Life, Faith, & Jewelry: Meet Vita Fede Designer Cynthia Sakai

It’s the day before the Billboard Music Awards, and Cynthia Sakai has been hard at work pulling pieces from her wildly popular jewelry line, Vita Fede (life & faith in Italian), to adorn the likes of Selena Gomez, Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, Ke$ha, and Jessica Alba for the big event.

“They are such a diverse group of women, but the beauty of Vita Fede is anyone can take our pieces and mix them into their own style,” says Sakai over the phone from her L.A. office. The number of famous women photographed in her pieces read like a laundry list of who’s who: Rihanna, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Angelina Jolie, Nicki Minaj, Mindy Kaling, and Anne Hathaway, to name a few. 

Vita Fede’s Italian-made creations have amassed an army of celebrity du jour devotees any designer would kill for. And just imagine: these priceless endorsements were acquired without a powerhouse PR team behind the brand wooing these sought-after clients. Sakai’s understated and timeless collection is enough to have celebrities contacting her office.

“Probably eight out of 10 calls or emails we get is about pieces they wore on a photo shoot,” she notes. Like the time Victoria Beckham’s assistant called from a magazine shoot to buy a ring Beckham just had to own.

Sakai insists that she doesn’t put more weight on her rich and famous fans than she does her average customers (“It’s all exciting, really!’). She often searches Instagram’s Vita Fede hashtags to see how people are stacking the different pieces, and often leaves comments.

“Social media has played a big role for us. It was really organic and nothing that we even planned,” she says when talking about the company’s substantial social media presence. “As opposed to magazines where an editor or a stylist curates the pieces, social media is just normal customers showing you what they like. It’s real genuine.”

But when she got an email about styling Gwyneth Paltrow for the Iron Man 3 premiere and the actresses’ book signing event, she admits to being very thrilled at the opportunity to work with the red-carpet veteran. “I just love her and her style. She is so chic.”

In the last two years, Vita Fede has been the first name in chic costume jewelry, leading the shift from the over-embellished designs that have dominated, to the clean and modern aesthetic that has now become de rigueur in fashion.

Although, when Saki first launched her line back in 2009, the feedback was less than welcoming for her brand of geometric accessories at a time when boho and vintage was the all the rage.

“People would ask why don’t you make things with beads, strings, or embroidery. That just wasn’t what I liked or would wear,” she recalls.

In fact, the line’s signature piece, the Titan, a hinged bangle with distinctive cone details, was deemed ugly by her Italian factory and outdated by her own business partner.

“When it came in, no one liked it or even noticed it for the first year.” Fast forward to the last year-and-a-half, and the Titan has reached “It” status, eliciting “ooohs and ahhhs” from celebrities, bloggers, and everyone in between.

Vita Fede’s pièce de resistance has since ignited a slew of knockoffs.  “I knew the Titan was very cool. It’s a classic piece with a bit of an edge that works for all women.” Sakai credits a button on her grandmother’s vintage dress as inspiration for the successful design. The Titan has since evolved into a whole family, with a myriad of iterations that include crystals and onyx.

The Titan wasn’t the first time Sakai – who launched her first accessories line when she was only 18 designing pretty cases to discreetly carry tampons – had a stroke of silhouette genius. Vita Fede was founded thanks to her unique ability to see beauty and retail potential in the unexpected.

“When I owned a showroom back in 2008, a friend gave me a bracelet from Italy and I just knew that I could sell it.” Her gifted leather-and-chain bracelet was a ubiquitous tourist souvenir sold in Italy for years, but when she got her hands on them and added her personal touch – new colors and metallic hardware – the bracelets, which she named Vita, crossed over from run-of-the-mill to fashionable.

“We sold 10,000 of them in the showroom and they were featured in every magazine. I had no intention of starting a line, but people were always asking me what’s next?”

Taking cues from the impeccably dressed Japanese women in her life such as her mother, who worked at Fendi and was involved in opening Fendi stores in the States, her grandmother and great-grandmother, Sakai was determined to lend a sophisticated sensibility to costume jewelry with Vita Fede.

“They all used to have their ready-to-wear tailor made, so quality and longevity was really instilled in me,” she points out. Her father, a former architect, no doubt had a role in Sakai’s love of clean lines and sculptural shapes.

Her American L.A. roots, is evident in the wearability of her line. You can pair one of her bracelets or rings as easily with a cocktail dress as you can with jeans. She strays from designing complicated special-occasion pieces and leans more towards an effortlessly modern and sleek European style she adopted on her many trips abroad.

“I wanted to create a line that both fashion and classic girls could wear every day,” she reveals. “Vita Fede makes a statement without being overbearing or in-your-face.”

