DRESSCODE: LUNCH AT THE RITZ
With Lunch At The Ritz, there's something to satisfy every craving. The quirky and polarizing line of detailed themed jewelry, mostly earrings, produced a vast array of pieces for enthusiasts of every interest and personality. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Esme Hecht, the former designer and one of the creators of the cult favorite jewelry brand Lunch At The Ritz.
ESME HECHT WITH HIS NECKLACE
"It's a state of mind, not a place or a body type. Whether you are dining in Paris or at the laundromat, grabbing a number at the deli counter or dinner dancing on a cruise, you can still be enjoying Lunch At The Ritz."
Creator and designer Esme Hecht always knew he wanted to create art. His mother told him to become a doctor and "do art" on the side. The free-spirited college grad took off after finishing school and hitchhiked from New York to Berkeley, California, where he found a job in a jewelry factory. He later sold his creations as a street artist on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and in San Francisco. There, he met Alexis Watts, his future partner in business and in life.
ESME HECHT & ALEXIS WATTS | LUNCH AT THE RITZ CATALOG
ESME HECHT & ALEXIS WATTS | LUNCH AT THE RITZ EARRING CARD
In 1982 Hecht picked up and moved back to New York in the fall and created Lunch At The Ritz with Alexis. Named from a line in the song Autumn in New York, "jaded roués and gay divorces who lunch at the Ritz will tell you that it's divine." Not quite a Breakfast at Tiffany's, a Lunch At The Ritz is instead an accessible special occasion.
NEW YORK TIMES, JANUARY 29, 1982 | BENDEL'S TRYOUT FOR DESIGNERS
Hecht knew he needed to get his jewelry in front of the right people. He borrowed gas money from his father and drove to Manhattan in his pickup truck with Watts to see Claire Nicholson at her famed open viewing Fridays at Henri Bendel's. He nearly missed his chance when he was told she wasn't there, but after calling her office, persistence paid off, and she bought everything they brought on the spot. Pieces were carefully hand sculpted from brass, hand-painted, and hand-enameled with lots of dangles.
"Picture something perfectly elegant and expensive, yet at the same time sunny and delicious. There you have Lunch At The Ritz."
LUNCH AT THE RITZ | MOON & STAR EARRINGS
LUNCH AT THE RITZ | HOLLYWOOD STAR EARRINGS
LUNCH AT THE RITZ | DECO NIGHTCLUB EARRINGS
The mission statement declared "there are women out there who love creativity and fun, who could care less about what the fashion magazines dictate." The line continued to prosper and sold to exclusive boutiques, department stores, and art galleries. Celebrity clientele included Cher, Diana Ross, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Janet Jackson, Barbara Bush, and Hillary Clinton.
LUNCH AT THE RITZ | FRUIT COCKTAIL EARRINGS
Hecht designed as vice president while Watts ran the business side as president, utilizing their skills to build up the company for nearly 30 years. Hecht loved designing and working with his hands, from sculpting metal and bending sheets of brass to creating product names and catalogues to sourcing new manufacturing techniques. Watts grew the two-man business into a 15,000 square foot factory using creative solutions, from hiring a feng shui consultant to reducing distribution.
NEW YORK TIMES, FEBRUARY 9, 2000 | HARMONY AND THE BOTTOM LINE
"Women either love it, or they just don't get it, and that's okay. The reactions to our creations are pretty extreme. We have women who own hundreds of pairs of our earrings, and there are women who wouldn't dream of buying even one. There are women who wouldn't be caught dead in them, and there are women who have requested to be buried in their Lunch At The Ritz jewelry."
LUNCH AT THE RITZ | ZODIAC ASTROLOGY SIGN EARRINGS
Spending both days and nights together at work and home for nearly 30 years took its toll, and Hecht and Watt's personal relationship fell apart around 2009. After signing his name on all of the menus, cards, and catalogues for the last 3 decades, Watts transitioned to using the moniker Zander Elliott. Hecht exited the company in 2011. The majority of the pieces that can be found in the market now were created by Esme Hecht and Alexis Watts, though are often attributed to Zander Elliott.
LUNCH AT THE RITZ CATALOG
Hecht now channels his creative energy into his new line, Ritzy Couture, while going through his Lunch At The Ritz archives. Bearing the same whimsical and lighthearted take on fashion as Lunch At The Ritz, pieces are fun and colorfully enameled with lots of dangles, beads, and crystals. During the pandemic, Hecht has been focusing on meticulously crafting pieces with luxurious finishings. We're so happy to know that Esme Hecht still continues to create, and we'll be here, collecting all of the pieces.
From Chinese takeout to the Hollywood sign, there's a Lunch At The Ritz piece to feed every soul. Pieces are available in-store and online.
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Lunch At The Ritz