It’s a love letter to playing dress-up as a child—some of the styles like the “Aurora” are named for Disney princesses—as well as a joyful tribute to dressing up today, as the country begins to reopen more than a year after the pandemic forced it to shut down.
The gemstone-loving designer incorporated more color than ever before, in a traditionally girly color palette via many shades of sapphire and spinel.
Unabashedly whimsical and effervescent, “Dress Up” is a reminder of childhood fun and an optimistic take on the near future.
National Jeweler chatted with Wheeler about crafting her most confident collection yet.
National Jeweler: How long has the collection been in the works?
Emily P. Wheeler: About one year. I started working on it pretty early on in quarantine and kept adding to it, with the intention of releasing it after a vaccine would become available.
NJ: What inspired it?
EPW: Each collection I design encapsulates a memory of mine. Waiting for the day when the pandemic subsided, and we could all go out again felt very much like the anticipation of playtime as a child.
I used to create such over-the-top outfits, and I wanted to capture this in a more elevated adult version that could be worn while celebrating our re-emergence into the world. I combined this idea with inspiration from Pop Art, acrylic artists like my good friend Betsy Enzensberger, and Harajuku style to create a collection that has an uplifting, larger-than-life feel.
NJ: Is there a certain piece that is your favorite?
EPW: The “Dress Up Necklace” is one of my favorites. I know the amount of work and expert skill that went into that piece, so I appreciate it a great deal. I love the look of ebony in fine jewelry, and I love the contrast of the dark, hard wood with the delicate string of pink gems. I snuck a heart in at the end.
NJ: You’re known for sourcing some really special gemstones and creating pretty spectacular one-of-a-kind pieces. Can you talk a bit about the gemstones and colors you incorporated into this collection?
EPW: Some of my favorite stones in this collection are the oversized unicorn-colored natural spinel that you see in “Cuff IV” and the “Unicorn Earrings.” It's hard to find spinel baguettes, let alone at this scale. I absolutely love the subtle color variations.
There are some special Australian opal pieces in this collection that I had my lapidary carve into hearts.
Other highlights include a pink ombre tourmaline in the “Princess Bride Necklace,” Sleeping Beauty turquoise in the “Sleeping Beauty Necklace,” and two incredibly clear and bright big tourmalines in the “Balance Ring.”
NJ: Can you touch on what the last year has been like for you? How has it affected you creatively?
EPW: I spent the entire year in my studio it seems. I love working in general and it was definitely a coping mechanism and just a great way to pass the time.
Because we weren’t leaving home, I had more time to focus on work and was able to focus on honing my drawing and design skills and becoming better at what I do. I love that there is no ceiling in design—there are always areas for improvement and development.