Twisted Sister

So I posted a rant about so-called ‘custom’ skullwork and skulls in general creeping into the mass-market stuff at the more-than-capable hands of high-priced designers – specifically the incoming death star that is the Fall 2011 Alexander McQueen lineup which is absolutely rife with skulls and skull-like imagery.

My sister – who is a Manhattan-based editor with…let’s call it ‘experience’ in all things hi-fashion (evidenced by shoes, bags, and dresses worn in impeccable combination with a few of my custom pieces to give her that extra badass edge)…..she writes this retort to my bitch-session which I’ll offer up below.  She makes a ton of excellent points and I wanted to post the thing unedited for your consumption.  Munch, munch….

All things considered, I actually agree with 99% of this.  It doesn’t really change most of my points from the original post, but it does illustrate that I should make a distinction between a guy like McQueen designing truly custom, individual, one-of-a-kind pieces (nothing wrong with that, obviously) and McQueen’s people or ANY high fashion juggernaut carelessly offering off-the-shelf mass market stuff to people willing to pay custom prices for non-custom work.

Think about Wolfgang Puck making dinner for you and your ladyfriend versus going to the supermarket and picking up one of his frozen pizzas.  Now imagine paying 25 bucks for that frozen pizza because Puck’s name is on the pucking box.   Meanwhile, there’s a great mom and pop pizza joint down the street that’s selling fresh pies for the same price, but nobody wants one because they don’t come with a Puck photograph.  Yeah, that’s what fashion is doing.
To keep working with this pizza metaphor (getting hungry) and to work to what my sister is saying, I’d rather have people watch Wolfgang Puck on TV saying “look at my amazing fresh pizza” and then go out for an amazing fresh pizza…like the kind served at that mom and pop shop.  Instead, they watch him make a fresh pizza and say “let’s go get a shitty frozen pizza with that guy’s picture on the box!”
What do we admire about McQueen?  The creativity, the boldness, the originality, the personal touch.  So seek out THOSE THINGS.  Find it in McQueen (if you can afford it) or find it in that fabled dog house I speak of.

Anyway, enough yappin.  Here’s my awesome sis’ response:

McQueen lives in your doghouse

Ugggggggg why did you have to choose McQueen to make this argument? Christian Audigier would have hit this home flawlessly (read: Ed Hardy’s douche-mover). But you did, and now I feel obligated to write. I have very mixed feelings about your post and I think that by the end of this argument, we may come to the same bottom line. Just not by way of McQueen.

On the one hand, there is obviously no denying that a custom, solid piece of jewelry wins over the crap-looking images from anyone’s mass market collection. But you will never find anyone who can mass market that kind of art and keep quality. Now it’s time to learn you. Here’s some real McQueen for you:

You know what those are? Fucking razor clam shells. The second one is thousands of feathers the size of your pinkie fingernail. The third is about 40 lbs of hand-embellished lace. The headpiece alone is about $7,000 worth of lace torn open with a prop. My point is that you’re not going to find these puppies on their website. That’s because neither you nor God can afford this kind of stuff. You can’t compare your custom rings to his mass market stuff. You just can’t. He does custom too and we humble earthlings will never get to own any of it. All we can do is hope to own a part of McQueen via mass market.

Yes, more commonly in McQueen’s mass market collections, you will find skulls. However, you have to understand that McQueen is designed around three genres, all of which overlap with the school of thought behind skull jewelry: Naturalism, Gothicism, and Romanticism. All of his shapes, textures, etc. are based on these ideas, and he does it differently than any other designer. So they’re going to put a shell on a dress and a skull on a scarf. Tough. They’ve been doing it for years, and it’s not a departure from the line’s basic principles. Since I can’t afford or even wear the silver hand crafted jaw bone accessory:

I’m going to buy the shoe/scarf/hat if they’ve got one. Hence:

And McQueen is counterculture. He started out on welfare, grew up pretty hard in a skinhead area in England, and actually was drawn by their look and attitude. As for the line, McQueen is what you want to wear when you don’t want to look like everybody else, when you want to make a statement. His shapes and materials are unusual, and almost a ‘fuck you’ to the straight edged designers who have run fashion houses going back for decades. Many of his shows made the audience question what they know about fashion and what they consider to be beautiful.

Moving on, that model you post may look like someone just stole his last batch of meth, but isn’t saying that skull rings are only for certain people contradictory? Skulls being the tie that binds, commonality in all, etc etc.? If anything, putting skull jewelry on guys like this is an improvement and probably something you can write off on your taxes. Your rings aren’t only for the tough, or the artistic, or the blahblahblah. My favorite time to sport my massive ring is when I’m wearing an ultra-feminine cocktail dress, nails done, hair done, makeup done. To anyone looking, it says ‘don’t think you know me’ and I love it. Maybe shithead in your picture there is wearing one of your rings already. Can’t judge by the pic.

So lay off McQueen. They’re doing this shit right. Peacefully coexist with the skull mass market because you’re not playing in the same ballparks so there’s no real need to worry. You can both ride this wave together.

Skull Tide – Here it comes.


If fashion is a small world, then jewelry design is a freakin’ little township with no traffic lights.  This would make custom jewelry  a shack on the edge of this town with uncut grass, and SKULL custom jewelry the pressboard doghouse in the backyard.

