Deck the Neck

Untraditional charms for girls with attitude

Charm necklaces have come a long way from prissy trinkets strung at even intervals along a dainty length of chain. Now, oversized found objects hang in a cluster on a thick gold ring-like janitor's keys. Allison Nowlin, who owns Williamsburg vintage store Fortuna with her boyfriend Paul Ward, has been making unusual charm necklaces ($120­-$200) for a year and a half. The jumbled lifestyles of New Orleans, where Nowlin lived for three years, provide inspiration for her chaotic adornments.

But the necklaces are not just thrown together. She designs each piece with a subject in mind. For a travel-themed necklace, Nowlin combines a heart (love of adventure), a plane, a propeller-like button, and a compass. Another includes the four elements, time, and an old-fashioned love story (a key, a room number). A necklace can also embody the wearer herself (custom necklaces are $150), like the "tough-girlie necklace", for the sweet girl who always gets what she wants—a pink lasso, a butterfly, and a red pocketknife (as Nowlin says, "small but deadly!"). That conflict defines the style generally—charms are feminine and playful, but it takes pluck to pull off the heft and attitude of these pieces.

Meet me in room 14.
photo: Allison Nowlin
Meet me in room 14.

On the Lower East Side, Some Odd Rubies and the new store Plum both sell similarly untraditional charms. The former carries pieces from "Made Her Think" by Merideth Kahn (starting at $132) that combine things like anchors, stones, and horns, each hanging from its own short length of chain, like a dangly earring. Plum is the only place to get Lizzie Fortunato's one-of-a-kind necklaces ($150-$350), with frenetic, multiple strands of items from world travels. Plum's owners have also started their own line, Fitsgibbons—featuring the unheard-of: charms on leather cords ($45-$75).

 
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