Nailing that anonymously unpretentious look requires the intricate labor of five factories in Italy, whom also work with elite fashion brands like Céline, Saint Laurent, and Givenchy, to produce Vita Fede’s hand-crafted jewels. A single piece takes about six to eight weeks to bring to life.

Now that Sakai has succeeded in bringing craftsmanship back to costume jewelry, she is now set on eschewing the stuffiness of fine jewelry, and hopes to make it more relevant with her new upscale Black Label. The small inaugural collection is scheduled to launch in the US and Europe.

“When I go to a fine jewelry store, I still get that old, dated feeling of a tennis bracelet,” she says.  “Our customers who like to stack their Cartier and diamonds with Vita Fede are a bit hipper. They are looking for something that is not too edgy but still very cool.  We are working with black and clear diamonds and pink, white and solid gold.”

As for Vita Fede, the new pre-fall collection will consist “of a little more bling.” Sakai will also be adding more earrings to the mix and introducing a new cut-out design, inspired by a vintage ring her mother wore in the ‘60s, that will highlight more skin. We can also expect evening clutches to complement the jewelry collection in the near future.

Vita Fede is quietly poised to take over the costume jewelry world. In between working on these three new collections, Sakai is in the midst of launching the European markets, opening showrooms in Milan, Paris, and London.

The company is growing at warp speed, but multi-tasker Sakai plays it cool under pressure.  As if her day of Skype meetings, checking in on the factories, pulling pieces for clients, and chatting with me for this interview wasn’t enough, she casually mentions that she is also in the process of moving offices today.

“It’s just in a day’s work. I call it ‘organized chaos.’”

Ke$ha Takes Over Atlantic City This Weekend For Opening Of Haven

Do I know what you’re doing this Memorial Day Weekend? No. But do I know what Ke$ha is doing? Yes. The star who proclaimed 21 times that "we’re gonna die young" in her hit song will be hosting and performing for the opening of Haven Nightclub – the new dance club inside the Golden Nugget that brings the slot machines and roulette tables under the stars to its own outdoor veranda, complete with fire pits and lounges. For the first time ever in Atlantic City, nightlife shakes hands with gaming and "takes it outside."

For the wild opening, Ke$ha is performing two concerts with rapper Pitbull at The Grand ballroom on Saturday and Sunday. And Australian-born DJ Havana Brown – who has DJed on tour with Lady Gaga and Rihanna – will also be performing on Friday and Saturday.

Get the inside-info on Haven, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Flaming Lips + Ke$ha = Lip$ha

I like to think that the idea of The Flaming Lips collaborating with Ke$ha drives people bonkers, if only for the fact that somehow The Flaming Lips’ brand of nonsense fuckery is somehow better than Ke$ha’s nonsense fuckery. You know, because Ke$ha is played on pop radio stations—horrors!—and The Flaming Lips are not. (For the record, I’m not much of a fan of either of them, but I did get down with that Bob Dylan cover Ke$ha recorded two years ago, if only because it proved that there’s some talent beneath that glittery garbage she’s usually covered in.) Yesterday, in a Reddit AMA, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne touched on his band’s previous collaboration with the pop star and confirmed that they are working on an album together.

Via Spin, here are the highlights of Coyne’s revelations:

What was it like working with Ke$ha? 
"She is a blast on all levels. She’s funny, she’s humble. She’s badass. She’s everything. She’s awesome. We’re actually already working on an album with her. It’s called Lip$ha."

Does Wayne still have any of Ke$ha’s blood? If so, how glittery is it? 
"Yes and it’s VERY glittery. It came out of vagina that way. That’s the truth."

Fascinating, huh? I do love it when a grown man refers to a grown woman was "vagina." Not "a vagina" or "the vagina," but just "vagina." I appreciate that Wayne Coyne is getting right to the point! Anyway, there’s no real confirmation from the band or Ke$ha’s reps that Lip$ha is actually happening, so take this all with a few grains of glitter, I suppose.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Big Freedia, Ke$ha Getting Reality Shows

With 30 Rock over, Ben & Kate axed, and Parks & Recreation and Breaking Bad coming to an end in the spring, the latter with its ‘polarizing‘ finale, it seems like we’re running out of TV to which we can look forward. If waiting for Game of Thrones or Mad Men just isn’t enough to tide you over, luckily, the good people at your friendly neighborhood music-related channel have a pair of reality shows that actually sound sort of amazing.

