The Sisterhood of the Shared Style


Annie Yang Zhou, Beijing

Mikimoto pearls

Wearing the same jewelry can be a cultural bond. Annie Yang Zhou may have met her friends in New York City when they were all working or studying there, but the natives of Shanghai, Huangshan, Guizhou and Beijing now all live in Beijing. And they all have pearls.

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Annie Yang Zhou in Beijing, wearing her Mikimoto pearls.

Credit
Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

“Many of us have pearls that were passed down or given as gifts from our parents,” Ms. Zhou said. “My mother has given me no less than five pearl necklaces, which is common in China.” To go with them, “I bought my own Mikimoto pearl earrings years ago when I started working, and my friends also bought them. We all wanted to dress classy for work and parties.”

Looking appropriate on the job is essential to her. Ms. Zhou, who holds graduate degrees from Oxford and Columbia and studied at Sciences Po in Paris, describes herself as an entrepreneur with her own “cross border investment consulting business.” She also is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Her friends are her support system; “we have our own Wechat group, GG xoxo” in honor of the “Gossip Girl” TV series. The group takes trips together, traveling to Seoul, Dubai and Shanghai, all wearing their pearls.

Annemarie Steen, Netherlands

Noosa-Amsterdam leather wrist strap

“I’m serious about playfulness,” Annemarie Steen said. The resident of Veldhoven, the Netherlands, started a business, Steentrain, and travels internationally to introduce businesses to the benefits of playfulness.

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Annemarie Steen in Amsterdam, with her Noosa-Amsterdam leather wrist strap.

Credit
Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

So it should come as no surprise that her favorite piece of jewelry, and that of her like-minded friends, is a leather wrist strap that has snaps on it allowing the wearer to add a personalized selection of charms to snap on or off. “You’re buying individuality when you choose your own chunks,” she said, which is what the company that makes the jewelry, Noosa-Amsterdam, calls the charms.

The connecting thread is the local boutique, Lot 7, that sells the bracelets. The owner is a friend, and Ms. Steen and other friends of the owner support her by shopping there for their clothing and accessories. “The style is feminine in a confident way, not too girly,” she said.

The leather straps are all over town. “If you go into a bar in Veldhoven and you see someone else with a Noosa bracelet you connect and compare, ‘Which chunks did you choose?’ ‘Oh, you went to Lot 7, too.’ You connect through the similar style reference.”

Hilary Adams Zwicky, New York

Hermès bangles

Hilary Adams Zwicky keeps her jewelry sisterhood all in the family. Well, her good friend, Michele Tortorelli Kearns, is almost family; she lives next door in the same Fifth Avenue co-op building. Her daughter, Alexandra Adams Zwicky, belongs. And her husband, Henry, began the sisterhood when he bought his wife an Hermès enamel bangle seven years ago for Christmas. Now, all the women collect Hermès enamel bangles.

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Hilary Adams Zwicky in New York, wearing some of her Hermès bangles.

Credit
Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

“I loved it,” Ms. Zwicky said of the bangle that started the ball rolling. “It’s classic.” And it’s logo-free: “It doesn’t have someone’s name all over it.” The bangles come in a wide range of colors, widths and designs that practically beg to be collected. Mr. Zwicky realized he had scored a hit, and gave Mrs. Zwicky another Hermès enamel bangle for her next birthday.

When the couple were wondering what to give their daughter for a present, the answer was staring them on Ms. Zwicky’s wrist: an Hermès enamel bangle. Alexandra loved it. Her then-boyfriend bought her another one for Christmas. Alexandra now has five (“Not too shabby,” her mother said) and sometimes borrows her mother’s two, or swaps with her to mix up the collection of colors on her wrist.

Ms. Kearns owns six of the bangles. “She always liked mine and her husband Tom, not to be outdone, gave her one for her birthday. Then for Christmas. For anniversaries,” Ms. Zwicky explained. But credit for creating the sisterhood goes to Ms. Zwicky’s husband. “Henry started a trend,” she said. “It’s a bonding thing, and it feels great.”

Rosemin Manji, Dubai

Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra collection

“My friend Nora has an extensive collection of Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra jewelry that she got from her mom,” Rosemin Manji said. “My friends Mariam and Jelena and I would see her wearing the necklaces and earrings. I don’t know who started things first, but the jewelry has become an extension of all our daily wardrobes.”

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Ms. Manji’s Alhambra pieces.

Credit
Christophe Viseux for The New York Times

“The design is elegant,” she said. The motif, which the jeweler calls a “lucky charm,” is scalloped, like a four-leaf clover. It’s expensive, too, but the Dubai resident maintained, “It’s a good investment.”

Ms. Manji now has four pieces. Her first was a pair of stud earrings, which she bought because “you can wear them with everything.” She also has a ring, and long necklaces that are perfect to “wear over an abaya.”

The Alhambra collection comes in a variety of gemstones and colors, but Ms. Manji favors the white mother-of-pearl; “it is easy to match with all my outfits and it looks polished and elegant without looking over-the-top. It’s good for travel,” she said.

She travels a lot. She founded RR & Co, a luxury management and consultancy firm for the Middle East. She has worked with fashion luminaries like Tom Ford and Tory Burch; Christian Louboutin named the “Rosemin heel” after her.

When she gets together with her friends, who live in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they are all wearing their Alhambra jewelry. “It shows our mutual admiration for beautiful things,” Ms. Manji said. “We end up talking about the new variations of color ways in the stores, or perhaps how one of us layered her multiple necklaces.”

There have been many multiple purchases, so many that Van Cleef & Arpels took notice. “They invited us all to Paris to celebrate and understand the brand’s history.” And celebrate they did, wearing their Alhambra jewelry.

Pamela Boulet, Paris

Sylvia Toledano cuffs

Pamela Boulet’s collection of Sylvia Toledano cuffs began when she saw a friend wearing one. A very good friend who, recognizing how much Ms. Boulet liked it, bought her a cuff for her birthday.

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Pamela Boulet, weraing a Sylvia Toledano cuff.

Credit
Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

What goes around comes around. “Every time I wear it I get more compliments on it than anything else I own,” she said. “So I keep giving them to friends. When I travel friends say to me, ‘When you go back to Paris’ — where Ms. Boulet lives and works in fashion and political fund-raising — ‘will you bring me back one?’ ”

The cuffs are striking, especially the ones several inches wide. They come in a range of widths and a variety of semiprecious gemstones set in gold- or silver-plated brass. “They look Byzantine or Indian,” Ms. Boulet explained. “You can dress very simply and put one on and you’re done. The cuffs can go from day to night.”

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Ms. Boulet’s cuff, by Sylvia Toledano.

Credit
Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

Ms. Boulet’s friends are equally enamored, “every single one of them,” she maintained. “If I go to lunch or dinner with six friends, I guarantee you four of them will be wearing their Sylvia Toledano cuff.” She calls the jeweler “an artist” and said “she doesn’t advertise. Her success is all word of,” she paused, “wrist.”

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