David Farrugia, founder of Uniform Object, has always been a creator, but his newest venture in the jewelry business has really put his name on the map. Known for heavy metal chains and mix-and-match diamond pieces, his jewelry is edgy, effortlessly-cool, and can be worn by anyone — or at least anyone that has style. He has many muses and tells us about his design inspiration, the message behind his collection Supernaut, and what it takes to make it in the world of jewelry design.
How did you get into the jewelry business? Have you always had an eye for design?
I have been a designer for the past eight years. Through my creative agency called Sanitarium, I’ve made everything from makeup applicators to camping accessories. Although these ventures have been successful, I have always created products meant for someone else, which can be deflating. A few years ago, while at a trade show in Las Vegas, I was able to visit the coveted Couture jewelry show, and this opened my eyes to the craziness and allure that is the fine jewelry industry.
Jewelry is the ultimate form of product design. Coming from a world of mass production, I love the idea that I can create just one of something without hesitation. This yearning for exploration and love of materiality led me to the jewelry business.
Your debut collection is called Supernaut. Where did you find the name, and what does it mean?
Supernaut is a made-up word coined by Ozzy Osborne when he was in Black Sabbath to describe a psychedelic drug trip. Trent Reznor recorded a cover of this song that I listened to a lot when designing the collection. The mood inspired what type of objects I wanted to make. A Naut is an explorer of sorts. Supernaut being an explorer to the nth degree — I felt like a fitting name as I, myself, am exploring a new frontier, so to speak.
What would you describe as the style of the collection?
“Timeless with a modern edge” is a trite way to describe jewelry, although my designs have certainly been talked about that way. I can’t really disagree because I do like to make and own things that will last and be relevant for a lifetime, and there is an edge in the sense that it’s avant-garde and a bit unorthodox. I like to make very solid and quality items with thoughtful practicality. Bold but subtle.
What made you decide to create a unisex collection?
I didn’t. I just made things I wanted to see on myself and the people around me. I like making pretty things for my own selfish pleasure regardless of what gender it is supposed to be for. Our cultural climate has warmed up drastically to genderless fashion and accessories over the past year. By offering Uniform Object, select stores satisfy this newfound hunger with practical, visually impactful pieces that work for whatever gender identity — in a limited edition template.
What would you say are your line’s signature designs?
The Spur on the heavy metal chain seems to have hit a note with people, and the Cuff rings are starting to show up on red carpets and in magazines, which is very exciting. They have a very bold silhouette but are super comfortable, so it’s a win/win.
Who, what, or where do you get your inspiration from?
It’s really hard to recreate something totally original — especially in jewelry — when there are basic components that are necessary. In this case, I try to be inspired by myself and my sense of style, but if I had to point to people, I admire for originality: Rick Owens, Trent Reznor, and Kashmir Malevich. All outside-the-box thinkers. Beat to their own drum. Why design anything if you don’t like it yourself?
What goes into the craftsmanship behind your designs, and what elements of craftsmanship are most important to you?
My most earnest goal with Uniform Object was to be a true collaborator with the artisans and master craftsmen who make the pieces come to life. Coming from a world of mass production where cost-cutting is integral, I really spared no expense to get exactly the quality I wanted with Uniform Object. The process was the most important aspect to me.
Above all, every piece needs to be extremely comfortable and wearable. Earrings should be light and chains should be solid and weighty. I’m a materials freak, so of course, I wanted to use 18K gold, diamonds, and precious stones, but I took it a bit farther. Everything from our letterhead to our stickers used to seal our gift box has intention. All of our paper comes from Japan. The pouches are hand-stitched Italian horsehide from an artisan in Denmark. I think our meticulous approach to the entire experience is what sets us apart.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry you’ve designed?
The Heavy Metal chain is my personal favorite to wear because who doesn’t want a bold chain that goes with everything? On others, I love to look at the Float Hoops. Delicate, large-scale hoops with shiny diamonds are always sexy to me.
The designs I’ll be debuting next are my favorite. I’m hitting my stride on exactly the visual impact I’m trying to convey. I’m very excited to share these new designs soon.
What does your everyday jewelry consist of?
At this point, I have an established uniform. My closet is full of the same Boris Bigham Saberi and Rick Owens black tops and bottoms, so jewelry is my only embellishment. A two-tone lariat style of our Heavy Metal chain is becoming part of that uniform. I made a very custom trillion-cut diamond chain that I’ll switch out if I want to be extra flashy.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own jewelry line?
I think the idea of running a jewelry brand can get a bad reputation as being just a hobby or a side project for someone with some extra time and money on their hands. To truly do it right, you need to immerse yourself in it. If you’re not stomping the pavement on 47th Street daily, you’re not doing it right.
This interview has been lightly edited.