Walk into a traditional jewelry store and you’ll find cases devoted to engagement rings, fashion jewels, diamonds, pearls, colored stones—and “men’s jewelry.” If a growing cohort of contemporary designers has its way, however, such gendered merchandising will soon become obsolete. “Masculine and feminine adjectives in fashion/design need to be retired,” says David Farrugia, the founder and designer of Uniform Object, a new luxury jewelry brand based in New York City. “Androgynous expression is in!” Farrugia is among five designers profiled below who have recently introduced collections framed neither as “for men” nor “for women,” but rather for anyone and everyone who finds them appealing.
Supernaut by Uniform Object
Farrugia drew inspiration from the worlds of avant-garde fashion and design when creating his debut Supernaut collection of 18k gold and diamond jewels. Concerned with making pieces that have a strong visual impact, but are also comfortable and practical to wear, he gravitates to jewelry with a universal appeal “that can be shared between couples, giving extra utility to the investment of fine 18k gold jewelry,” says Farrugia. He pointed to the brand’s signature Heavy Metal chain as a perfect example of his ethos. “It’s bold and substantial but there are small details of glamour like our signature diamond-encrusted Spur,” he says. “I like luxury objects that are multifunctional and practical in that way.”
Mateo New York
In 2009, Matthew Harris, the founder and designer of Mateo New York, was moving out of his apartment in Brooklyn when a screw fell out of the wall and inspiration struck. “I made a ‘screw you’ necklace,” says the designer, now based in Texas. Harris went on to create his first collection of jewels for men, purely out of “a selfish need to fulfill my own desire and need for jewelry,” he says. “I wanted to create men’s jewelry that was elegant and timeless and still had masculinity to it.” Soon after, a men’s zipper-style necklace he designed caught Rihanna’s eye, and the subsequent coverage drew so much attention—and women—to his line that he ended up creating a women’s-focused range in 2014. But these days, Harris, whose newest body of work is a celebration of “magical, mystical pearls,” sees no point in labeling jewelry. “Gender is this big topic, but I don’t take it so seriously,” he says. “If you find beauty in a piece, whether you’re a man or woman, wear it. Let’s stop putting ourselves in these constricting boxes.”
Between the Lines by Harwell Godfrey
Lauren Harwell Godfrey is a maximalist at heart. And yet the designer’s newest collection, Between the Lines, was conceived almost as a personal challenge: “What would it look like if I still kept my point of view, but stripped a lot of it away?” she says. The result is a minimalist line of 22k gold medallions, huggies, studs and chains that combine matte and high polish finishes and incorporate knife-edge details as well as a subtle sprinkling of geometric shapes. “I named the collection Between the Lines not only in reference to the linear details at play but also as a nod to the gender neutrality of the collection,” says Harwell Godfrey. “A lot of my guy friends are interested in it.”
Passionoir by Mikimoto
Introduced last month, Mikimoto’s Passionoir collection includes necklaces, bracelets, ear studs and ear cuffs featuring black South Sea pearls set in black rhodium-plated silver. The unisex range builds on the momentum the Japanese pearl jeweler established in January 2020, when it introduced seven unisex pearl necklaces as part of a two-year collaboration with Comme des Garçons. (“Recently I’ve noticed how men also look good when they wear pearls,” Rei Kawakubo, the Comme des Garçon designer, said at the launch.) While 100 percent Mikimoto, Passionoir, which ranges from $270 to $23,900, plays on the unexpected contrast of organic pearls with the ultra-black rhodium plating. “As a high jeweler originating from Japan, to dispel the stereotypes of pearls is a new challenge,” says Yasuhiko Hashimoto, CEO of Mikimoto America. By all accounts, mission accomplished.
Before Los Angeles-based Nikki Erwin founded Established in 2015, she made “a dope two-finger ring covered in diamonds” for herself and promptly had it coopted by a male friend. “This giant 6-foot-6, 200-pound dude with tattoos from his neck to his feet said, ‘Will you make it for me?’” she recalls. “I did and I used the money I made from that ring to make another piece.” Such was the genesis of Erwin’s “edgy, sexy, aggressive” line of fine jewelry that she no longer categorizes using “men’s” or “women’s” labels because the only real difference between the pieces is in their sizing. Prospective buyers, however, should note one stipulation: “It’s confidence jewelry,” Erwin says. “You have to be committed to your message when you wear it.”