Alexis Bittar's love affair with Lucite is legendary. The famed jewelry designer has spent a quarter of a century handcrafting baubles with the shatter-resistant material, which has turned him into a certified fashion industry rockstar. His fans include Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and perhaps the biggest style star of them all, Michelle Obama.
Yes, even the first lady can't get enough of Bittar's luxe acrylic creations that range from elegant floral brooches to edgy embellished chokers.
"I was 22-years-old when I first discovered Lucite," Bittar told HuffPost Style. "I started recognizing it in a lot of 1930s Deco furniture -- and what drew me was its sculptural malleability and translucence that could be adapted to reflect light in many ways."
Twenty-five years later, Bittar still has his Lucite designs hand-carved and hand-painted. He celebrated this milestone on Wednesday night by staging his first-ever New York Fashion Week presentation. In addition, Bittar tapped four contemporary artists -- Cordy Ryman, Mickalene Thomas, Natasha Law and Juliette Losq -- to create works using Lucite that were auctioned off with proceeds benefiting The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York.
So, what do the next 25 years hold for Bittar? “I’ll definitely keep pushing the boundaries of materials, straddling the worlds of art and fashion and branching out into other categories," he said.
In celebration of Bittar's 25th anniversary, we asked the designer to share some of his most cherished memories over his awesome career. Check them out below.
"Here I am as a kid selling flowers from a cart in Brooklyn. My brother (standing in the back) was totally not into it. This is me, 100 percent the entrepreneur, at 8 years old. Now we laugh about it, but in hindsight, my parents must have been worried about being arrested for child abuse."
"All the years of selling antique jewelry culminated in creating this technique of carving, polishing and painting Lucite by hand, which was never used before."
"I love Iris. I met her in 2004 -- she wanted to wear my jewelry to the opening of her huge exhibit at the Met. I knew who she was of course, but didn't let her wear the jewelry because I had a trade show that day. She later slapped me upside the head and called me a Bozo for missing out on that. She's since become a surrogate mother to me. In fact, she's going to be godmother to my twins who arrive later this spring."
"Dakota Fanning and me at the 2010 CFDA awards. This almost looks like a wedding pic! It was such an honor to be recognized by my peers in a category that doesn't usually get the same amount of attention as ready-to-wear. I brought my dad to the ceremony and dedicated the award to my parents."
"When Michelle Obama became a fan, my mom finally forgave me for dropping out of college. This was better than getting a degree."
"This was fun. Collaborating over the years with Lady Gaga and Nicola Formichetti was the perfect pairing of excessive creativity and personalities. This was a custom piece for Lady Gaga -- a Lucite helmet, which was used on the cover of Harper's Bazaar."
"For my latest spring campaign I featured Iris Apfel and Tavi Gevinson. I love that Iris and Tavi are so different in age yet so strong in their own personal style. I wanted to communicate the powerful message of working with women of such profound substance and individuality, regardless of their age. It was a fun shoot -- everyone had a blast. And my good friend Arianne Phillips styled the campaign."
"It’s been amazing to put my stamp on a material that had a history since the 1930s and create something completely new with it."