Much Ado About Nothing
Posted by Alex Caldwell on August 21, 2011 (0 Comments)
- New York times
- August 16, 2011, 10:17 AM ET
Egg-Purse Designer’s Company Cracks in Bankruptcy
Celebrities have been understandably hesitant to carry Alex Caldwell’s handbags down the runway.
But Hollywood has found other reasons to call upon the purse designer, whose egg-shaped art pieces have made it possible for fashion-bold women to wear art inspired by legendary Russian jeweler Peter Carl Faberge—yes, the guy who made the eggs—over their shoulders.
“There’s nothing remotely like this anywhere,” said Caldwell, perhaps putting it best about his unique handbags. “Over the years, I have had many, many women tell me when they carry a Vivian Alexander purse into a function, when they walk in the door, everybody knows they’re there.”
Yes, it’s safe to argue the distinctiveness of Caldwell’s creation. He recently took a break from placing jewels on the exteriors of his pure-silver, oval purses to place his company, Vivian Alexander Inc., into Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The legal move will help the 79-year-old business owner wind down the formal operations, though Caldwell will continue to sell his artwork through his website.
Through Vivian Alexander, he sold carefully designed eggs to upper-tier department stores like Neiman Marcus and Harrods in London. It made him millions.
Caldwell switched to making egg handbags and other accessories after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks deflated the enthusiasm for the art form, which had rallied in the years before through the popular touring museum exhibit Faberge in America.
Caldwell says he’s one of few artisans who know a special technique called guilloche, which scraps reflective indentations into his metal pieces to create a radiating shine. Caldwell then slaps on a coat of enamel that magnifies the brilliance.
Prop scouts for Warner Brothers noticed this when they needed two gold Faberge eggs worth risking lives and dodging security laser beams in the 2004 movie “Ocean’s Twelve,” starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
They needed Caldwell to make two. And both needed to be identical. Caldwell complied and sent the eggs to Rome, where the movie was being filmed.
Caldwell also once made a ruby-red radiating egg for a Smirnoff vodka commercial that aired only in Europe. In it, his Faberge egg conceals a bottle while the narrator asks, “Which treasured Russian luxury was nearly lost forever in the Bolshevik revolution?”
As to Hollywood’s latest request—a well-adorned emerald-colored egg for an upcoming movie called “The Sitter”—it’s still a mystery to Caldwell as to why producers wanted a giant egg to hold a smaller but similarly bejeweled egg. And inside that, they needed him to place a mirror.
Caldwell bases his operation in the Louisiana swamps somewhere between New Orleans and Lake Charles, La., which explains why he designed a celebratory Super Bowl egg with a fleur-de-lis that’s covered almost entirely in alligator skin. And the swamps are where he intends to stay.