The name that launched a thousand careers. That term just might apply to Janet Goldman, Founder and CEO of Fragments, Inc. Based in NYC, Fragments has been a taste arbiter since 1984. Starting with several designers in a showroom for retailers to discover their talent, Fragments now has over 40 jewelry designers in their stable, a retail store in SoHo, and a website stocked with gorgeous jewels for purchase online.
The jewelry of Fragments is plenty interesting, but the real story here is Janet. A serendipitous path led to success for this entrepreneur in fashion, from a background in art and design.
Janet’s first career was as a teacher. At heart, though, Janet was really an artist and eventually went back to school to become a pattern maker. This gave her a sense of true independence–a quality still very important to her–as she felt she could go anywhere in the world with that skill. After some success with her pattern design (Henri Bendel was the first store she sold to) she ran into some growing pains when trying to expand her business.
In 1984, Janet started over again, this time with Jimmy Moore, her then-business partner. To finance her new venture, she sold her home and moved into a small apartment. With a walk-up showroom space on Greene Street in SoHo, Janet and Jimmy launched Fragments with three designers: Gaetano Fazio, Steve Rosen, and Brett Lewis. (The provenance of these original designers live on: Gaetano’s lead designer was Miguel Ases, now a successful fashion jewelry designer in his own right). These artists were creating handcrafted jewelry that was glamorous, rock and roll, and “over the top,” Janet says. This was like nothing anyone had seen in the jewelry world up to this point. The legendary Joan Weinstein, owner of Ultimo in Chicago, walked up as they were unpacking the jewelry in the showroom. She became one of their first customers, and it illustrated to Janet that “It’s all about the product–it sells itself. It was really the beginning of Fashion Jewelry. It was whimsy and original, and each piece had it’s own soul. We were on to a new art form.”
The Fragments Showroom
The Fragments showroom grew from three designers into its present day operation, which now usually represents 25-30 designer jewelry lines at any given time. The showroom sells jewelry at the wholesale level to jewelers, but more importantly, it is a way for emerging designers to get the word out, and to get feedback on their brand and marketing. For jewelry retailers, stylists and fashion editors, Fragments is an efficient way to discover talent. The sheer number of artists represented allows for a one stop shop for Buyers to place orders, and take notes on merchandising. In a way, it is very representative of Janet herself: “You can see what I’ve got. I wanted to show an entire collection right up front, instead of only seeing a few pieces, and then pulling from the back.”
The Fragments Store
In 1994 or 1995, with the Fragments Showroom becoming a successful entity, Janet felt the need to learn more and challenge herself. She enrolled in the Owner President Management program at Harvard Business School, and learned a lot about business, finance, and negotiating. These skills helped her as she started her new adventure: a retail space that would sell jewelry to consumers. She opened a retail store in the front 750 square feet of her showroom space on Greene Street; wholesale buyers had to walk through the retail space on their way to the showroom in the back. The idea was to have a place that was an incubator and test market for new designers. For merchandising and visual display, they had complete freedom to play and figure out what worked. This in turn greatly influenced the designers represented in the wholesale showroom. The retail store is now on Prince Street, “the best street in SoHo,” Janet says. Fragments retail store has become a destination market for customers and retailers alike. All are welcome, and her staff is loyal and long term; her store manager has been with her for 16 years.
I asked Janet where her inspiration and influence comes from. She said that the art world influences the kind of jewelry artists she represents. She and her husband have been contemporary art collectors for many years. A project they are involved in, Wynwood Walls, a highly-regarded outdoor street art museum open to the public in Miami, Florida, is very inspiring: “by the artists, and colors, and such freedom! My life is involved in this,” says Janet. She embraces change and innovation wholeheartedly.
Style and Substance
When looking at a new designer’s work, there are a couple of consistent things Janet and her staff are looking for. “I look for spirit,” says Janet. “Not strictly commercial–it has to communicate and speak to me. I respect the art of the person who designs and creates jewelry as an art form. Good jewelry connects to the customer.” She has an employee who says that she doesn’t need a tatoo, as her jewelry provides a new opportunity each day for personal expression. At heart, Fragments is hoping to connect people with their own intrinsic style.
I asked Janet which designers or trends are really speaking to her. She stated that it’s really all about innovation: what’s new, what stands out. She mentioned new jewelry designer Susan Kalan is using white topaz in a truly unique way, in price points that are collectible. Deanna Hamro is designing with a mix of materials that feels very fresh. And Jordan Alexander, profiled recently here, is creating pearl jewelry that is modern and wearable.
Here’s to the next 27 years of Fragments curating and incubating talented jewelry designers! Janet has worked hard her whole life and feels lucky that her work has given her–plus countless others–such pleasure. Fragments has a magic about it, and customers have the chance to take that magic home with them. Her parting advice: “Love what you do, find your own signature.”
You can reach Janet and her staff at their website here, or call 866-966-4688 for more information about any of the jewelry featured here. Customers can visit the store at 116 Prince Street, New York, NY or call 212-334-9588. Retailers can reach the showroom at 212-226-8878.