Looking for Lalique with Jules Kim
story+ photos / Stacy Jean
If you do not know Jules Kim by now, you should. Jules has been kicking ass and taking names for quite some time with her avant-garde jewelry line, Bijules NYC. The New York-based jewelry designer is well known for giving celebrities their swagger and creating très chic collections that influence trends before anyone even knows they should be trends. Featured in countless eye candy editorial spreads, Bijules continually redefines standards with her jewelry line influencing tastemakers from the streets to the pages of Vogue. With an impressive list of celebrity cliental that most brands would drool for, Jules has continually proven she is not just another hot minute designer but a true artist that redefines the norm.
Self-taught, self-made, and produced in her Chinatown studio, Bijules exudes female empowerment and strength. You have to give it to a girl who shows up to a photo session without her 6-inchers on and choses to remain in kicks. That is the essence of Jules Kim, confident as hell, the real deal and ready to prove it.
During the madness of Paris fashion week, we had a quiet moment to discuss the creation of Bijules. We caught up at one of the most visually stunning cemeteries in the world, Pere-Lachaise where the likes of Edith Piaf, Colette, Molière, and Oscar Wilde have all been laid to rest. She confessed that becoming a jewelry designer was never something she planned for, or aspired to be. Yet, she had a deep desire to create something tangible in her lifetime that would transcend long after she was gone. That was the origin of Bijules.
Walking through “le jardin pour les morts” discussing bijoux philosophy and searching for the stone of René Lalique; one of France’s foremost Art Nouveau jewelry designers who created pieces for Cartier, and Boucheron. I could see a slight connection between the two, both having history with high fashion power players and having a serpentine aesthetic in their pieces. It only seemed fitting to be discussing her art in a place where celebrated risk takers went above and beyond accepted boundaries of their time. Her work with Bijules is anything but traditional, and with each collection her fearless nature breaks the jewelry mold time and time again.
With a Kiki de Montparnasse collaboration on the way, a brand new showroom at the Bowery, and Bijules bling all over the big screen on Rooney Mara’s character in the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the ground will definitely not be the limit for her. She is one to watch in the fashion game, now and beyond.
Jules took the time to answer some questions for Ladygunn.
Your luxury fashion jewelry company Bijules has been going strong for over 7 years correct? Yes maam! I started Bijules in 2004 in the basement of my first east village apartment.
You have a beautiful design philosophy with your creations where every piece in some sort of way is a part of you. What is the latest creation in your Bijules line and what part of you is it from? My design philosophy is based on applying function to fashion, which makes each piece unique in concept and shape. It is my passion to create original silhouettes in jewelry. I am not so special and there is a humble nature to my visions. Because I have the ideas, I know that there is an audience who will appreciate them.
You’re doing everything from the ground up, design, production, marketing, PR, ECT. No investors, no backing, your company is all you. How do you find the time, energy, and spirit to make it all happen? Yes it is a lot of work but I have been running this for a solid amount of time. Nothing comes to those who wait, nothing comes to those who do not work and nothing comes to those who lack spirit; therefore my impatience, high achieving work ethic, and passion fuel my everyday job and make it fun for me and my assistants.
Before you started your jewelry line you had a clothing line with your twin sister? Do you still work together creatively? Do twins really have psychic powers with one another? Yes, I had a partner in crime with my twin. She is a powerful and beautiful person. We are essentially the same person genetically but an interesting shift in personality developed when we were kids, making us very unique from each other. We are not twins who overuse “we”. Our mother instilled a fluid stream of independence in us and we have been able to push boundaries wherever we are as individuals.
Of all the places you have traveled to with Bijules; what city do you find to be the most inspiring and creative for you? I love Italy. I love the leisure and community there. I admit though I am partial to European cities, like Paris, Berlin, Milan, and Copenhagen!
