Leigh Batnick Plessner started working at Catbird by chance. Today, she works closely with founder Rony Vardi on the collections
Following the radical approach that “less and less is more and more” – that a closet filled with black pants, blue jeans, white t-shirts and a few good cashmere sweaters is plenty – the selection of jewelry I keep is also very clear. To be precise: A few fine gold chains hang in my bathroom as decoration, the vintage Rolex passed on to me by my father lies there just as delicately, well protected on a small plate. The only piece of jewelry I wear every day is the yellow gold Classic Hammered Ring by Catbird, and that’s because it’s so delicate and hard to feel you even have it on. Yes, it’s is a little bit bent and has seen better days, but in combination with the plain line tattooed underneath, it’s been with me for over seven years and I’ve never (really NEVER) taken it off.
So it was a great pleasure when an email from Catbird’s Brooklyn offices drifted into my inbox asking if we could imagine doing a feature with them. We were able to ask co-designer Leigh Batnick Plessner a few questions and, at the same time, we were able to find out a bit more about how the brand has developed over the years.
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When did you start working with Catbird? And how did it all begin?
I started working at Catbird 11 years ago, I think! I met Rony, the founder, at both of our first trade shows 12 or 13 years ago – she was shopping for Catbird and I had just launched a stationery line. She was looking for help for the Bedford Avenue store in Williamsburg, and I liked the idea of working outside of my house! I was there one day a week, and then more and more, and then I closed my own line and just did Catbird.
How has the company evolved since you have been here?
We’ve gone from just a few of us working there to around 70 now! Working with a team is so thrilling: They push us forward, and it’s so fun. The nucleus of Catbird is still an intimate, full-hearted, quiet experience built around jewelry made to last a lifetime.
What is the concept around the Catbird space here in Brooklyn? How does it relate to the neighborhood?
Our tiny shop is the center of Catbird – it’s where we started! We were lucky to set up in Williamsburg when it was ripe with models, stylists, makeup artists and actresses who took our jewelry with them around the world. We were their neighborhood shop! We recently did a big renovation of the store. It’s still itty bitty, but we stripped it down to the studs. For the first time ever, we have custom built jewelry cases! It’s an evolution – the next step – full of antique chandeliers and marble counters. We like to think of it as a return to the mercantile roots of our neighborhood.
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What is your personal take on jewelry?
Quiet, meaningful, lapidary, shining – or, as we say: Jewelry as poetry.
What is the bestseller at Catbird and why do you think that is?
The Threadbare Ring, a $44 solid 14k gold ring. I can’t think of anyone that couldn’t wear a Threadbare. Except maybe my baby daughter – she’s not quite ready yet.
What are your plans for the future?
At work: To continue to find and make the most beautiful jewelry we can. At home: To be the best mother that I can be.
Images: Anna Rose
Translation: Melissa Frost
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.