Some activists take up picket signs or rant on social media, but fashion designer Antonia Iannucci has instead chosen to make a statement with striking pieces of enameled jewelry with her self-started company Xtinctio. From the city of Bologna, Italy to the hub of the Saugerties Farmer’s Market, Iannucci has worked and traveled a long path to get to the heart of what really matters to her — the world around us, which she says is often overlooked in fashion production.
A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Iannucci went on to spend over 25 years the world of high-end fashion, working for such titans as Jeffrey Bean, Nicole Miller and Tommy Hilfiger. After a two-year stint launching her own entrepreneurial effort, Hampton and Co., with investors from Dubai, Iannucci then spent almost a decade designing clothing lines for JC Penney. She said she was struck by the environmental impact of designing on such a large scale, recounting her failed struggle to get JC Penney to support a line of clothes made of recycled fabrics. These days, along with the social media expertise of Kirsten Price, she has finally achieved her dream, she says, thanks to the support of Saugertiesians who’ve identified with her ideas.
“In Saugerties I met these wonderful people who were so supportive of my idea,” said Iannucci. “They would come and shake hands with me and say, ‘Oh my God, thank you so much for taking on such a huge task and making this happen.’ You could come up with a beautiful idea, but if no one shares it, you’re nowhere. The fact that so many people are as determined as I am is a refreshing and amazing feeling.”
For Iannucci, her idea is rooted in making a statement with her jewelry and starting conversations about habitat conservation. Her company donates to four foundations, each with a corresponding jewelry line meant to evoke their causes. For the Coral Restoration Foundation, for example, which aims to replace damaged coral in the Florida Reef Tract, Iannucci designed pieces evocative of ocean waves, featuring silver, lapis lazuli and stylized depictions of whales. As Iannucci describes the construction of each handmade piece, she continually frames them in relation to their larger purpose and their deeper connections. “The ocean, that turquoise, is the color of the water. The small pieces of brown, everything goes back to brown — which symbolizes the earth. Here, each piece of jewelry symbolizes the earth. The ring is a very organic piece that is made not only to be a stunning piece, but to be part of the body. This is how we want to make this company part of something bigger. It’s almost that each piece of jewelry is an organized piece. We want people to feel good when they wear them, and to be connected to something bigger.”
The other receiving groups are the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which rehabilitates baby elephants and rhinoceroses; Orangutan Outreach, which fosters and releases orphaned baby orangutans into the wild; and the Rainforest Trust, which aims to protect rainforests by purchasing land. She hopes to design a line for fund that supports polar bears in the future.
During her time in the world of high fashion, Iannucci’s feelings about jewelry have always been rooted in viewing them as more than just an arbitrary accessory. “I always had a passion for jewelry,” she said. “I always think that jewelry tells a lot about a person, seeing what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it. There are pieces that you make statements with, and my goal here was to make a statement. … If someone compliments it, saying it’s a beautiful ring or a beautiful color, it’s fodder for a conservation.”
Iannucci’s early thoughts about the increasing importance of conservation and its relation to fashion, came to a head when her twin daughters were born. “The reason why I became more aware of what’s happening in the world, my children and I were reading all of these books and realizing that every animal we were reading about was going extinct,” she said. “These are animals that, after these go, I don’t think there’s that much more for the human race. Becoming a mother has really made me much more aware of these problems.”
Inspired as she was by her own children, and wanting to leave behind a better world for them, many of the foundations and charities that Iannucci works with also tend towards the conservation of threatened baby animals.
These sentiments are doubly echoed by Iannucci’s social-media-savvy business partner, Kirsten Price. “People think that we are being very altruistic by donating all of our profits to help save endangered species, but we are actually being selfish,” said Price. “The species facing extinction are mostly umbrella species, which means their extinction has disastrous cascading effects on everything in our ecosystem, including humans. Without them, there can be no us. … I am a mother, and I want my children to not just survive, but thrive, just like the majestic creatures of our beautiful planet.”
Between their beautiful jewelry and their laudable mission statement, Xtinctio has but one more facet to account for their success — the faithful Saugertiesians who have shown support for their product and their message. In speaking of displaying her wares at the Saugerties Farmer’s Market, Iannucci spoke glowingly. “I see that the crowd that comes to Saugerties is also a really amazing crowd of people that have something special. The horse show people in particular are amazing — they’re partial to the animals and those people come from all over the country. They’re very open to the idea of our company.”
For Xtinctio, this is hardly the end of the road. Iannucci continues to build her connections to conservation projects and fervently passionate individuals. She said she hopes to support three more foundations with three more jewelry lines.