Vital Stats: Jay Strongwater, 41, founder and designer for Jay Strongwater Inc.
Company: Elegant hand-enameled frames, timepieces, miniature boxes and home décor bejeweled with Swarovski crystals. The line, started in 1995, is sold in such stores as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.
2002 Sales Projections: Over $25 million
Fashion Foray: "My background originated in fashion jewelry. We were doing very well during the '80s, but in the mid-'90s, fashion jewelry fell out of fashion. I was concerned about how we were going to stay in business. That was the impetus for beginning in home décor."
"In the mid-'90s, Oscar de la Renta didn't want any jewerly for his runway show, and Vogue wasn't calling anymore. I asked myself, 'What could we do with all this knowledge we have?'"
Attention, Shoppers! "I designed one frame as a gift for different buyers and friends, and they said, 'You should try to put together a line.' When we shipped the first order in fall of 1996, we got an immediate reaction. Stores said customers were buying more than one at a time. We're talking about $400 to $600 frames retail. It very quickly grew from that point."
High (Priced) Art: "Because of the size and the amount of stones, the labor and material set the price. Some of the frames have anywhere from 1,200 to 1,600 Austrian crystals. We have several pieces that cost $1,200 to $1,400 retail."
Thinking Inside the Box: "About three years ago, we started making little boxes, very decorative and charming, from $95 to $290. That helped us grow tremendously, because it let the beginning collector in. We found a lot of collectors start their children with the boxes, which is very interesting."