Jewelry Designer JENNIFER FISHER on Skater Culture, Leather Pants, and the Beauty of Chicken Bones

New York-based jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher just turned 40 (though she doesn’t look day over 30), and many of her designs still channel the vibrant youth culture that influenced her as a child in southern California.

Recently, she’s teamed up with Barneys CO-OP to create a capsule collection of pieces crafted from 14k yellow gold and brass (try guessing which is which), and has infused her statement-making pieces with references from her early days in Santa Barbara. She incorporates arrowheads on ball chains, re-works cigar bands adorned with Gothic text (an ode to Mexican black letters) and crafts cluster rings and vertebrae-inspired cuffs.

Her referential jewels are conversation pieces, to say the least, and this is one conversation we wanted to get in on. So we called her up to end the mysterious game of “Who’s that girl?”

What did we find? A devoted mother of two who has channeled her personal and familial history into the creation of bold works of wearable art. Suddenly, we feel hopelessly unadorned without them.

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Barney New York: You’ve been a stylist forever. How did you make the jump to jewelry design?

Jennifer Fisher: To be honest, I’m not really ‘mommy’ material. So when my son, Shane, was born, I wanted to wear something that really represented him. My history is in styling, so I figured I’d go out and make something, and I ended up creating this really awesome dog tag on a long chain. I started getting stopped on the street left, right and center. I guess that’s when I knew I was onto something. But it goes beyond that. I grew up in Santa Barbara where my grandfather was a silversmith. When I was younger, every day after school I used to go watch him in his workshop. It was only recently that I recognized that the art of jewelry craftsmanship was embedded in my DNA, in my subconscious. Took me a while to figure out, huh?

BNY: There seem to be a lot of influences in your work. What inspired your latest capsule collection for Barneys?

JF: My inspiration stems from Hugh Holland’s 1970s skate photography. Growing up, my teenage years were defined by this grungy-chic type thing, and it all stems back to skate culture. The Gothic letters that you see aren’t so much a reference to the medieval Gothic text, but rather to the letters I always saw tattooed on the backs and arms of guys—inked with words like “mother.” I don’t really look for trends; I just reference things that I remember seeing growing up. My father always collected Native American art, so the arrowheads that I created are an ode to that. While my line definitely looks rock-and-roll, it’s more of a complete mixture of me life – derivatives and variations from things that I’ve seen and encountered.

BNY: And what about the vertebrae cuff?

JF: One night I was at my friend’s house in Tribeca and I was eating this piece of Chicken. I don’t know why, but I became obsessed with the bone. I wrapped it up in a napkin, threw it in my clutch, got to work the next day, tossed it on my desk and designed a cuff. It’s these rare oddities that help translate into the final product.

BNY: So, who is the Jennifer Fisher girl?

JF: My approach to design is creating things for girls who have a very clear style aesthetic. I’m not about costume jewelry—that’s why I work with brass. To me, brass has much more integrity. Personally, I like to wear things that convey the feeling of weight. I need to feel the weight pulling on my body.

BNY: Regarding wearing jewelry, what is your mantra?

JF: It depends on my mood, where I’m going, what I’m doing and what I’m wearing. If I’m wearing color, I tend to wear more delicate pieces with cleaner lines. If I’m wearing darker colors, I tend to pile it on. But my uniform is pretty much standard: leather pants and a t-shirt, so it tends to stay the same.

BNY: Leather pants?

JF: Oh, I have tons. I can’t live without them. And, my jewelry looks awesome with them. It’s my everyday “modern mommy” uniform.

BNY: If you had to choose, what is your proudest accomplishment to date?

JF: My kids. Hands down.

- Interview by Yale Breslin

Click here to shop the entire Jennifer Fisher collection.

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