Republished with Permission from The News Journal
Elizabeth Fortunato '02 always had a passion for putting things together.
As a child she would rip up and reassemble her clothes to make jewelry and accessories out of whatever scraps of fabric
or materials she could find.
She never thought her necklaces, earrings and bracelets encrusted with freshwater pearls, moonstone and labradorite beads would make it to the pages of Vogue, Elle or Harper’s Bazaar, but they have.
And now Delaware fashionistas can get a good look at the jewelry – and maybe load up on it – Friday at a spring trunk show featuring the Lizzie Fortunato line.
The show begins at Peter Kate in Greenville at 1 p.m., and the twins will arrive at 4 p.m. and stay until 6:30.
Elizabeth, who is originally from Wilmington, started making and selling her jewelry in high school with her twin sister Kathryn '02, while they attended Tower Hill. Then in college at Duke University, so many people liked and wanted to buy her stuff that Kathryn insisted they bunk their beds and put a sewing machine in the room to keep up with demand.
When the twins graduated to move to New York, Kathryn went to work on Wall Street and Elizabeth in fashion PR. But 10 months into her job, Elizabeth decided to launch her brand – Lizza Fortunato Jewels – in 2007.
“It’s the process of sourcing and creating, often with unexpected materials, and coming up with something greater than the sum of its parts that got me hooked,” Elizabeth says.
The line is taking off. Kathryn spent the first few years in New York working days on Wall Street and nights and weekends for her sister’s design line, then started full time
with her sister in 2010, managing the operations of the company so Elizabeth could focus on designing.
“Lizzie is the creative brain with a passion for design
,” Kathryn says. “I have always been a numbers person with a love for selling so it’s been a very easy and natural partnership for Lizzie and I to each fill very different roles.”
Peter Kate, the Greenville fashion boutique, was the first store to carry the 28-year-olds’ jewelry. Their business savvy impressed Sissy Harris, co-owner of Peter Kate.
Kathy Savage, Harris’s mother and the other co-owner of Peter Kate remembers the twins as popular girls in the community who came from a successful
“You have these beautiful looking twins – one was the creative force and one was the business force,” she says. “It was really a match made in heaven.”
Between the product and the local pedigree, they sold out at Peter Kate.
Harris says that even though the jewelry, handmade in New York with materials scoured from India and the twins’ travels from around the world, is a little edgier than what some of her normal customers are used to, the pieces are still very wearable and approachable. The pieces range from $150 for bracelets and earrings and $350 to $650 for necklaces.
Harris says many artistic talents fail because they can’t handle the business aspect of fashion, but Elizabeth and Kathryn are successful because they can balance both sides.
“At such a young age they definitely had an eye for the best, and their designs
were really interesting for girls that were in high school,” Harris says.
Elizabeth and Kathryn now live together in an apartment on Crosby Street in Manhattan and plan to go to Paris for a trunk show to sell the rest of their line after their appearance at Peter Kate.
Kathryn says she never expected the business would become so successful.
“We just worked really hard and have done everything we can just to make sure we’re turning our wheels
and going in the right direction,” she says. “By no means was it ever a shoe-in.”