Streisand, Cher and Goldie Fake It with the Crème of Costume Jewelry from Ylang Ylang
Park Avenue matrons wearing discreet diamond studs used to just browse when they wandered into Brigitte LeBlanc’s boutique, Ylang Ylang. In 1982 the cascades of rhinestones, the fat steel hearts and the whopping fake pearls were still too outré for anyone accustomed to Cartier’s sparklers. But these days even the most conservative are coming to buy at Brigitte’s—and bedecking themselves with her inch-square rhinestones at high noon.
LeBlanc’s pink-and-turquoise shop on Madison Avenue in New York has spawned successful offshoots in Beverly Hills, Miami and Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and her client list has expanded to include such 24-karat names as Raquel Welch, Carly Simon, Olivia Newton-John, Bette Midler, Pat Benatar, Cher, Barbra Streisand and Goldie Hawn. Sylvester Stallone and Tony Perkins have been spotted in her store; so have Rod Stewart (who bought baubles for model Kelly Emberg) and Stewart’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Alana.
“Once you buy a few pieces, you’re addicted,” says Brigitte, 35. It would seem so. In two years she has built a multimillion-dollar business based on her dime-store style bijoux. A boutique owner in her native France, Brigitte came to America in 1976 and teamed with husband Jacques, 38, in a clothing-import venture. They gave up that business five years later, when Ylang Ylang (named after an exotic tropical tree and pronounced Elong Elong) began to blossom. Jacques now makes buying jaunts to Europe, while Brigitte supervises the stores and designs some of the showy stock.
On any day Brigitte might flaunt—aside from her leopard-print ensemble—a pair of crystal-studded, heart-shaped silver earrings ($285), a silver necklace with hearts of crystal and gold ($795) and an 18K gold bangle inlaid with silver stars ($480). Many of her wares are considerably less expensive: a pink rhinestone bracelet is $25, a pair of heart-shaped pearl earrings $20. “Hearts and stars are a very sweet and pretty theme,” says Brigitte. “This year they’re very in; so is anything that combines gold and silver. Women have been wearing these things in Europe for years. They just throw on their jeans, sweatshirts and rhinestones—and go!”
Ylang Ylang may never replace Tiffany’s; a woman needs a certain ye ne sais quoi to wear a black rubber choker with dangling heart-shaped rhinestones. “You know what I think it is?” says Brigitte, fondling a pair of sparkling earbobs. “You have to have a sense of humor to wear these things.”