Why you should care
Because the woman who considers Jay Z a “big brother” is making it in the jewelry biz — big-time.
You’ve probably never heard of Crystal Streets, but chances are some of your favorite celebrities have. A former stylist — to stars like Usher and Gwen Stefani — turned designer to the stars, she’ll be in a lot more places come fall when her eponymous line hits HSN and shows up on the body and in the boutique of Kyle Richards, the resident fashion influencer on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Streets is riding the wave of the $150 billion global jewelry sector, which is predicted to grow a robust 5 to 6 percent annually for the next several years, according to a 2014 McKinsey & Company report. Streets’ business, though small, is on an upward trajectory. Earlier this year, she launched a luxury collection to appeal to the high-end, new-money buyers who are fueling some of the industry growth. Her business has doubled in the last seven months, she said. And while declining to divulge specific sale numbers, she expects a 100 percent sales increase over 2013.
They have sticker shock. I’m like, ‘You just spent $6,000 on a handbag. Gold is expensive. Diamonds cost a lot. Do you know that?’
— Crystal Streets
Figures aside, it’s her design sensibility that deserves attention. Delicate pieces and those with bohemian flair, from talented competitors like Jennifer Fisher, are increasingly popular.
But while other designers play with broad themes, Streets’ collections are dedicated to celestial motifs, inspired by summer nights spent with her mom in the Pocono Mountains — sun, moon, stars, outer space. She finds endless ways to draw inspiration from the mystical world and translate it into attractive, personal, even spellbinding pieces of jewelry.
Among the dreamiest of her pieces is a 24-karat, gold-plated starburst and moon lariat priced around $75. Plus, there’s a tiny, incredibly delicate moon-and-star bracelet for about $50. At the other end of the spectrum is Streets’ lavish “Estelle” runway necklace, a sexy creation of gold-plate and Swarovski crystals depicting stars and crescent moons in a brilliant play of gold and clear stones in a pavé and drop setting. The piece is designed to sit on the collarbone and cascade a few inches into a woman’s cleavage.
The high-end jewelry can set you back the price of a car — $15,000 to $40,000 — and she’s sold to many a customer who see her in the jewelry and order their own customized version of what she’s wearing. Instagram has also generated big sales. One recent post alone drew 75 orders.
But it turns out that even the richest and most famous aren’t always willing to pay big bucks for fancy statement jewelry — highlighting a challenge in the market that Streets is trying to corner. “They have sticker shock,” said Streets. “I’m like, ‘You just spent $6,000 on a handbag. Gold is expensive. Diamonds cost a lot. Do you know that?’”
Deeper conversations with her customers yielded the surprising answer — and demonstrate the weird challenges that come with catering to the super-rich: These women haven’t ever had to spend on their own jewelry. “They’ve never purchased their own diamonds,” she said. “It was a gift. Oh, my gosh!”
Streets wears her jewelry, several pieces at once, with aplomb, the gleam offsetting her full, curly hair and honey-brown skin. Dressed in tight jeans and high heels and with perfect teeth, she exudes a casual glamour and individuality that must come in handy when straddling the worlds of celebrity and fashion.
The woman has big visions. She wants to be a lifestyle brand — handbags, shoes and so on — like Nicole Richie, she says. But Richie came with the built-in brand name of mega-singer/dad Lionel Richie, plus a bestie who’s a hotel heiress with a world-famous surname.
“I stalked 10 top stylists for three months.”
You can count on one hand the number of jewelry brands that have successfully expanded into lifestyle. It’s a feat not even the venerable Tiffany has been able to pull off. Tiffany and rival Cartier have both added handbags and fragrance products over the years, but consumers seem to prefer their jewelry from a jewelry company and their apparel from apparel companies.
On the other hand, the McKinsey report notes, more and more apparel designers will try to get a piece of the “glittering” jewelry action.
Streets is undaunted. She expects to soon consummate a Reebok deal to design sneakers, a move that will not only further heighten her name recognition, but also put her on the road to her “lifestyle” brand goal.
Since launching her label in 2010, under the moniker Lyralovestar by Crystal Streets, she has drawn attention through word of mouth, celebrity contacts, industry response and social media.
Now she uses her name only for her brand, and she personally supervises the production of the high-end line, which — one would rightly guess — has its share of celebrity customers like Rihanna, Kelly Rowland and La La Anthony. It’s appeared in InStyle and Glamour and is carried by retailers like Anthropologie, JewelMint, Sabine and Max & Chloe.
In part, that’s thanks to Streets’ last gig as a celebrity stylist — a lucrative career many would kill for. She first landed in the style world while a student at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. “I stalked 10 top stylists for three months” she said, until she lassoed her first assistant position.
Streets was just 22 when she got her big break: She met Jay Z. He became a kind of “big brother” to her, teaching her the ways of the business world — “even showing me how to do an invoice,” she said.
I was making a lot of money and never got to enjoy it. There was no balance. There were no boundaries.
— Crystal Streets
“I made a lot of my mistakes on him,” she said. She worked with the rapper for five years, adding some of the biggest names in the music biz — Usher, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani — to her roster of clients.
She started the B.Lynn Group, a glam-squad agency (repping stylists, makeup artists and the like), with her best friend, Brandi Simpkins.
Her goals were small: “I wanted to own my own car by the time I was 25,” she said. “And I did.” A short-lived TV program documenting the high life, Oxygen’s House of Glam, came and went.
But she yearned for something more. “I was making a lot of money and never got to enjoy it,” said Streets. “There was no balance. There were no boundaries.”
The financial crisis of 2008 proved another turning point. “When the recession hit, I didn’t feel as passionate,” recalled Streets. “And I had to work three times as hard to make what I had been making.”
In 2008, pregnant with her daughter, she began sketching out her first jewelry collection, while saving and planning her exit from styling. Now 35, Streets looks back on the rocky transition period from styling to designing as a fait accompli. “A lot of my styling would start with an accessory,” she recalled. “I always chose accessories first because jewelry tells a story. It’s personal.”