Admit it, you watched episode after episode of Emily in Paris on Netflix and found yourself quite fixated by the American marketing exec with the increasingly audacious outfits.
Israeli fine jewelry designer Leehe Segal confesses she also indulged in two seasons of the series, never dreaming that Emily (Lily Collins) would actually be wearing her pieces in Season 3, which aired in December.
The request from the sitcom’s costume designer, Segal tells ISRAEL21c, “came out of the blue and it was sheer luck we had 30 pieces on hand to send immediately to Paris.”
Seven were selected, including an “evil eye” ring, Shallow Waters, made with emeralds and blue enamel surrounding a marquise diamond; and a delicate yellow gold necklace called Moonrise, set with a half-moon cut diamond.
While gratifying and certainly a high point for the designer, getting attention from A-listers is not something new for Bleecker & Prince, the brand Segal founded after relocating to New York in 2014.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Lawrence, Gal Gadot and Cynthia Erivo are all fans. High-end retailers, such as luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman, also became customers a year after Segal launched her company.
Back to Tel Aviv
Our interview takes place in Segal’s Tel Aviv showroom (the other two are in NYC and LA), opened two years ago after returning to Israel with her husband and two young children.
The Haifa-born designer may seem ethereal with her light blue eyes and soft, wavy blonde hair, but her vision is definitive, precise and authentically original.
This extends also to the eclectic and carefully curated interior of the Tel Aviv showroom, furnished with a stark portrait from a gallery in the south of France, light wood Scandinavian chairs and an impressive glass display cabinet resting on two half-circular marble plinths.
Where it all began
After completing her army service, Segal moved to New York to study jewelry design.
“I knew I wanted to be in the arts but my choice was more by default. Everyone seemed to be doing fashion design and the other alternative, graphic design, seemed to be too computerized. Jewelry design suits me as I like working on the small things, the details, of which there are many before a piece comes into creation.”
This includes 10 to 15 stages, Segal explains, from the hand-drawn sketches to 3D renderings, sourcing of materials, casting house, polishing and laser finish.
After completing her degree at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, she took her first job in “the real world” at a diamond jewelry manufacturer in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv’s Diamond District.
“I got to know all aspects of the business, not only designing but also sourcing materials and sales,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
Classic with a twist
After two years, Segal was ready to go out on her own. She moved back to New York and set up Bleecker and Prince. The name refers to two streets that are close to each other in Soho, a trendy neighborhood in downtown Manhattan.
Segal explains that she always felt caught between the vibes of these two streets that never actually meet.
“Bleecker has a sense of heritage and an imperfect laid-back air, quaint music and record stores,” while Prince has a modern contemporary feel. In their qualities she sees herself, “a classic soul with a bit of rugged, a taste for the finer aspects in life but ready to get down and dirty when the moment arises.”
This quality carries through in her designs, which seem classic but always with a little twist.
In a necklace from the Jungle of Wonderland Collection, floating gold triangles are combined with sapphires and diamonds in different sizes and cuts, placed unevenly on the chain.
The Thunder Storm ring is set asymmetrically with gray baguette-cut diamonds. All pieces in the entire line “correlate and can be worn together,” says Segal, admitting this is very challenging to achieve.
This same individuality is evident in the choice of location of Bleecker & Prince’s Tel Aviv showroom.
Segal explains that she decided not to open, like many other designers, in the southern neighborhood of Neve Tzedek or the northern end of Dizengoff Street, but somewhere between, on Simta Plonit, a lane with two plaster obelisks at its entrance.
The showroom is housed on the ground floor of a restored gray-and-white heritage building from the 1920s.
True to her style, this gentrified area isn’t all neat and tidy.
“It’s just off King George Street, opposite shuk Bezalel [market], so it’s still edgy, which is what I love,” she says with a smile.
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