With skull jewelry, for a real quality product,  you really only have a few choices and most of them are detailed in Karl Elvis‘ blog complete with pictures and links.  We have a small community and we like it that way.  Why?  Because we’r e not churning out mass market filth.  We actually CARE about the work we do.  So much so that at certain points I’ve even refused to make rings for people because they either had stupid ideas or the person just rubbed me the wrong way.  (For those of you who don’t remember, let me recall one of the more delightful rejection appreciation letters I’ve received.)

Where do we get off?  Because all of us (yes, even the Deadringer guys – who may actually be the nicest guys on the planet – officially)  take pride in the fact that the work we make really isn’t for everyone.  It’s a select group of people who are interested in hand-made custom jewelry anyway and an even smaller group that can actually pull off a skull on a finger, around a neck, or pinned to a lapel.


Imagine my joy at discovering that Alexander McQueen 2011 Fall catalogue is chock fuckin’ full of skulls.  Skull everything.  It’s like a goddamned skull grenade blew up in Saks Fifth Avenue and covered watches, wallets, cufflinks, ties, scarves, and shoes with all manner of silver and gold skullwork.  This is on the heels (no pun intended) of his 2010 release of a woman’s high-heeled shoe with a skull right above the toe.

I didn’t mind this so much.  I thought – hey, that’s….a skull on a shoe.  Would look good underneath the right pair of legs, I suppose.  But this fall, man, they’re everywhere.

It’s a complicated thing.  On one hand, I’m glad that skulls are making it into the mainstream.  Why wouldn’t I be?  For those of us in the dog-house crowd, this is great news.  Right?  After all, this means that people who never would have worn skull jewelry before will not be interested in putting a skull around their neck, on their lapel, or on a middle finger.  If you thought it was hard to get a Tony Creed skull before, wait until this shit hits.  Alexander McQueen is no slouch.  This is bound to send new clients to all of us in the custom skull doghouse who know and expect to pay custom prices for custom work.  Who’d have thought that would be a rarity?

On the other hand…..

These supposed new clients I mention look like this:


“Give me a skull ring or I’ll slap you with my SASS!”

And I LOVE putting my stuff on the glitterati crowd, okay?  I live in Atlanta and we have no shortage of hi-fashion urban royalty and many of them can rock a skull as good as any biker or pirate ever born.

But again:

Maybe I can put a skull on his too-short pants.  This young fellow (evidently dressed as H.W. from ‘There Will be Blood’ ) may be wearing a wardrobe that costs more than my car, but that’s the problem isn’t it?   This level of fashion and jewelry is based on cost and brand and not so much quality.  Also, much of it is purely cosmetic.  These punks had absolutely no fucking interest in wearing a skull ring until Alexander McQueen’s company TOLD them they should be wearing a skull ring.

And what skull ring should they be wearing?  Well, it depends on your tastes, right?  I’ve got big, realistic skulls like the King:

I’ve got stylized stuff  with wild and crazy lines like the Big Voodoo:

and I’ve got clean stuff like the Mystery Cave:

And that’s just me.  Creed’s got his wild-man jeweled stuff.  Stephen and Mark have their New Zealandish pirate-looking hyper-detailed skulls and demons.  Dave’s got his simplified old-school classics.  Armand has his British death-metal stuff.  Julian owns the highly gemstoned velvet and ruby styles.  Point is, there’s so much variety when it comes to the individual designers, what will these new feverish fans of the skull choose to wear?

They’ll want to wear this:

Why?  Because it’s from McQueen.  These motherfuckers are between 2 and 3 hundred dollars a pop and many aren’t even real gemstones or solid gold/silver.  They’re not custom.  They are off-the-rack and it costs more than TWO Dave’s custom skulls or THREE Little Voodoos.

I don’t own one (obviously) but I’d venture to say they are likely hollow-backed as well.  Enjoy, jackasses.  If you want to spend your bank on the same shopping-mall trinket that every other “i saw this on the Today Show” lemming is wearing, go for it.

The site offers solid silver bangles for over 500 bucks, in case you’d like to get fleeced that way also.

Visit Alexander McQueen’ site.  Which looks like this:

And see for yourself.

I’m not bashing him.  After all, he’s deceased and the entire brand’s creative direction is now in the hands of a Sarah-somebody.  Further, the guy was a genius in many respects.  To boot, me or anyone else in the custom doghouse bashing a guy like McQueen is about as relevant to the fashion world as the guy who sells hotdogs at a Yankees game complaining about Derek Jeter’s batting average.

No.  What I’m doing here is pleading with you.  Imploring you.  If the skull craze hits…..when everyone and their brother is looking for that perfect jewelry piece….. DON’T fall for expensive off-the-rack stuff.  Go custom.  TRULY custom.  (“custom” is a word that gets thrown around an awful lot…more on that later.)  Get yourself sized and get yourself over to that small town.  Find the shitty road shack.  Go to the backyard and checkout the dog house.  Let one of us dogs carve up a piece of jewelry JUST FOR YOU.  Wear it knowing that nobody – truly no one else – has a ring like yours.  It was made for you.

Maybe then you’ll see that all anyone ever wants is to be part of the dog house.  They want to be special.  Small.  Exclusive.  Part of a pack.  And for all their fame, for all their money, with as many people who flock to the shopping malls to pick up their stuff….they’re just not.