I caught up with you at your Vente Privee Some/Things Secret show in Paris. You discussed your latest collection called Il Futuro and mentioned working with inner city kids. How did that come about? What was the most inspiring moment working with the kids? I had an opportunity to work with a mentorship program based in the lower east side of Manhattan. This “il futuro” collection is important on several levels for the Bijules brand because it uses the base silhouettes I have created over the last 8 years while implementing a story from the future. I wanted to get back to the raw reaction to my work and not to rely on the affection of those who are already partial to it. I felt that children would have the most candid and open criticism. They have not been judged to adulthood and their candor is unfiltered. I learned so much from them and their power of communication and purity really helped me develop a beautiful collection. With the partnership of the Manhattan apparel project, I will donate a percentage of sales on the titled piece, “the banglet” to their cause. Fashion does not have to be about glamour and super charged egos…there is something better to how we feel about our appearance and this new generation of people has a clean untainted perspective. So refreshing!
You really are a visionary in terms of your designs. A lot of the pieces you created years ago such as the bar rings, ear tips, and nail rings are now full-fledged trends. I’m seeing ear bling all over the streets during the shows. Is there a new trend or direction with jewelry you see coming into play? Yes, yes …always. I have created the new handlet, which is a wordplay on where the piece fits and its function; a bracelet for the hand. I have applied humor and irony to the titles of many of the Bijules pieces. My archive is a saturated trend tank for jewelry today. The bar ring I made 8 years ago is finally accepted and included in most jewelry collections to date. The helix cuff and nail ring are also staples! I hope to push the handlet into the same genre of acceptance!
You speak French fluently and have spent some time living here in France. Could you ever see yourself living here again? Do you have any favorite French expressions? Perhaps I’ll live back in France one day but I do consider myself a full-fledged global Bedouin. I am based in New York where I will open my flagship store in a few weeks so I am in no hurry to leave. My fave phrases in French are the following: “Sois beau mais tais toi!” and “ta guele!” hahahaha….
Since we are in Paris and it is the middle of fashion week, is there a designer you aspire to collaborate with on the runway? I love Boudicca. I love Alexander McQueen and how he implemented jewelry in his runway shows. Givenchy haute couture would be ideal!
It was really cool to see the Bijules and Urban Outfitters collaboration online a couple years back. Then on the flipside, Topshop just recently ripped off your design and sold it on their site without crediting you. I know designers deal with this all the time, but it has to be extremely frustrating, any thoughts on the situation? Ha. This “imitation is the best form of flattery” is utter bullshit. I am not flattered in the least. Id be flattered if I received the credit for my original thought and flattery doesn’t pay the bills. Bijules has taken every effort to own and protect each one of its designs. Fast fashion does not make fashion trends, they sell them. I make them and I own them and I sell them to beautiful people who care.
Your jewelry has been spotted on some real game changers in the industry such as Karen O, Rihanna, Beyonce, and recently Rooney Mara’s character Lisbeth Salander in the film The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. Any actor, musician, or artist your still secretly coveting to see your pieces on that hasn’t come into fruition yet? I am honored to have a crazy roster of clients who can depend on my design aesthetic to identify them. I prefer to welcome those who desire Bijules and not isolate who they are as how I will gain their attention.
If you could pick a song that you would like to symbolize your jewelry aesthetic what would it be? Daisy Daisy ‘Michelle Plays Ping Pong’
You are of Korean origin, any cool slang we should know? Can you make a mean Bulgogi? I can eat a mean Bulgogi but id rather someone else made it! And I know how to get myself in a gutter in Korean, but certainly not out of one! The standard curse words and body parts, thanks dad!
I know you mentioned collaborating with Kiki de Montparnasse…when can we cop that?!! Attachments will be available in North America at Kiki de Montparnasse and in Europe with Mise En Cage. Bliss Lau, Celine Leroy, and I have created a trifecta collaboration using erotic imagery with lingerie jewelry!
Is there anything else in the mix we should know about? Bijulesterie will open on the Bowery this summer and more collaborations will surface with Someslashthings in Paris! Also I will host several summer weekly parties and special events, stay tuned and get linked through our social media!
Where can we find your next shows? Early August I’ll be heading to Copenhagen, Sweden, and September Fashion week in NYC!