Portrait of a $2.5-million bra
How does a nice, albeit glitzy Long Island jewelry business end up designing one of the most celebrated (and priciest) bras in the world?
The people at London Jewelers, the 85-year-old, family-owned company with five stores on Long Island, can answer that question, having just created the $2.5-million bra to be worn by supermodel Miranda Kerr in the legendary Victoria's Secret Fashion show.
Since 1996, it's been a Victoria's Secret signature to feature a ritzy, bejeweled number in their shows and holiday catalogs. The "Fantasy" undergarments have run from the $1- million number Claudia Schiffer wore in 1996) to an $11- million design worn by Heidi Klum in 2003 to the record-holding $12.5-million stunner worn by Gisele Bündchen in 2000. A series of big name jewelry companies have designed the bras, including Harry Winston, Mouwad and Damiani.
So how did Long Island's London get into the mix? According to London owner Candy Udell, a friend of a friend asked if they'd be interested. They were. "We've done dog collars, handbags, even hair pieces," said Udell, "and though we've never done undergarments we felt we could do anything."
She and her daughter, Randi Udell-Alper, worked on the project -- from design to execution -- for close to a year. First they presented a concept board to the powers at Victoria's Secret. Using an aquatic theme, Udell-Alper said they incorporated elements they loved -- "mermaids, oceans, treasure chests, and a tassel, which is a big trend in jewelry design this year."
Once they got the job, a sketch was sent to the Los Angeles design studio of Norman Silverman, a diamond dealer and manufacturer, who, with the help of craftsmen, brought the 2011 Fantasy Treasure Bra to life. The process included more than 500 hours of skilled labor to hand place more than 10,000 stones, including 3,400 pearls, 142 carats of diamonds as well as citrines, aquamarines, and the showstopping tassel centerpiece adorned with two 8-carat-plus white diamonds and two perfect matching yellow diamonds of more than 14 carats. "It's very rare to find matched pairs in these sizes, and that adds to the value of the bra," said Silverman. Throughout the process, the piece was transported back and forth from L.A. to L.I. at regular intervals for inspection -- by Brinks armored trucks.
Udell is delighted with the finished product and so, apparently, is Victoria's Secret. Monica Mitro, the executive vice president of the company's brand communications and events, calls it "one of the most beautiful Fantasty Bras we have ever featured."
"They love this bra. It's very different from the others, which were really jewel encrusted and very uncomfortable to wear."
In fact, former VS model Selita Ebanks famously complained about her bejeweled ensemble worn at the show in 2007, saying, "Diamonds hurt."
Apparently this isn't the case with this year's bra." Kerr said putting it on was "Magical. It's a piece of art." And, Udell adds, "It fits her like a glove."
You can see the bra in action Nov. 29 when the Victoria's Secret fashion extravaganza airs at 10 p.m. on CBS. Plans are in the works for the bra to visit the Americana Manhasset store sometime in December, along with a few Victoria's Secret models. And après show, the 34C is available for purchase in the firm's holiday catalog or at the London store.
For their part, the Udell family is -- mostly -- enjoying the limelight.
"We've had two breaking news stories this week. One bad. One great," said Mark Udell, (Candy's husband) referring to the recent midday robbery at jewelry store's Manhasset flagship, and the bra, which is generating a lot of publicity worldwide. "What a week!"