Manhattan-born jewelry designer Paris Kain doesn’t limit himself to his precious, unusual line, Abraxas Rex — the oft-tapped runway collaborator is also a photographer, painter, and filmmaker. (His upcoming documentary, 008, is based on the life of his father, a former CIA assassin.) Launched in January 2007, Abraxas Rex baubles range from a $1,250 platinum-silver surfer pendant to a $16,000 custom-made crystal or meteorite-studded ring, and are sold at Barneys, Browns in London, and Colette and Rick Owens in Paris. After designing accessories for Calvin Klein in 2008, he was catapulted back into the glossies last winter when he collaborated with Alexander Wang on a spiky, futuristic jewelry line for the fall 2009 collection. Kain is also currently working on an upcoming collaboration with Rick Owens. We caught up with him to chat about dinosaur-bone dealers, street art, and bringing back forties gangster style.
How did you start designing jewelry?
The first ring I made was from a stone that I found on the outskirts of a monastery in Kyoto, Japan. Eventually I made a few prototypes for fun and they seemed to resonate with people.
What materials do you work with?
I use an alloy made from platinum and silver mixed together, eighteen-karat green gold, and stones found during my travels. I also incorporate meteorites from outer space and dinosaur bones.
Where do you source meteorites and dinosaur bones?
There was a huge meteorite crash in Siberia in 1947, and the majority of meteorites today are remnants from that. I buy meteorites from a Russian guy, and the dinosaur-bone guy is based in the Midwest.
What’s the inspiration behind your accessories?
My dad, Paris Theodore, was an assassin for the CIA — the real-life Q. He used to make assassination devices out of Zippo lighters and walking canes … crazy James Bond stuff. When I was growing up, he was making explosives and gadgets, and my mother was a master painter and enamelist. My line is named after Abraxas, the ancient gnostic god of light and dark — I think my childhood experience gave a duality to my work.
What kind of person wears your designs?
I try to make jewelry that’s talismanic; something more significant than just aesthetics.
What was it like collaborating with Alexander Wang?
It was super-fun, he has great energy. He initially gave me a few points of reference that were important to him, like the Mad Max series, and I tried to represent that vibe.
Who are your favorite designers?
Jordan Betten from Lost Art, and Taiana Geifer of Taiana Design, who makes really amazing custom felt scarves and accessories. I’m drawn to the quality of their work; they don’t use any machinery. I also respect a lot of other jewelry lines: Jill Platner, Lulu Frost, Manon von Gerkan, Pamela Love, Finn, Carolina Barbieri, and Bianca Pratt.
Where do you like to shop in New York?
I’ve actually had a lot of things made for me by tailors, like 1940s gangster-inspired suits by Michele Savoia and military-style jackets.
What trends are you appreciating right now?
I don’t like trends very much. I think they degrade things that are great and make bad styles worse.
Any in particular that you’re fed up with?
Ray-Bans, and skinny jeans on men.
What’s something you’re saving up to buy?
I’d like to buy more art. It’s rare for painters and photographers to buy other artists’ work. Sometimes I trade my paintings for other art, and sometimes I go to auctions. I recently bought a door with stencil work on it from the street artist Swoon.
What’s something every guy should have in his closet?
A wooden bat, for emergencies.
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