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For its 40th anniversary, Carolee, the noted costume-jewelry maker, held a contest within FIT to design five collections that blend the classic, sophisticated Carolee look with a fresh, fashiony edge.

On Thursday, September 13, the winners convened at the Carolee counter at Bloomingdale’s to try on their designs. They, along with execs from Carolee, FIT, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Nylon magazine, crowded into an aisle between jewelry cases and sipped prosecco, nibbled on macarons, and took in congratulatory remarks.

The five winners of Carolee's design contest

Carolee’s FIT Student Design Competition Winners from FIT’s Jewelry Design major, left to right: Palwasha Iqbal ’12, Prakshi Sharma ’12, Elyse Spencer ’13, Yoonji Choi ’12, and Christine Gonzalez ’13 (and Advertising and Marketing Communications ’99). (PRNewsFoto/CAROLEE)

“This store is about dreams and aspirations,” Joel Fivis, president and COO of Carolee, said. “We are very proud to have played a part in helping these students reach their aspirations.”

“The future of design is secure,” Karen O’Brien, vice president of marketing (and fellow FIT alumna), said.

Each winner received $1,000, and five dollars from the sale of each piece will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Carolee also sponsored a $2,500 annual scholarship to one Jewelry Design student. The first winner was Vanessa Marek, Jewelry Design ’13.

FIT students’ winning designs for Carolee. Clockwise from top left: Palwasha Iqbal’s Deco Jazz, Christine Gonzalez’s Bold Geometry, Yoonji Choi’s Peacock Blues, and Prakshi Sharma’s Heirloom Lace. Center: Elyse Spencer’s pieces. (PRNewsFoto/CAROLEE)

The winners were charmingly modest about their stunning works.

“I was afraid of these earrings. I didn’t think people wore earrings like this anymore,” said Prakshi Sharma, who flew in from India for the occasion. Her Heirloom Lace collection drew on the shapes that snake charmers make out of their snakes. “American style is simple and straight, but this is complex.”

Yoonji Choi based her collection, Peacock Blues, on the cockiest bird in the animal kingdom. “People will get a chance to feel like a prima donna on the stage,” Choi said. She brought in a splash of light blue to make the pieces feel younger and trendier.

The People’s Choice award went to Elyse Spencer, the youngest designer in the contest. The secret to her populist appeal? “My roommate Natalie got a lot of people to vote for me,” she said.


  1. Diana

    These pieces of jewelry look absolutely gorgeous!!
    Why did I became an accountant?
    Now jewelry making is my hobby, but I would love to spend more time on it.


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