Today, on this fine Friday, I’d like to talk a little bit about the luxury brand Chrome Hearts. I used to really not care for Chrome Hearts designs; I thought they were always either too gaudy or too gothic. But recently, I have grown to love the designs that come out of this brand and even more than that, as I’ve learned more about them, I’ve grown to love their story.
So, today, I’m just going to share a little bit about what I know of the story behind the brand and what I like about it.
Chrome Hearts as a label was officially established in 1988, but a few years prior, it was in the fetal stages of becoming a small business. It was started by Richard Stark and a couple of his buddies (Leonard Kamhout, a silversmith, and John Bowman, who made belts). They started as a leather-works business and made leather pieces for their motorcycling friends and others who heard about them. Eventually, some small-time directors in LA heard about them and asked them to do costumes for some of their films. Their first big break was making outfits for “Chopper Chicks in Zombietown,” which was a B-movie horror film made in 1989. Coincidentally, one of the actors in the film happened to know the Sex Pistols‘ lead guitarist and ended up introducing the Chrome Hearts guys to the band.
From there, tons of connections were made and the business kept building. The Chrome Hearts guys met many high-to-dos in the fashion realm of the LA area and their leather pieces were featured in the likes of Vogue and others. In 1991, Richard Stark bought out his two partners and expanded the label himself, eventually expanding it to the brand it is today, producing unique luxury leather furniture, extremely intricate one-of-a-kind silver jewelry pieces, clothing, and other luxury house ware items.
It is also worth mentioning that, during the late 80s, in those first tender years of the brand’s birth, Chrome Hearts made this small lot of grunge t-shirts, each hand-distressed. The shirts were allegedly worn on the sets of some of the movies in LA that Chrome Hearts designed for. To wear them in and get them uniquely grunged-up, the story goes that the t-shirts were worn by the actors and actresses on set, and after this wearing-in, the shirts were bought by a stylist in LA on the set of one of the films. There were only six made in the lot, and the stylist owned them all. Needless to say, for a fashion history fanatic and collector such as myself, I was beside myself at the fulfilled dream of owning such an amazing piece of history.
The brand is now run by the creative director and original founder, Richard Stark and his wife, Laurie Stark. The two live in Malibu, Southern California, and are each others’ business partners. Since its launch, Chrome Hearts has expanded to reach the corners of the world. There are multiple stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Taipei, London, Paris, Honolulu, Las Vegas, New York, and of course, the original factory and stores in Southern California (in LA and Malibu).
Chrome Hearts stores are kind of mystery places that can only be found by those who already know where they are. There are often no signs outside the store locations and the Starks don’t do any advertising. They just produce unique and quality art, and people always come running. The Chrome Hearts silver jewelry pieces in particular have recently become incredibly popular in many fashion scenes in Asia, specifically in Japan and Korea. Many of my favorite Korean pop stars (like the beautiful, more-than-note-worthy G-Dragon) sport many of the lavish heavy sterling silver Chrome Hearts necklaces and bracelets.
There are many reasons why I have grown to admire this label and the story of Richard Stark. First, I am inspired by the brand’s roots. Some college buddies consider their unique God-given talents and say ‘Hey, let’s start something’? I mean, if we’re looking for a rags-to-riches story, Chrome Hearts is a beautiful one. Starting my own small clothing business on Etsy has been a wild ride— it’s time-consuming, exhausting, difficult, and so worth it. I look at the fashion empire that is now Chrome Hearts, and when I consider that its humble beginning was nothing more than a few guys wanting to use their talents to live a dream, I am able to think ‘Oh, okay, this could work.’ Starting a business is a multi-challenging feat, but having my own business has been like having a baby— I love it more than anything and want nothing more than to see it grow. When I hear stories like that of Richard Stark and Chrome Hearts, I am able to see that there may be a place for someone like myself to make my own way in the vast world of fashion.