After a scene from Teen Mom where the mother asked for a change in her sentencing so she could go to a Ke$ha concert went viral (she called the “Die Young” singer “her idol” and declared, “it’s not just a concert, it’s Ke$ha!”), MTV’s only natural conclusion would, of course, be to make a Ke$ha reality show. The documentary series, which premieres in April and features footage shot by her brother, Lagan Sebert, shares a name with her recently-released memoir, My Crazy Beautiful Life. The show will focus on her life over the past two years, including touring and recording. Ke$ha says the show’s content will be “not all glamorous, but it’s all real,” so hopefully we’ll find out what really happened in that Record Store Day session with Wayne Coyne.

However, our artist-centric reality show cups had really runneth over upon finding out that New Orleans bounce superhero Big Freedia (the Queen Diva) was getting her own show on Fuse. Much like Ke$ha’s, it will be a documentary series focusing on the New Orleans rapper’s life and music, from recording to touring to the more personal.

"We’re working on a reality show that should come out real soon,” Freedia says in a Fuse interview. “I’m very excited about that, but I’ll be a little scared about it, too. They’ll be in my life a full 24/7. It’ll be all of my music and all of a lot of asses all over the world.”

Freedia’s reality show doesn’t have a premiere date yet, so you should probably just clear your calendars for the next few months just in case. In the meantime, watch this interview for more on her music and bounce’s impact on New Orleans.

“I Hate Music!” Says Michael Musto, Your Gay Grandpa

How many times have you heard some old person complain about what the kids are listening to these days? (Oh, yesterday, from me?) It’s a certainty, like death and taxes, that popular music will only cause the furrowed brows of the cool kids of yesteryear to become more creased, their now wrinkled hands forming into limp fists raised slightly in the air as the loose skin on those arms shake with a ferocity only matched by the senility so depressingly spouting from their typing fingers. Do not dare hush them! They have opinions, and they are always correct! Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Musto has something to say about the current state of pop music! 

The venerable Village Voice columnist is very upset today, because of Rihanna and Flo Rida and Ke$ha. And honey, he has lost his mind and control of his elipses:

The number-one slot on the chart generally goes to whoever gave the most free copies to concert-ticket buyers that week. The second week, they’re suddenly not even in the top 100. … Adele is happy. … Once you’ve heard the title of a Taylor Swift song, there’s no need to hear the actual song. … The "Piano in the Dark" sample in Flo Rida’s "I Cry" drives me cuckoo crazy. I keep wanting them to finish the phrase! … Someone please tell Rihanna it should be "shine brightly like a diamond." … Boybands are back. They’re like a case of crabs you just can’t get rid of. I really like their hair, though. … The musical repetition that started with all those Kesha songs is now in every single mix-mix-mix-mix-mix by every singer-singer-singer-singer. Stop-stop-stop-stop. … People who walk around listening to music are generally oblivious to everything else, not even aware that they’re endangering your life as they step into traffic in the middle of the street. Somehow they always come off scot-free as they glide through everyone else’s tragedies. They’re probably listening to Eminem.

Please, sir, tell me more!

Every song today happens to be "featuring" someone. Would the Beatles have had to give up their instrumental breaks to someone rapping about bitches and hos? 

Very good musical analysis, Mr. Musto! I had never ever considered the possibility of the Beatles singing about bitches and hos, much less the notion that Paul and John might step away from their microphones to give room to someone else to rap about bitches and hos. Very astute observation, pitting a band that has not released music since 1970 against, say, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Very smart! 

But hey, Michael Musto is hardly a music critic, and he knows it! Which is why he then begins to quote heavily from his music critic friend, who, similarly, is so angry about everything, especially Pitchfork:

"Pitchfork.com is an intentionally obscure website that reviews every indie record, rating them with a score from 1 to 100. It’s hard to get a score over 73. They create stars, like Melody Maker and NME did in England 20 years ago, and then they turn on them. As a result, your EP will sell 6,000 copies in Brooklyn, and then your full album will stiff. If you’re no longer new, you’re not as cool to them. They love bands they never heard of, and they love Neil Young, but everything in between is not good."

Anonymous Music Critic, you are so on-point! We’re on the cusp of 2013, after all, so it’s about time someone take a stance at those dastardly Pitchforks with their 100-point rating scale. And goddamn you, Brooklyn, for being so overpopulated by people who pay money for EPs! "White people," am I right? 

I mean, I get it: it’s hard to take your afternoon nap while listening to One Direction, and that only leaves you being cranky at dinnertime (which is 6PM, in case you forgot). 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter

Ke$ha Has an Extremely Catchy New Song With Iggy Pop

By now, you’ve probably heard Ke$ha’s latest single, "Die Young" in your everyday life so many times that the earworm has not only firmly nestled into your brain, but now has a regular commute and is working on raising a family. Maybe you’ve even seen the video, packed with Illuminati-conspiracy-theory-evoking imagery, gratuitous footage of wolves and lots of glitter. Maybe it’s your super favorite jam of 2012 so far — and fair enough, a jam indeed it is. 

