PHOTO BY COLIN DODGSON
"Everyone says I'm morbid," jewelry designer Pamela Love says with a disarming laugh. Of course, when your most editorialized work bears elaborate, eldritch motifs like skulls, crosses, and sickle-like claws, it's not hard to be labeled "dark." She says her designs are memento mori–totems that serve as reminders of mortality: "I don't see that as a dark thing," she points out. "I think it's a positive thing! When you can face your own death, you can live to your fullest." In any case, Love's life is brimming at the moment. It's Fashion Month–a chaotic period full of milestones for the jewelry designer. Her first full-fledged New York Fashion Week presentation at Milk Studios was the most crowded and celebrity-studded of the night. And just this week in London, she celebrated a special pop-up installation at Brown's Focus; everyone from Alexa Chung to Julia Restoin-Roitfeld was in attendance.
As the "memento mori" aesthetic goes mainstream (for better or worse, you can now find budget approximations of Love's famed eagle skull necklace at the mall), the designer insists on forcing her own principles to evolve. "I'm not a designer who is going to start fresh from scratch every season; I know what I love and I know what motifs matter to me," Love explains. "My challenge is to expand those elements into more directional designs. Push the limits on what can constitute jewelry." For Spring 2011, that meant Love went neck-deep into occult research, finding herself fascinated by alchemy and the way solar and lunar properties manifest themselves through the shadowy ancient practice. "Gold represents the sun and silver symbolizes the moon," she notes. "Those correlations play out in the new looks." Many of those new jewelry shapes revolve around specialized triangular motifs, which serve as recherché chemical symbols. Though the collection as a whole expresses a generally less combative version of Love's sometimes difficult ideas, there are still glints of danger. The 14k gold spiked rings could still take out an eye. Her customary pentagrams still are still present, this time encircling wrists and forearms menacingly like rotary blades.
PHOTO BY HARRY BEE
Love has long been interested in ornamentation as protection. Of the newer looks, she says: "I researched the way the women in tribes in Ethiopia and Rajasthan have used jewelry as not only decoration but a form of encasement. I've always been interested in the idea of personal armor."
What about clothing as armor? Love seems keen to explore that avenue next. The dresses on the models at Love's quite ceremonious Spring 2011 showing attracted a lot of buzz–and questions. What was the story behind those beautifully tattered frocks, which looked like they've been pulled straight from an elegant grave? "They were designed by me and then tinted by my friend Audrey Reynolds in 100-year-old vegetable dyes, burned, then buried." Love explains with glee. "Literally, those dresses lived, died, and were reborn." For the sake of the presentation–or something more? "I don't know," Love admits. "There may be a clothing line one day–if it can be done right. For now, those dresses are mine. I'm wearing them in London!"
Doing things "the right way" is paramount for Love. She's a drummer in rock band Scorpio Rising, but is humble about it as "she's still learning". She wants to do major installation art someday (she has a degree in it from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts), but is waiting for "the perfect collaborator, the perfect project." Concerns over quality control, she says, are what have kept her from doing budget collaboration with a mass retailer–until now. A "mainstream" project is apparently on the horizon, but the details are being kept vague. "It's essential to me that everything is made locally, here in the USA." she says. "Not only just in NYC; the piece are designed and produced by friends in my very studio! The process behind my line is very organic. I won't ever compromise on that."