Accessory adventures

Karen Giberson eyes extras offering a makeover in minutes

Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council, with a favorite scarf, purse and shoes.

As president of the Accessories Council, Karen Giberson's job is to tell us how we cannot live - absolutely, positively, in no way, shape or form - without the perfect shoe, bag or brooch.

Like we really needed her to tell us.

Nonetheless, as leader of the New York-based advocacy group for accessories, she helps the fashion industry focus on the extras. Through its ACE Awards, the Accessories Council sees to it that designers are rewarded for their excellence as well.

Winners have included Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquiere of Balenciaga.

"Accessories are adventurous," Giberson said from her new home in Media. "You can go from looking like a lady to rock-and-roll chic. You can make yourself over in a day, in an hour!"

Giberson, 43, got her start in fashion as a buyer at Macy's in the 1980s. She then took a job at QVC, where she worked for 14 years in merchandise and marketing. In the early 1990s, she joined a group of fashion insiders disillusioned by the lack of accessories on the runway.

"Everything was so minimalistic," Giberson lamented.

Now, almost 20 years later, accessories are among fashion's strongest categories. That's because it is through sunglasses, pocketbooks and even shoes that people can get the designer experience.

"Accessories are important to the design world, as all designers from Tracy Reese to Elie Tahari are involved with accessory design," Giberson said. "We are definitely a force to be reckoned with."

She answers some questions.

What is the must-have accessory for spring? This year it's about environmentally friendly products. We are seeing scarves in fun prints. And big, bold costume jewelry. What about the bangle? Are you a bangle lady? Bangles are very important for spring. And yes, I have lots of bangles. They are bold and safe. They are perfect when you need a statement piece.

Who's making the hottest bangles these days? I like the Alex Bittar lucite. The nice thing about bangles is that you can get plastic, or you can go for a much more expensive price point. . . . I have some from my grandmother's collection. I have some from R.J. Graziano, some knit ones from Old Navy, and some from Target.

What's the biggest accessory surprise this spring? The most unlikely category popping up in accessories is USB drives. [Giberson has a jeweled Japanese-character 2MB USB drive from Swarovski.]

Tell me about the season's hottest colors. My favorite is cobalt blue, but oranges and yellow are big, too. Purple is moving into the mainstream. . . . And, of course, there will be a strong red, white and blue presence. It's all about bold shades.

Whose closet would you like to raid? I wouldn't mind The Desperate Housewives closets, especially Eva Longoria Parker.

What's the most important accessory to you? When I'm going to New York, it's about a long necklace, like my owls from this company called Two Lest. When I'm in Philadelpia, I like a soft scarf and my Ugg Australia boots.

What pocketbook are you carrying now? A Rafe bag and a Carlos Falchi tote.

Favorite places to buy accessories? I shop everywhere - from Target to Bergdorf. I like Bloomingdale's. But my latest discoveries are at Anthropologie. The pieces I buy from them always look good.

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com.