Jewelry designer Coki Reardon wants to infuse the Crossroads with a bit of Paris.
"We're going to knock these cinder-block windows out and put in long glass windows, like a storefront," she says, pointing to the wall of her studio, which runs along the Bauer Building's side alley. "It will be like a Parisian market. I'm excited to introduce Kansas City to alley retail."
Reardon started First Friday sales of her Coki Bijoux line several months ago. For now, the side entrance leading to her space inside the newly renovated West 18th Street building is a little tricky to find. But Jeff Owens - the mastermind who has transformed the former Kansas City Arts Incubator into the Bauer - is dedicated to making the alley storefront a reality for Reardon and her neighboring tenants.
The Bauer includes an event space and mixes artist studios, galleries, offices and retail space. Reardon's first-floor studio occasionally opens for shopping. (She had a second-floor studio in the building when it was the Arts Incubator.) Her retail neighbors include Oracle - Fine Curiosities, a shop that pulls off taxidermy as high art, and the Orchid Loft, a soon-to-open urban-gardening boutique.
Reardon's design roots lead to Paris. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a liberal arts degree, she landed a nanny job there and then fell into an apprenticeship with a jeweler. She learned wax modeling, lost wax casting and metalwork in a studio near famed shopping street Rue de la Paix. Inspiration from Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels seeped into her work.
After 10 years in France, she came home to Kansas City and began crafting items that merged her time in Europe with her own style. She mixes precious metals with simple designs to create pieces suitable for everyday wear. Her work includes thin bronze bangles that bring subtle glamour; a sterling-silver cat's-eye ring with a classic statement; and the versatile 6-inch lemon-drop earring, a sparkling lemon quartz bead dangling from a delicate 6-inch 14-carat gold chain.
Reardon describes her work as sophisticated bohemian. "I love that high-end, Parisian glam, like Dior," she says. "But I want to be relaxed, not too polished and perfect. I like to think of it as Paris meets Brooklyn."
She has teamed up with fashion designers in the annual West 18th Street Fashion Show the past several years to showcase her work. For the "Gilded Summer" show this past May, she used 3-D printing and wax casting to replicate an orchid by French designer René Lalique. The exercise in sculpture resulted in an eye-catching neon-green plastic bracelet as well as an art nouveau bronze cuff that Reardon sees as the ideal bridesmaid accessory.
The items in her standard collection run from less than $30 to north of $200. Reardon packages each purchase with a spritz of her signature scent: French perfume from Roger & Gallet.
"I miss Paris," she says. "At least I can share it this way."
Coki Bijoux jewelry studio opens 5 - 9 p.m. Friday, October 4, in the Bauer Building, 115 West 18th Street (entry on the west side of the building). Or shop online at zaarly.com/