Editors Note: Worked really hard on this post, probably one of my most time consuming posts as I had to transcribe the whole interview with Chris and often getting distracted by the actually sounds in the recording - transporting me back to NYC. Yes I miss it very much. Maybe someone can get me over there for NYFW in February? Sponsors or any takers? Hope you enjoy this interview and post as much as I did, seriously one of my favourite designers, he's such a down to earth guy! Can't wait to hang next September for NYFW if not earlier!
On the last day of my stay in the lovely New York City, I had the pleasure of visiting the amazing NY based designer Chris Habana in his studio where he kindly accepted to do a candid interview, so off I went to his apartment in Alphabet City which doubles as his studio space.
For those of you who haven't heard of CHRIS HABANA or his recent diffusion range My Enemy by CHRISHABANA; Chris mixes dark, gothic elements with geometric elements while effectively uses juxtaposition in texture, mediums and shape in his designs to create a unique, strong and defined aesthetic.
I've been thinking about this necklace ever since I first laid eyes on it in Chris' studio! So stunning!
Little Black Book: How did you start your label Chris Habana and what made you decide to design jewellery?
CH: I have been doing design my whole life, in some way shape or form. I always thought I wanted to do clothing for a while there and actually when I started the jewellery I actually did a few clothing pieces here and there. Everything kind of happened organically. I wanted to get my stuff out there, clothing was harder - because of size runs. I was always attracted to jewellery only because I felt that it's such a good medium because its almost like you're trying to get your message across in some little vechile that will be on your body. Trying to make an impact with something so small always fascinated me. Making little accessories here and there, I was never formally trained in jewellery design. I began designing small jewellery pieces made from recycled materials.
It wasn't until 2007 that I decided that I wanted to make jewellery. Proper jewellery, my version of proper jewellery.
My new beloved Chris Habana Swan Song pearl ring. Thanks Chris!!!
Little Black Book: I can see a sort of resemblance of Chris Habana with Pamela Love, its not the same but its sort of the same aesthetic....
Chris Habana: There's a few of us in New York right now that are kind of like we're the same but different and Pamela Love is definitely one for sure. Eddy Bourgo, jewels who does bejewelled, Bliss who does body chains and Zana Bayne who does harnesses. There's a good collective of jewellery designers who don't want to do 'proper' jewellery. Oddly enough a number of them also do shows during fashion week which is odd because jewellery designers usually don't do that.
If you want something dark and gothic but a bit more bohemian she's your girl, but if you want something dark and gothic but a bit more on the clean minimal side then you go to me (Chris Habana).
I kinda like that there's this collective of people, I feel like its more like a united front than just one person trying to take on the world. It's all about strength in numbers and its more effective to be part of a movement than a one man show. You can do the one man show thing but its just harder to get your message out there. All of us have individual voices within what we do anyway.
Little Black Book: Do you have a specific target audience in mind when you design?
When I starting thinking about what a girl version of me would wear or what a guy version of me would wear, I really started to focus properly on designing. I definitely feel like i have a audience now, they're definitely younger, definitely more downtown and edgy. I've actually split the label into two: CHRIS HABANA - still very down and edgy while the design and pricepoint is more elevated and the design is definitely more elevated and directional, graphic and linear which I'm known for.
My Enemy by CHRIS HABANA which started out with Urban Outfitters last season and this time, the brand kind of exploded - while its dark and edgy its very in your face, middle finger, very St Marks, kind of punk, more in your face interpretations of goth and pop. That line is meant to be for everyone. We're kinda hitting across the board, the people we wanna hit. At the end of the day we do have a target audience edgy and young, street and hip. But as I'm evolving, my design evolves so I don't really design for an audience...
Little Black Book: Where can we find your designs online?
Chris Habana online store, OAK, I don't like Mondays, Seven NYC, and in Australia, Zahara Mai and Bleecker St
What are your favourite pieces from your new collection?
This season we thought 'what about we move to fragmented pieces' and so there is a more facated focusing on statement necklaces - it is definitely more colourful, more fun, less romantic. The namesake line combines metalwork with beading and acrylic. My favourite piece is definitely (pictured below) necklace with super neon pink acrylic crosses which come off from it - such a stunning and unique piece.
How does your SS12 collection differ from your current collection?
SS11/12 is (definitely) more romantic, I was at a place in my life where I had just became single with my boyfriend of 2 years. I began drawing off from my experiences of my romance, (using) rose and thorn imagery and broken heartedness.
For SS12 I had grown sick of drawing from relationships so I started having fun, my life led me to going out all the time and I began channelling my raver days. Going out all the time, the new collection now is more influenced by a party than any kind of destruction or heartache. It's still strong and aggresive but a little bit more light.
Where do you find inspiration:
Super personal for sure, as much as I have a inspiration wall its not like I'll pick an image - though that will happen from time to time. I'm not one that will stroll the Chelsea galleries.
The people that I am in contact with inspire me for sure. All that I think is more organic, I think if someone were to think in the terms where 'okay lets get inspired' thats never a good recipes - for me at least its more important to draw from whats happening to me. Like I said I started going out more and having fun and not taking things so seriously. And then I started thinking about what I love from that moment and then I start pulling tears but I never come up with lofty inspirations, I'm not like that.
Dress anyone in the world, dead or alive, past and present - who would it be?
Oh god everyone asks that! First of all, I always say and this is true, that I don't really neccessarily think of a person when I design, its kinda like what I like to wear. But recently, my aspiration of having my designs on someone actually came true. Bullett Magazine did a feature on Parker Poisy and she wore one of my necklaces and I went absolutely crazy cos I'm such a fan of hers. I guess she would be someone I'd like to dress. There are people who I super admire. Honestly there are alot of designers I admire, I would love for
Are you a gold or gunmetal type of guy?
My namesake for sure is gunmetal but I do love to mix it up a bit. I like a dark, grey kind of finish to things. I've been liking gold lately though. When you do clothing you literally have your choice of so many palettes and materials and stuff but when you do jewellery you're more limited, I mean you can still go crazy but in terms of the medium if you're doing metal works theres only a few plates you can neccessarily choose from. So it's somewhat difficult to find kind of new ways of doing things, but I've always been attracted to gunmetal. When I started the line officially in 2007, I've always done gunmetal and I feel like people are doing that now, its kinda of nice to know that you've always done it. I always gravitated towards a really dark gunmetal.
Describe your label in three words.
Simple, serious, kidding.