When is the Big Red Bear quite tiny? When he’s dangling from a chain around your neck. Among the University’s Sesquicentennial merchandise is a necklace by jewelry designer Alex Woo ’95 depicting the beloved mascot mauling a capital “C.” Debuted during the 150th kickoff events in New York in September, it’s part of Woo’s new line of licensed Ivy pendants. Yale has a “Y” with a bulldog, Brown a “B” inside a bear paw, Princeton a “P” with tiger stripes, and so on. Available online and at the Cornell Store, the Cornell pieces come in silver ($168), gold ($998), and white gold with diamonds ($1,198).
The designer of her own line for more than a decade, Woo works out of an atelier in Rockefeller Center. Her pieces, all made in New York, grace the necks of such boldfaced names as Christina Applegate, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Taylor Swift, Kelly Ripa, and Mariska Hargitay. Former “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria talked up Woo’s designs on the Emmy red carpet—their creator, watching at home, was pleasantly shocked—and wore Woo’s donkey pendant while campaigning for President Barack Obama. When the stylists for “The Carrie Diaries”—the teen prequel to “Sex and the City”—sought a precursor to the grown-up Carrie’s famed nameplate necklace, they settled on Woo’s “Little C” pendant (landing the designer on the pages of People, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and more). “It was Carrie’s staple piece and she wore it in every single episode,” Woo notes, “including in the swimming pool and in her pajamas.”
A New York City native, Woo studied art in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning before transferring to the Hotel school to pursue her other passion: food. An artist and sculptor since childhood, she never seriously considered a career in jewelry until 1998, when a former professor encouraged her to enter the National Women’s Jewelry Association’s design competition—and she took home the grand prize. Woo’s current line is built around hanging charms that have depth and heft despite their diminutive size. “They’re not flat, thin pendants,” she says. “I treat them like micro-sculptures. They’re designed to stand on their own.” Themes include numbers, letters, animals, seasons, cities, activism, lucky charms, baseball logos, and signs of faith. “They’re tiny little collectables; you can create a menagerie of them,” she says. “They’re fun, modern, and trendy, but also designed to be classic. A woman in a business meeting wouldn’t feel like she’s wearing something juvenile.”