What is a Designer?
Someone with an original eye, a balanced perspective, a vision for what looks exciting. A true designer has a feel for color and texture, and an innate desire to create beauty, best combined with a sense of what is happening, what is coming and what is timeless. Barbara Bowman has embraced her role as a designer in all aspects of her successful life as a fashion retailer, Californian, European shoe designer, stylist, world traveler, dancer and gymnast, collector of objects d' arte, community organizer, and wife and mother.
Her latest design endeavor brings it all together in a unique collection of statement necklaces – one-of-a kind pieces to serve at the heart of a women’s wardrobe. In 2017 Barbara Bowman launches her eponymous jewelry collection.
Barbara began her life in design as a creator of Italian footwear collections. She worked with the finest shoe factories in Italy, designing complicated models that would have over 150 components, between findings, exotic materials, and basic parts. Boots were her forte - everything from spaghetti western to Mongolian-like tapestry to embroidery to beaded moccasins.
Living in Milan, absorbing the Italian fashion capitol and frequenting stores on Via della Spiga and Via Montenapoleone, allowed her to immerse herself in a world directed by and reflective of years of buon gusto. “The Italians consider their food, clothing, accessories, furniture, cars all an expression of self,” Barbara explains. With an American sense of limitless possibilities and an acquired taste for the Italian gusto, Barbara designed countless collections of shoes that were sold worldwide including designer shops in the US.
Meeting Sol de la Torre Bueno by chance in Capri, changed both their lives. He was living in Paris, she was traveling between Italy, New York and Los Angeles. Europe became their playground. A fascination with each other and love for the glamour of Italy soon had them sharing a life in Milan. Barbara designed shoes, Sol researched the materials to realize them. Their collaboration continued until Barbara became pregnant and wanted to return to her home base of Ojai, California.
International Chic with a
With the addition of a son to the family, life changed. They traded the excitement of Europe for the stability and beauty of Ojai. Barbara stopped being an absentee owner of the Barbara Bowman clothing boutique while her husband Sol opened the True West/ Alexander David boutique, catering to men and women.
Building three successful retail stores in Ojai held their attention until their son graduated from The Thacher School and was off to George Washington University. Sol missed traveling, sold his retail business, and was soon exploring Nepal, Tibet, Burma and Thailand, while collecting art and rare rugs.
As he was becoming familiar with the Far East, Barbara was building her retail business around the concept of being a personal dresser. Her customer base grew as women would loyally trek to Ojai twice annually for their new wardrobes.
Not Being Singular in Their Interest
Barbara and Sol started ballroom dancing, and when a former national gymnastic champion and coach moved to Ojai, Barbara became excited with the idea of learning circus moves on a trapeze while building her strength on high rings. She accelerated the learning curve, made a poorly calculated move and fell from the trapeze, breaking her arm in 10 places, one of which was a compound fracture. When asked about the accident her response, “I am lucky, it could have been my neck or back!”
A year of recovery brought an important life change. Never finding the jewelry that best complimented the clothing in her boutique, Barbara began creating her own during that year of physical therapy and down time. Using carved sterling silver medallions, handmade beads and other treasures hunted out by Sol as he travelled, Barbara’s design sensibility was rekindled and redirected in an exciting new way. Sol added India to his list of destinations, sending Barbara packages of manually-crafted jewelry components. At home, he often collaborates with his wife on design, making use of his curatorial eye for antiques and art.
Love of Traveling, Collecting
The Barbara Bowman jewelry collection has brought together Barbara and Sol's love for traveling, collecting and designing. Creating all sterling silver necklaces or using semi-precious stones and minerals combined with beads and medallions wearing the patina of years, Barbara creates her one-of-a kind necklaces with an aura of mystery and history. These treasures are found in collections from India to Tibet, to Thailand to Nepal and inspired by the peaceful imagery of Buddhist and Hindu art. Each strand of Barbara Bowman jewelry is made up of a unique pairing of the old with the new, the antique with the modern.
The difference between designing shoes and creating necklaces is that the shoes Barbara designed were manufactured from a sample, with hundreds and even thousands of reproductions. But her necklaces are created one at a time and have no duplicates. Barbara’s treasury of materials is constantly being replenished and changing as new ideas are explored and realized.