Subversive’s Justin Giunta on His Target Line, Skinny Jeans, and Paper Towels

Justin Giunta in his workshop — this is where the magic happens. It’s like a crafty bat cave, no?Photo: Melissa Hom

All the world loves a fairy tale, even the cruel, heartless souls of fashion, and especially when said tale involves a cute young man, intricate jewelry, and a new Target line. Subversive’s Justin Giunta, a former Pratt brat, got his start making chandeliers and tees before hitting the streets with his chains, rocks, and pins. Sick of selling on the sidewalks (for a short time, he even held some prime real estate outside of J.Crew on Prince Street), he took his baubles from store to store until he made a sale. Suffice it to say, Giunta hasn’t looked back. Now he’s got his second CFDA nomination, a loyal following, and mass distribution — now seemed like the perfect time to pick his brain on his inspiration, the mechanics of a national launch, and what little things make his heart skip a beat.

Your pieces incorporate a lot of different elements, endlessly unique charms and baubles and chains. What’s your inspiration?
It’s a condensed version of the key points of my aesthetic, and that goes back to that first foam-core-board collection. There were five narratives that went into the Target collection: There was this planetary theme, the cactus-desert-safari-summertime look, the birds and bees, the bohemian romantic moment, and then this Bauhaus very constructed moment.

We’ve never wanted so badly to be a mannequin.Photo: Melissa Hom

We’ve taken the raw materials that I’ve found and sort of compiled it, creating our own raw materials. So instead of just putting an antique vintage brooch, or a vintage antique element onto a massive amount of chain in everything that we do, we’re really constructing these individual elements to be unique as well.

Where do you find materials?
I go all over the world to flea markets and warehouses and dig through dirt, oil, and grease to find this stuff!

You’ve got to cater to a pretty broad consumer base with Target; the fashionistas in New York are going to be a lot different from those shopping in the Midwest. What do you think is going to sell in the stores here versus, say, those in Iowa?
I think the pieces that will sell the most here are the most classic pieces. When I approached Target with the idea, I expressed that I can design something with just one charm and one chain if need be. I think those pieces will do really well here. Iowa will be about the bright colors, big, long bead strands, the kinds that you would see at Barneys but couldn’t afford. We’ll also do well in the Midwest with some of our solid metallic necklaces in gold and silver.

Tri-strand cluster necklace, $59.99.Photo: Melissa Hom

How are you keeping prices low?
It’s the simple economics of mass distribution and mass production. Everything is cheaper when you know you can make a lot of it. It’s not a matter of sacrificing quality to make it accessible. All the pieces in the collection have the same weight and the resilience as any of the raw materials I use in my own collection. Even the “pearls” are either made of glass or shell, and that’s the same thing we can say about an $8,000 Marc Jacobs necklace!

Your jewelry markets to individuals who really love to wear that one bold, standout piece. Do you think this signature-piece trend will last?
I think signature pieces will always last; they’re collectible, and people are likely to invest in jewelry. You can wear it with jeans, or you can wear it with a couture gown. You could be fat, you could be ugly, you can be insecure about anything — but when people are engaged by an amazing piece of sparkle around your neck, they are going to love you. It’s a security blanket for most people, and that’s a good thing.

Lucite cuffs, $14.99 each.Photo: Melissa Hom

We’re interviewing you as a trendsetter, and so we must ask: What trends do you simply adore?
I like a uniformed look like a lab coat or military jacket. I love theme socks. I adore crazy makeup, bold colors.

What do trends do you wish would just disappear into the ether?
Tight jeans! I’m over skinny jeans; they make people look gangly. They wear big tops and skinny bottoms and they look disproportionate.

What look can you not stand seeing on the street?
Nothing! A source of my inspiration living in New York is always seeing the diversity. The last thing I want is to homogenize New York City.

What trend is going to be big in spring?
Flowers! It’s this dichotomy between earthly pleasures like fauna and flora finding their way into prints with a cut-and-cropped assemblage. It’s an established sense of the future — moving into space, into glitter, into a streamlined look at the same time keeping that nostalgia for the organic.

Who’s your favorite designer?
I’m a big Viktor & Rolf fan. For about eight years they made collections that were completely conceptual and unwearable. That helped really bridge the gap between design and art — for whatever that’s worth.

And who do you actually wear the most?
Dries Van Noten. I’m all Dries, all the time.

Justin creates some sort of glorious madness.Photo: Melissa Hom

Where do you shop?
Atelier on Crosby, and I love Rag & Bone at Barneys.

What’s your signature item?
Sunken-treasure necklace is my iconic piece. It’s really about the formula of what we stand for as far as taking old things and putting them back together to make it look like you’ve sourced an entire jewelry box on your neck.

What can’t you live without?
Paper towels.
Irina Aleksander

Subversive is available for purchase online or at Target stores starting Sunday.

Subversive’s Justin Giunta on His Target Line, Skinny Jeans, and Paper Towels