Remember the now-defunct multi-label store and OG streetwear chain 77th Street which was the retail haunt for youths back in the day before it shuttered in 2016? Now visualise its repertoire of metal jewellery which was always displayed in a glass box at the front of the shop.
Those silver-coloured designs stood out for their hard-edged styles and genres that span tribal art and heavy metal music. Flash forward to 2021 and the resurgence of this jewellery aesthetic is felt once more as individualistic style comes to the fore.
Ahead, we chat with three young independent designers – bedroom and professional – who are channelling an equally unbridled don’t-mess-with-me attitude with their handcrafted designs.
Who’s behind it: Aetll Teoh, founder of IG-based jewellery label Visual Jargon (@visualjargon). The full-time student/part-time photographer started Visual Jargon nearly a year ago, just before the pandemic. She was looking to occupy her time with a new hobby and also saw creating jewellery as a form of therapy. “I wanted to create something that only I would be able to have, and who knew that more people would end up wearing my creations,” she says.
How she describes her label: “Visual Jargon is exactly what it sounds like – a jumble of beads strung together which are fun, confusing and intriguing. It’s just about having fun in the creation of my jewellery and every piece I make is something I would definitely wear. I sprinkle a little bit of me into each design, along with a lot of love and patience.”
Her inspiration and influences: “I take some inspiration from movies I watch, memories I treasure and most importantly, a feeling. I want every piece I create to represent a feeling that is or was once very important to me. In a way, all the designs feel nostalgic to me because of this process.”
How and where her jewellery is made: “All my pieces are made in my bedroom, on an Ikea desk and surrounded by thousands of beads in an array of trays and boxes. I learned my techniques through trial and error, which I believe is a huge part of the process. It is fun, albeit a little frustrating at times.”
What makes her designs tick: “Visual Jargon is easily identifiable and iconic. Sometimes I’m just walking around town or even in school, and I can spot someone wearing a necklace I made from afar. Not just because I made it, but because I believe the style is so distinctive that it basically calls out to you.”
Where to buy: Via her Instagram page @visualjargon at the moment – and possibly in retail stores towards the end of the year. Prices range from $30 to $50 depending on the designs, with customised pieces usually priced at a higher range.
Who’s behind it: Rachael Cheong, an alumna of the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and founder of Closet Children (@closetchildren). Closet Children started out as an online store selling unique garments 12 years ago, then it became the name of her blog where she posted 8tracks playlists and made GIFs of her OOTDs. Now, she’s turned it into a jewellery brand featuring custom ‘heavy metal-inspired’ pieces. “I started this as a brand because I wanted people to live their fantasies, as I did when I was a teenager with my GIF outfit posts and playlists,” she explains.
How she describes her label: “The Closet Children’s aesthetic is hyper-feminine armour − beautiful but probably dangerous. I had the words ‘heavy metal’ as an aesthetic in my head for two years and I tried various ways to create the feeling. But it only occurred to me recently that the best way to create a ‘heavy metal’ look was with chainmail. That’s the direction I’m heading in right now. My use of chainmail is not only limited to jewellery, it will be used in garments and other accessories. In fact, I don’t consider Closet Children a jewellery label − the jewellery is only a small part of a larger universe of body adornments.”
Her inspiration and influences: “Magical girl anime. The weapons and transformation charms really got me obsessed for years. It’s nice to finally turn this obsession into something useful! The biggest influence for me would be my Visual Kei phase during my early teenage years. Visual Kei bands always look so decorated and romantic, at time dark and feminine yet tough. I like to combine all these characteristics in my own work, even if it’s not jewellery.”
How and where her jewellery is made: “Each piece is made by me, infused with blood, sweat, tears and anxiety. My jump rings, Swarovski crystals and jewellery findings are imported from the United States and Canada. I use chainmail techniques to weave my jump rings together.”
What makes her designs tick: “I always put my own twist on chainmail weaves and mix piercing jewellery between the chains. I also love playing with colours. Chainmail is either a little too plain with just silver or a little too gaudy with certain coloured chains, so finding the balance of the right shades is important. Chainmail also has a weird potential to create creature-like forms. I like the idea of creating little pets for your ears.”
Where to buy: Online at her website. Price ranges from $35 for a single statement earring to $197 for a choker.
Who’s behind it: Arianna Aleezon, a freelance menswear designer and member of fashion collective Youths In Balaclava. Her side hustle R.Cane 09 (@r.cane09), is actually a private nail studio specialising in gel manicures (she describes as “gewellery”), but Aleezon also sells necklaces, rings and bracelets.
How she describes her label: “It was a means for me to explore my femininity. I’ve always been drawn to masculine things and never really tapped into my feminine energy so I created a chance for myself to do so. I would describe my aesthetic as quite arcane, as the brand name implies. For jewellery, I wanted to create fine, signature pieces. My nail arts are bolder because I work with 3-D forms and colours. It’s a balance between my customers’ and my grotesque take on it.”
Her inspiration and influences: “For jewellery, it is really just piecing things together till I like it. There aren’t huge concepts behind each piece. If someone sees beauty in the things that I make, then that’s great. I create for myself first. I guess in a way it fills up this gap of having to design for someone else.”
How and where her jewellery and press-ons are made: “Both are handmade in my studio. I work with stainless steel and sterling silver by arranging chains, links and pendants. As much as I would like to have a go at silversmithing, it’s a whole other craft that I don’t have time for at the moment.”
What makes her designs tick: “Authenticity?”
Where to buy: On her website. Jewellery designs are priced from $40 (stainless steel) to $160 for more intricate pieces. Her 3-D nail art with gel sculpted extensions is priced from $80 to $230. Aleezon also does monthly “flash” designs that come at a lower cost than having a fully-customised design. These are priced at $80 for a full classic manicure including nail art.
This article was first published in Female.