Mirror, Mirror: She can't give a bargain a pass

Kijafa Frink wears jewelry from the Pink Elephant collection, aimed, she says, at giving women "a sophisticated look while bringing the price down." About 60 pieces are online, with prices topping out at $60.
Kijafa Frink wears jewelry from the Pink Elephant collection, aimed, she says, at giving women "a sophisticated look while bringing the price down." About 60 pieces are online, with prices topping out at $60.

Kijafa Frink, Michael Vick's fiancee, invests in a jewelry line catering to canny shoppers.

Posted: December 15, 2010

So what if Kijafa Frink is engaged to Eagles star quarterback Michael Vick? In her heart she's just a North Philly girl who knows that when it comes to accessories - and Christmas presents - a woman may want high fashion, but she needs a bargain.

Hence the reason Frink first invested in a line of chunky silver and gold costume jewelry called Pink Elephant. These bodacious rings, glittering hoop earrings, and layered necklaces scream star power.

Label worshipers certainly will recognize that Pink Elephant is influenced by runway pieces: Think the Balenciaga charm necklace, Marni's massive turquoise rings, or Lanvin's metal belts.

Frink told me over a recent lunch at Del Frisco's that other designers, especially Alexander McQueen and Betsey Johnson, serve as inspiration for the line. "But our goal is to give women a sophisticated look while bringing the price down."

Of the approximately 60 pieces available online, a silver and black sunburst ring retails for $7, and a golden spiked necklace is $15. Prices top out at $60.

That means I can light up an all-black New Year's Eve ensemble just like the fashion greats: Designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli or Vogue editor Diana Vreeland never went out on the town without some sort of glittering conversation piece.

Even before Frink (her full name is Cherry Kijafa - she was named after the wine) became Vick's fiancee, she was a slave to fashion. As a teenager, Frink liked shopping for the latest styles. During her high school years, she took classes at Fleisher Art Memorial studying painting, sculpture, and photography.

But Frink's fashion interests always leaned toward the bold and avant-garde. That's evident in her funky, tie-up Christian Louboutins, unbelievably long eyelashes, straight back-length hair, and shiny Minx nails.

In 2001, Frink, now 30, met Vick when she was a sophomore at Hampton University and Vick was playing football at Virginia Tech. As the two eventually became serious, Vick's income gave Frink the chance to shop for all of her favorites, McQueen and Diane von Furstenberg among them.

Yet although Vick is a major football star, the jail time he did for dog fighting and his bankruptcy issues made Frink realize that her lifestyle had to change.

"I had to cut back," she said, reflecting on the 18 months Vick spent in jail. She doesn't make excuses for Vick's behavior, which created a hard time for her and the couple's two daughters, Jada, 6, and London, 3. "I realized I needed to do something for myself. I needed my own business."

A little over a year ago, Frink met New York-based fashion entrepreneur Blair Sandlain, 25, who in 2007 opened Pink Elephant, first as a bricks-and-mortar clothing boutique in Detroit, Sandlain's hometown. A tough economy forced her to close the boutique and open an online jewelry business at www.pnkelephant.com. At the time, she wasn't designing the pieces, instead buying them wholesale from China.

Frink saw Sandlain's jewelry when she was picking up an outfit from mutual friend and designer Marco Hall, and she bought a few pieces. The women became friends, and Frink eventually asked if she could invest in the line. Frink joined the company in April.

"Even though [Kijafa] can afford the higher-end accessories and items, she's been the girl who has had to sacrifice the jeans for the shirt or wear the same jeans over and over again with different shirts," Sandlain said. "This is where we share a common ground."

The two will not disclose Frink's investment; suffice it to say that the cash infusion has helped Pink Elephant purchase more inventory. Hits on the website, Sandlain said, have increased from about 2,000 to 15,000 a month. And because Frink has so many Philadelphia connections - she's spent the last several months showing off the pieces at in-store trunk shows - Sandlain estimates that 30 percent of the company's sales are coming from Philadelphia.

Frink and Sandlain also have been interviewed for Inside Edition and Essence magazine.

"I'm so grateful for what Kijafa has brought to the company," Sandlain said, noting that Frink's love connection to the NFL's star penitent has brought new attention to the company.

Even more exciting, they say, is their new line, Elephant, which includes 20 new pieces the two designed themselves. Frink says her aesthetic is more sweet-girl-next-door while Sandlain's is edgy rock-and- roll.

"We make a good team," Frink said.

Ultimately, the two want to create a lifestyle brand much like Kimora Lee Simmons' Baby Phat, but in the meantime, they are looking to open a store in town. Maybe on South Street?

"I believe in the brand," Frink said. "I believe in our product."


Mirror, Mirror:

For more on Pink Elephant and Kijafa Frink,

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Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter at ewellingtonphl.

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