lizzie and kathryn fortunato
lizzie fortunato jewels
Most designers worry about the sales of their wares covering things like rent and groceries, but when Lizzie (left) and her twin Kathryn (right) got started, they were primarily concerned about paying for spring break. As undergrads at Duke University, the two Wilmington, Delaware, natives sold their attention-grabbing jewelry at on-campus trunk shows, drawing in swarms of girls looking for something stand-out to wear for a special occasion. “If a trunk show started at 6p, there would already be a line at 5:30, and everything would be gone by 6:15. They would be madness—like, sorority girls gone wild,” Kathryn recalls.
Lizzie handled the design end of things, and Kathryn fielded the business and marketing side. But when they moved to Manhattan after graduation, they pursued the kind of careers that come with a regular paycheck and health insurance—Lizzie headed into fashion PR and Kathryn into a
job at Goldman Sachs. Some of their college pals infiltrated the New York fashion scene, though, and commissioned Lizzie to create hulking necklaces or layered bracelets for photo shoots or runway shows. Soon enough, the interest basically demanded that the girls launch a full-blown collection.
Their fanbase grew exponentially from there—with clothing designers like Suno and VPL wanting to collaborate, too—and the Lizzie Fortunato Jewels loyalists remain as hardcore as ever. “It’s amazing: The girls who used to buy three pieces back then are still the ones who get a piece every season,” Kathryn explains. “Some of them have collections better than anything we have of our own work.”