Jay Strongwater meets his collectors
Simply put, a picture frame is a structure in which a picture is displayed. Now add the name Jay Strongwater to the mix and something more significant is created – a hand-crafted piece of art that draws the attention of collectors from around the world.
Strongwater recently appeared at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bal Harbour to meet some of his South Florida collectors and SocialMiami was there to learn more about this gifted artist.
“I’ve been coming to South Florida since I was a child,” he says. “I’d come with my parents from New York and we’d stay on Hollywood Beach. I remember Saks in this area even before the Bal Harbour Shops existed.”
Today, Strongwater still lives in New York – the West Village – and comes to town four or five times per year. “We have lots of collectors in South Florida,” he says. “The last time I was down, I stayed at Acqualina. That’s a very elegant hotel and Il Mulino was very busy. The food and service were superb. This time I’m staying at the St. Regis in Fort Lauderdale, which I also like. What’s most interesting, though, is that my room has hardwood floors. It’s normally carpeting.”
Strongwater’s success is certainly not by chance. The man behind the frames combines a creative mind with a skillful business approach. “It’s not just about making a pretty picture frame,” he explains. “There’s an entire business behind it. We currently employ 150 people and are expanding into side tables, mirrors, candleholders and more.”
A growing aspect of the Strongwater empire is e-commerce, and not only from his own website, jaystrongwater.com, but from retailers’ sites that carry him like Saks Fifth Avenue. “The internet has opened us up to areas where we didn’t have a presence,” Strongwater says. “We are shipping to regions where we had never done business before.”
Of course when Strongwater began his creative journey, the Internet wasn’t even a thought. His beginnings were actually in jewelry design, not picture frames. “I was attending the Rhode Island School of Design when Saks Fifth Avenue gave me one of my first big breaks. They had taken a chance with me and ended up using my pieces in a window display with Oscar de la Renta. Once I saw the display, I dropped out of school, and the rest is history. I later teamed with Oscar de la Renta on runway shows where my jewelry designs were paired with his clothing.”
In 1994, Strongwater began to experiment by manipulating various jewelry components to form his first picture frames. “No one had ever heard of picture frames selling for $800,” he says. “Now we have a team of artisans who travel the world looking for materials. We may use a glass blower from Portugal, sand casting in India, marble from Asia. It’s a multi-cultural approach.”
Strongwater is a fascinating man who has evolved into an international brand through talent and hard work. He’s also a generous man who supports breast cancer research and often provides product to silent auctions and raffles. With an expanding offering of pieces, Strongwater collectors can rest assured that there will continue to be plenty of his finally crafted items from which to choose.
Aaron Glickman is a writer, actor and filmmaker. Through his contributions to SocialMiami, he has had opportunities to document many fascinating people and organizations in the fields of philanthropy, the arts, fashion, design and real estate including Carolina Herrera, James Rosenquist, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Russell Simmons, Nicole Miller, Christian Louboutin, Lin Arison and many more. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Miami Theater Center (MTC) and is on the Executive Committee of the National YoungArts Foundation.