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Austin Designer Nak Armstrong Celebrates 25 Years in Jewelry With a Pop-Up at Bergdorf Goodman

A chat with one of Austin's most sparkling creatives

As Ausinites, we all know that our city is home to countless artistic talents. And while it can be tempting to keep our remarkable musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, and designers an in-the-know local secret, it’s also thrilling to see them thrive in huge markets and gain the attention of heavy hitters in their fields.

That’s why we’re so excited that Nak Armstrong, an Austin-based jewelry designer who’s been killing the game for 25 years, is celebrating his quarter-century in business by hosting a pop-up residency at the iconic Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City.

Jewelry designer Nak Armstrong. Photo by Brittany Dawn Short.

Armstrong tells us that the Bergdorf Goodman collaboration appeals to him because “Bergdorf Goodman is an institution and icon of design and refinement in the fashion world. For decades, it has represented the pinnacle for designers, and there are few comparable residencies for a brand.”

The shop carries Nak Armstrong jewelry on a regular basis, but because the pop-up is specifically designed and located in its own area, it “gives me the opportunity show a greater breadth of the collection in an environment that mirrors my vision.”

Armstrong’s vision for his jewelry and for his Bergdorf Goodman pop-up centers around his design aesthetic, which emphasizes colorful gemstones and inspirations from the both the mid-century Brutalist movement (characterized by strong lines, sharp angles, and raw metals) and Renaissance art and architecture. “We built a shop inside Bergdorf where I collaborated with the same local designer of our Austin flagship, Ann Tucker of Studio A Group, to create an environment that is visual articulation of the brand,” Armstrong explained.

Asking Armstrong how his identity as an Austin designer informs his jewelry, he says that “one of the comments that I often get about my jewelry is that it’s refined without being stuffy, and I think that is heavily influenced by the laid-back vibe of Austin. One of the reasons I think that Austin is a modern city is that it reflects the way people actually live today — they want things that are special and have a point of view, but that are not fussy or unwearable.”

While Armstrong’s jewelry (both from his standard collection and from the special collection that he created exclusively for Bergdorf Goodman) can certainly bring the drama, the pieces are also designed to move with the body and to complement the wearer rather than overwhelming them.

Keeping up with the times is essential for success in any design-related career, so Armstrong has a keen sense of what 2023 jewelry buyers want from their accessories. “My clients are looking for more tailored looks (i.e., less is more).  They are moving away from small necklaces and chain stacks to one or two statement stone rivières, gold chains, and pendants. Instead of multiple stacking bands, they’re reaching for bold diamond and colored stone rings with heavy gold bezel settings,” he said.

But while trends can’t be ignored, Armstrong urges young designers to tap into their own visual tastes and interests when establishing their artistic vision: “Take time to develop your look before hitting the market and then stay true to your aesthetic.  One should always pay attention to the zeitgeist and allow it to inform decisions like price, scale, and color, but don’t chase the trends or you’ll never build a devoted following, which is the key to survival.”

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