The unexpected passing of my friend: Kenneth Jay Lane
Presently, every designer is temporarily famous and few stand the test of time. There are no icons or role models.
I feel so very lucky to have had a friendship with the man, whose death yesterday has announced on page SIX! of the New York Post and been the lead story on every fashion internet source. Times like this make me reflective and contemplative of “Who makes a difference anymore?”
Kenneth and I have been acquainted for over 35 years. I would so love to say, “We were friends when we both were nobody’s,” but Kenneth was always a “somebody” and was still friends with me when I was truly “nobody.” I recall though calling his showroom and he would personally answer the phone. When I went to view his latest collection, it would be just the two of us and tray after tray after tray of the most gorgeous “fakes” I’ve ever seen. I have bought (and sold) tons of Kenneth Jay Lane pieces.
That first showroom was cramped and not in the high rent district of New York. Though he flew with the eagles internationally, he always retained his Detroit based reality roots. As he showed (and advised me) the pieces of which he felt were important to purchase; the stories of celebrities and royalty who wore them just fell from his lips as conversation. It was never to impress me.
Mrs. Nolte is the recipient of several KJL pieces, which will now have even greater value. I was surprised and delighted that the last time I was personally in the showroom, I had two of my daughters with me and HE was there!
His staff was working in a much more impressive showroom and with “No Smoking Please” signs posted on many walls. (That in itself was unusual, but the real “kicker” was that the showroom reeked of cigarette smoke and it was Kenneth that was puffing like a chimney!)
He was just finishing a conversation with Nancy Regan about their lunch plans the following week, looked up and said “Hello Mr. Kansas City!” (And we hadn’t seen each other in person in years!)He graciously signed books “Faking it” for us and posed for pictures.
His early years suave look had been greatly diminished by his chain smoking. I was surprised to learn he was only 85 and died easily in his sleep.
Life Lesson from this guy? Always be authentic. You will have some people intimated by you, jealous of you or anxious to discredit your work; but true talent always floats to the top. Don’t be a shallow copy of someone else. Be you, but be the absolute very best in your small orbit.
I urge all our clients to hop on line and read all they can about this legend. There is no one that can ever come close to his influence in the jewelry fashion world. Stop by and browse through my signed copy of “Faking it.” Better yet…come purchase some of the most gorgeous earrings, necklaces or bracelets bearing his name. It is the only brand we carry. Pricey, but so very obviously high quality and pieces you will have forever.
Kind of like Mr. Lane himself…. irreplaceable. His “heaven,” I just know is filled with clouds that literally shimmer, sparkle and shine. Good-bye my friend and thank you for making this dumb kid from the mid-West feel like I was a valued person in your orbit. MJN