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Chris Habana: Part Jewelry Designer, Part Mad Scientist

You might recognize his work from Nicki Minaj's gilded breastplate, worn in her latest video for "Ganja Burns."
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Chris Habana has been creating out of this world gothic and punk-inspired accessories for over a decade now—so to celebrate he held his Spring 2019 presentation at Century 21's Next Century space, his first show since 2014. You might recognize his work having been worn by some of the most famous faces, too; Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Kylie Jenner, among them. 

Staying true to a signature, more-dark aesthetic, the collection was titled "Song of Lamentation For The Dead,which also included latex clothing designs that Habana made in collaboration with Vex Clothing and his first house eyewear line. This isn't Habana's first rodeo when it comes to buzzy fashion collaborations; he previously worked with Prabal Gurung and Gentle Monster, respectively. Models Jazzelle Zanaughtti (aka Ugly Worldwide) and Melanie Gaydos stood before the crowd surrounded by smoke while Habana walked amongst them and rearranged his pieces. 

See photos from the presentation and read our chat with Habana below.

It's been a while! How was the process of creating it after having that gap of time?

HABANA: It was definitely a little bit nerve-racking because I had to bring back all the old instincts of what we could've done before. What we used to show, all of that was more of a re-surprise for me. So, it didn't really sink in that we had to be 'this involved' into this thing until we got about halfway into it and we were like, "Wait a minute! This is a show - I gotta really get into this!" [laughs].


Did Century 21 contact you first and it took from there?

HABANARuth is a good friend of mine. She's at Century. Basically, she had asked me if I wanted to show here as part of their summer program and I jumped at a chance. We would never have shown because we've done so many collaborations throughout the seasons with fashion shows and such.


Tell me about the collection—what was the vibe?

HABANA: So basically, I look at this collection as a culmination of the past ten years. There's a sexual element which I've always done, there's a medical and science element that we've always done, I always love that mad scientist vibe. It resonates with me! We had first started with, like, goth in 2008, so I kind of wanted to go back to that. So, there's even this religious and pagan theme in there, as well. We just wanted to bring that back up as well.

I know you primarily work with silver. Why is that a kind of metal that you feel most drawn to?

HABANA: I'm definitely more drawn to silver as a metal. However, with me doing so many collaborations with Opening Ceremony and all that, it's kind of opened up to do other kinds of metals. We just did the Nicki Minaj bra for her music video which was all just super gold. So I'd like to think that we're more of a studio than a fashion brand or anything like a brand. We basically get in there and fulfill every kind of creative...I mean, if I pull a list of all the people that we've worked with, it's this eclectic resume of work because we're more than happy to design work for people. The thing is, I love design and a lot of times I feel like—these days—the messages are definitely important and key for people, but at the same time, you still have to put out really beautiful things. I don't want to lose sight of that. We're designers, you know, we're artists so let's make beautiful things. That is what we're here to do.

How is this collaboration different from your past ones?

HABANAWell, this collaboration was all just mine. This is all my work. The only thing that's actually a collaboration is the latex, which we worked with Vex Clothing on. We worked together to come up with this. Laura's been great, we approached her and asked if she would do this for us and she was more than happy.


Is there a memory of or a piece of jewelry that you have from the time that you were growing up? Is that where that started?

HABANA: I'd like to think that when my brother and I used to play Dungeons and Dragons—so, so long ago in like the early 80s—when I was like 7 or something. My brother would roll the statistics of each character and then I would actually design the armor that they were wearing. Everything has been metal-based for me and it's just inherent, I think.


From Dungeons and Dragons breastplates to Nicki Minaj breastplates?

HABANA: Exactly! It's all the same...and they're both fighting, just for different reasons. So, I'm totally down.


What is the one thing that you feel is lacking among the major jewelry brands? What do you feel like you offer that others in the field don't?

HABANA: I think what I offer is a range of work and a range of skill. I think my creativity isn't held back by business or commercialism. I think, for me, what we offer is [an encouragement] to be more of a dreamer. I feel like if you dream a little bit more, you'll just feel better. I'm just lucky that I'm doing exactly what I want to do and people are responding to it.

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