Forget First Ladies in fusty pearls—Michelle Obama has a thing for statement pieces, and her avant garde jeweler of choice is frequently Tom Binns, back on Gilt tonight with a jaw-dropping assortment of cool collars, drop earrings, and unexpectedly chic cuffs. We chatted with him about inspiration, imitation, and Mrs. O.
SF: You are one of the most imitated jewelry designers in the world. Is it flattering, or just annoying?
TB: Well, I would say that it is neither. At least I am famous for something, I am famous for being the most imitated jewelry designer in the world so I guess that’s good enough. I am afraid that I am imitated a lot, but it is a disease of modern society. Today people simulate because it is easier to simulate than to be original. Now I see that originality is only elevated through imitation because it is endorsed by the powers that be. If it wasn’t endorsed, people wouldn’t get away with it. It is just a low level of thinking that has taken over. You ask yourself, how low can you go, well there is going to be a lot lower to come because there is nothing higher anymore. Even worse than people taking your designs, is when they steal your name. That’s the bottom barrel.
SF: What are the most unconventional materials you’ve used or been inspired by lately?
TB: For me anything is fair game to create. For me it is usually the reinterpreting of something. I always think there is enough out there in the world already, so I like to recycle and re-imagine and give something new meaning and move it forward. I think about moving people’s thinking forward along with culture and adding to something instead of keeping it status quo. Anything is everything.
SF: Who are your muses?
TB: Apart from the person that I love, I don’t have any muses. Love is my muse. I like to think of my loved ones, and make something beautiful for them.
SF: Did you ever imagine a First Lady would wear your pieces? What do you make of her style?
TB: I was very flattered at the beginning when she was wearing my more avant-garde pieces. I thought it was very daring of her and showed a true sense of style and identity. They were quite extreme pieces she was wearing and I admired her for doing that as a First Lady. I think her style has toned down a bit since, but she is a cool woman to be promoting fashion and giving young designers a chance. For me personally, it was fantastic in the early days, but I can also understand her not wanting to wear them because they are conversation pieces, and it might not be a conversation she wants to have. So I get it.
SF: First it was all about the statement necklace, then multi-finger rings…what do you think is the next big thing in fashion jewelry?
TB: I can understand statement necklaces, but multi-finger rings seem like a very awkward thing to get around in. I think the next big thing in jewelry, is no jewelry at all. I think that’s the statement.