Sophomores Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato just bunked the beds in their Craven Quad room--not to frat-boytize their room, but to fit Lizzie's sewing machine, which they brought back with them over winter break.
"Our room is literally a craft center," Kathryn laughs.
The identical twin sisters run their jewelry business out of 310 House D. Their jewelry--which they have sold to stores all over Philadelphia, the stylist for "Will and Grace" and to beaucoups of fashionable Duke girls--is on display full-time in their room, for friends and costumers to continually view.
Described by Lizzie as "urban chic with an island twist," every single piece is one of a kind. Although some pieces might mimic the style of another piece, the color and materials always change. The pieces' names are equally appealing, finding origins in friends' nicknames, places the girls have traveled and drinks they have enjoyed.
When the twins--who are going to Fashion Week in Paris over Spring Break--sell directly to customers, they charge between $50 and $80 for earrings and between $80 and $180 for necklaces. Stores that buy from them also pay those prices but up the retail price.
Licensed as "Lizzie Fortunato Jewels," the company informally started when the twins were juniors in high school in Delaware and began to sell the jewelry on consignment to the trendy local boutique. Over the next year, the business grew, and they began to sell to stores throughout Philly.
As they adjusted to their first semester at Duke, they tapered production until girls on campus began inquiring about the twins' unique jewelry, prompting them to open their room up to sales. Their business is booming--in the last three days alone, they've sold more than 15 pieces--with girls constantly in to look at their newest items. For friends, they even lend out a piece for a night. "It's not just being nice--it's great advertising," explains Kathryn. "We get our business through word of mouth."
Straight out of an economics textbook, the twins' company operates under a clear division of labor. Lizzie, who plans to major through Program II under a tentatively titled "Style, Cultural Studies and Enterprise" label, designs and creates all the jewelry. The Style Channel constantly runs in her room, and she hides Vogue in her notebook during chem. Kathryn, fittingly an economics major, handles the business side of the operation. She keeps track of the buying, selling and bank book-balancing.
"We are a really good team," says Lizzie, who also makes clothing that she does not sell but that she often lends to friends. "I couldn't make a spread sheet for my life."
"She's really good at predicting things," Kathryn said, turning praise back at her sister. "She knew last fall that color would be the big thing this spring."
Their biggest exhibition yet will be next month. From 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 29, the Fortunatos are hosting their first trunk show at Duke in the back room of Parizade's. The sisters are donating 15 percent of the profits from the show to a scholarship fund in honor of Sasha Burakow, the freshman who passed away over winter break.
The mood of the event should be light, however, with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. The twins also predict that the show's timing--just days before Spring Break--will up sales of their colorful and eclectic jewelry.
The company is an incredible way for both girls to showcase their talents to future employers. Kathryn wants to go into business, and Lizzie wants to go into the fashion industry. As for the future of "Lizzie Fortunato Jewels," both girls seem dedicated to the endeavor--"But not for our real job!"
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.