A Series of Bad Ass, Trendsetting, Fearless Chicks: Margo Manhattan (Part 1)

Margo Manhattan is a true NYC bad ass! This jewelry designer uses her talent to create one of a kind timeless classics, that have raised awareness for both breast cancer and AIDS. Being raised around the dance world by her ballerina mother, she watched George Balanchine create masterpieces. Today she creates her own.

Karim Orange: How did you come up with the concept and inspiration for the breast cancer pin?

Margo Manhattan: I’ve always been interested in finding ways for my jewelry to contribute to worthwhile causes. During the Gulf War in 1990 I was inspired by the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” to design a yellow ribbon lapel pin for people to show support for our troops. It then occurred to me that I could apply the same concept to the AIDS crisis. So I designed the original red ribbon lapel pin for AmFAR (the American Foundation for Aids Research) to raise AIDS awareness.

This cruel disease compromised our artistic community and devastated so many individuals and families around the world - including my friends. I am so proud that my Red Ribbon became a global iconic symbol for creating awareness, support, research and now a cure!

At that point, I realized this simple enamel lapel pin could lend itself to supporting other causes as well. So, I approached Estée Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation with the idea of a Pink Ribbon. Months passed without hearing from them and I had given up. Suddenly, out-of-the-blue, they called me and said they loved the idea so much they were going to put it on every cosmetic counter across the United States!

K.O: How do you feel every time you see this and the support it has received over the years?

M.M: I am so proud. It’s a beautiful feeling knowing I created something that has contributed to finding a cure for this insidious disease. Many adaptations of my original Pink Ribbon are out there, yet I’m proud to know that I originated the concept that has become the universally recognized symbol for Breast Cancer.

K.O: I find your jewelry aesthetic very ageless. It’s hip, and classic at the same time. How does being a native New Yorker inspire this?

M.M: For me, jewelry is a form of self-expression. My designs change, yet my style is very much my own. Inspired by growing up in NYC which is an exciting city that’s always fresh and new - yet a timeless classic, I endeavor to create jewelry that also transcends time and fads. I believe that the piece finds the person. And when you find what you love — it’s deeply felt and becomes you. I’m happy to know so many of you collect my jewelry and that it empowers you. Movement, fit, and function are a big part of my jewelry style design and engineering. Just like the architecture of the city, it’s a puzzle that needs to be perfectly engineered. I’m a stickler for perfection, which is also a New Yorker trait. Can’t settle for anything less!

K.O: Your mom was a professional dancer, can you tell me a little about growing up in that world?

M.M: New York City Ballet was my playground as a child. I grew up backstage and was the only kid in the theater. It was fun to run around and explore. The dancers loved to throw me in the air, twirl me around, and indulge my fantasies. They were all so creatively infused with energy and constantly coming up with funny scenarios and stories. I also watched ballets being created by George Balanchine who was like a godfather to me.

My mother was prima ballerina Karin von Aroldingen. She was very acrobatic and Balanchine loved to work with dancers with unique skills and would develop ballets choreographed for her unique body type and abilities. I watched them rehearse the steps over and over until it was just perfect and exactly what he was looking for. It was so special to see the World Premier and know all the steps to the music which I remember even to this very day! That’s where I developed my inspiration— to see something begin as an idea and then come to life, to me it’s just like a perfectly crafted and engineered piece of jewelry!

K.O: Dancers are such free spirits, What were her get-togethers like?

M.M: Mom and Balanchine were amazing chefs. They loved to cook dinners and invent recipes. We had dinner parties with incredibly talented artists who discussed politics, history, and all facets of the arts. I took it for granted then, yet now, these are some of the most memorable times of my life. As a kid, I got to experience the excitement of traveling and having adventures with royalty and Paton’s around the world who were devoted to ballet and threw amazing parties for the company.

K.O: If you could dance with anyone who would it be?

M.M: Fred Astaire. He was so smooth and an amazing partner. I love his style. He was flawless, effortless, graceful and romantic.

K.O: If you could design a jewelry collection for any fashion designers collection (dead or alive) who would it be?

M.M: When I lived in Paris one of my internships was with Karl Lagerfeld. I worked with him directly in his atelier he was an amazing visionary and he adored me. I spoke to him in German and he spoke to me in English. I inspired him and he would draw me. It would be a dream to reconnect with him! I think he would love my jewelry, he wears a ton of silver. I love how whimsical and clever his jewelry is and I would love to design jewelry for him. It’s so fun when you work with other designers and they give you a direction and you can take it to another level. I was so proud when I designed Nicole Miller’s collection and I exceeded her expectations! Nothing feels better than that.

K.O: What’s in store for Margo Manhattan in 2017?

M.M: I’ve moved to TV! I’ve launched my latest collection exclusively on HSN. The next show will be May 18th 2-4pm. I hope to see everyone there.

Follow Margo Manhattan on Instagram or visit Margo Manhattan