But if "Die Young" just isn’t cutting it for you, there is plenty more Ke$ha to go around, and with more Special Guest Stars, including Patrick Carney of The Black Keys (who co-wrote and co-produced closer "Love Into the Light"). Her next glorious apocalyptic frat party of an album, Warrior, drops December 4th and will be available for a preview stream on iTunes soon. In the meantime, the singer released a new track from her third album, featuring one surprising-but-not-really-surprising guest: Mr. Iggy Pop. Their collab, "Dirty Love," is a straightforward, stomping rock ode to knowing what you want (and how to get it). Iggy appears for the rather unsubtle bridge: "Cockroaches do it / in garbage cans / rug merchants do it / in Afghanistan / Santorum did it / in a V-neck sweater." This may be the first—and last—time Rick Santorum’s sex life is ever mentioned in a pop song. Listen below.

Urban Outfitters Sale Rack Vomits All Over New Ke$ha Video

At first glance, Ke$ha seems to have taken some pages from Lady Gaga’s more recent playbook in her video for new single “Die Young.” There are the neon crosses and pentagrams, the playing with religious iconography that reminded us of “Judas;” the triangles and glitter the first few seconds of “Born This Way.”  But these links are obviously tenuous and over-thought: what this video really echoed, as the headline may indicate, is an Urban Outfitters sale rack. There’s neon, geometric patterns, leather—at some point footage shows up out of nowhere of two wolves either fighting or trying to mate (we’re not totally sure). All it’s missing are some ironic Mitt Romney t-shirts.

The premise of the video for the synthy, YOLO-espousing first single from Ke$ha’s upcoming album, Warrior (which will feature guest appearances from Iggy Pop and, on the “deluxe edition,” New Best Friend Wayne Coyne) is, of course, that Ke$ha is the leader of some Illuminati-esque cult. It’s probably only a matter of time before there actually are Illuminati conspiracy theories about this video, like that when you watch it backwards and zoomed in at 200%, you can see the message “NEW WORLD ORDER” written in glitter in the background. Watch.

Confirmed: Ke$ha Has Had Sex With A Ghost

This makes a grand total of one thing I know about Ke$ha.

I just don’t understand why reporters are hedging on the facts here, talking about “claimed” this and “alleged” that. How do you even doubt for a second that Ke$ha has had sex with a ghost. She said it herself! That’s called a primary source, people.

What reason could she possibly have to make this up? I suppose you think she’s only disclosing this “erotic paranormal experience” to advertise her new ghost-themed single, “Supernatural.” Or that she lifted the concept from recent Steven Millhauser novella “We Others.” What pish-posh. There is a ghost out there and Ke$ha has had sex with it:

"I had a couple of experiences with the supernatural. I don’t know his name! He was a ghost! I’m very open to it."

Ke$ha added that her new album Warrior was based around a spiritual quest she went on to improve her music.

Okay? Ghost sex. Between Ke$ha and a nameless male ghost. That’s the only thing that doesn’t add up—I’m thinking she definitely knows the ghost’s name, but doesn’t want him hounded by paparazzi. That’s fine Ke$ha; ghost sex should be a private thing. Unless you want to talk about it.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Roundup: All the Famous-People Stuff that Happened at Coachella

While you were sitting in your unfashionable apartment trying to watch a choppy stream of The Strokes’ set at Coachella this weekend, Christopher Mintz-Plasse was busy at the actual Coachella, gladly assuming the role of McLovin’ and getting mega-laid because of it. But he isn’t the only human being who used their celebrity to have an above-average time in the desert. Here’s a breathless roundup of the kooky shenanigans those crazy Hollywood kids got into at the annual music and arts festival.

While Russell Brand handled Arthur promotional duties overseas, Katy Perry dressed like a flower child and caught the Sleigh Bells set. She also dug sets by Robyn, Empire of the Sun, and Kanye. Vanessa Hudgens potentially did MDMA, while her boyfriend, Josh Hutcherson, potentially got a tan. Danny DeVito furthered his reputation as Coachella’s most legendary attendee. Lea Michele acted like a total B. Lindsay Lohan showed up with a camera and a smile. Robert Downey Jr. went incognito behind Tony Stark’s facial hair. Ke$ha hawked Converse and protested American imperialism, all at once. Camilla Belle ate BBQ! Penn Badgley ate pizza! Leo DiCaprio marked the occasion by blinging out his standard outfit with a glow necklace. Rosario Dawson popped by the Belve Music Lounge, where Chad Hugo, Taryn Manning, and other spun beats. Everyone else went to the neon carnival and presumably got bombed. Fun times!

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