When Covid hit, the mall closed, and we couldn’t get our contractors in there, so here we are a year later. No one has that crystal ball to see the future of brick-and-mortar retail. I don’t think it will go away. But I do think it will be streamlined.”

D’Loren remains enthusiastic, however, about the timelessness of jewelry and the strategic importance of The Westchester in the regional luxury market. Since at least the ancient Egyptians, he says, jewelry has been used to mark milestones. As for The Westchester, it is “uniquely positioned,” he adds, to engage shoppers from New Canaan to Bedford — just as the Judith Ripka store will be similarly positioned, adjacent to Gucci on the mall’s second level. 

The 2,000-square-foot store, which includes 1,200-square-feet of selling space, is inspired by art, D’Loren says.

“For me, I wanted to create a store that would position jewelry as art. We took our direction from The Museum of Modern Art — white walls, black slate floors, glass cases and vitrines.” The look and feel is one of an art gallery.

And what kind of works does this gallery contain? “Judy had a brilliant use of color in more abstract, princess jewelry,” D’Loren says of pieces that sold from $595 to $120,000. Three years of market research told him that customers are looking for more modern pieces in the $295-to-$30,000 price range with the sweet spot being $500 to $2,000.

“We have much more use of polished rather than textured stones, more metal and the designs are more symmetrical,” says D’Loren, who works with designer Yookie Lee on the Judith Ripka collections. He’s not a fan of asymmetry either in jewelry or fashion. “The eye is not comfortable with it.”

In The Jardin Collection, mother-of-pearl flowers decorate necklaces, bracelets and rings in even numbers, with even numbers of petals. D’Loren says he uses mother of pearl — offset by diamonds, sterling silver and rhodium — to suggest the deep textures of flowers. The photographs that accompany this collection — a signature of the website — will immediately transport viewers to Paris and Lake Como in Italy. No surprise. At D’Loren’s Palladian-style home, trees are squared off in the manner of those that line the Champs Élysées in Paris. He is  a lover of the formality, the geometry — the symmetry, if you will — of French and Italian gardens, as opposed to the wild romance of the English garden. The former, are, he says, “magnificent.”

Judith Ripka is scheduled to open at The Westchester, 125 Westchester Ave. in White Plains, June 7. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The brand’s white glove service will be available to all shoppers who are looking for jewelry stylists and concierge amenities. For more, call 347-727-2474 or  visit JudithRipka.com.

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