Some, if not most, things in life are better in quantity. Bon bons, shoes, freckles, snowflakes, presents under the tree are just a few of them. Here’s one more: 1-100, a new unisex jewelry line by Graham Tabor and photographer Miguel Villalobos. (Tabor also co-designs the Blouson Noir clothing label with super-stylist Melanie Ward.) Despite the plurality of the name, however, no two pieces are exactly the same, as each silver, leather or rubber number is painstakingly handcrafted in the duo’s New York studio. Yet the result is a seamless blend of personalities, styles and disciplines. Here, a three-way with the twosome…
You both seem interested in so many things. How important is it for a designer to be multifaceted and dabble in other art forms?
Miguel: Our pieces are very architectural and when we design together, we are using these same tools and ideas. Graham knows so much about materials and he taught me how to work with them, like silver, leather and rubber. And for me, photography is about lighting, people and forms. We show each other everything and, of course, we work together when shooting the images and the look books.
Graham: It makes everything exciting for us because we’re always doing different things. You move from one to another and so you come at something in a new way. It influences everything you’re doing because it changes your entire perspective. Everything is about a kind of creative problem-solving.
Do you design with the eye of an artist or a designer?
Graham: We try to merge the two. We want to make something that is wearable. I think that can be seen in the way the label is structured. We have the main collection, which you can think of as beautiful and desirable objects, and we also have a second jewelry collection called Piece Unique. Those are objects removed from the idea of strict wearability and can be thought of as jewelry and art. We feel a different kind of responsibility with both.
Miguel: Our idea and hope is that these are pieces that you want to put on, something you don’t want to put in a drawer. You want to put it on a table and they become an object that lives independently. We want them to become as much a part of what you wear as a beautiful part of your life that you can’t stop looking at.
The second collection of one-offs, tell us more about that.
Graham: Both collections are made in our studio, with our hands, but Piece Unique allows us to be free and to work on something that can be too expensive to put into production. It’s a sort laboratory we can play in. They’re really for special stores or galleries that want to collaborate.
Kind of like couture?
Graham: It’s still in the development stage, but it will become the haute couture part of the label. They’re about craftsmanship and beautiful ideas and forms. We can make them as incredible as we want and, for us, that is as satisfying as seeing a sculpture when it is finished.
Miguel: We don’t need to worry about making more than one. When you make them, they are perfect. They take time. We can use materials like horsehair! Still, as with all of the pieces, they come from an organic and emotional place.
I like how they’re season-less and unisex.
Graham: Essentially, we look at it as one continuous series, although we present it seasonally. And we like them to feel unisex. In the center, you have unisex pieces, but on either extreme they are decidedly feminine or masculine. We were laughing because a buyer came in last week and put on the entire collection at once. That happens often and we’re very happy about it.
Do you both work on the images?
Miguel: Yes, and we are using film to shoot the look books. It’s funny because what’s old is new again. I did a shoot last week on film and people commented on my use of film. They thought it was refreshing, a real throwback. A few years ago, you would think, ‘Why am I using film? What a waste of time!’
Does using film change the dynamic of the shoot?
Graham: Yes, absolutely. You get a different response from the person you’re shooting. There is somehow more intimacy there.
What are your New York obsessions?
Graham: Working? New York is incredibly welcoming to new energy, new projects and for getting work done. It can take as much as it gives and can push you to do more creatively, so we’re happy about that. Oh, and the farmer’s markets!
Miguel: There was a place near us called the Wild Lily Tea Room and we used to go there to eat and draw. We were obsessed!
What are your favorite and least favorite words?
Miguel: I hate “No!” It’s difficult for me to do things in Paris, where we show, because of that. I love Paris, but I love that in New York, unlike Paris, you can do anything, anytime because everything stays open later.
Graham: And I don’t like superlatives. I’m more about numbers.