The Label: Robert Lee Morris
Based In: Soho, New York
Designed By: Robert Lee Morris. The renowned jeweler launched his original namesake line in 1970 when he was living on a commune in the cornfields of southern Wisconsin (yes, really). "I taught myself how to make jewelry based on my gut instinct of what was going to be classic, timeless, and reflect who I am and what I wanted to say as an artist," Morris tells The Fashion Informer. "This is a very different approach from how people today start businesses, as I had no plan, no idea what was in the marketplace, or even what the market for my style of jewelry was. I was just making jewelry as a sort of temporary activity that was in keeping with the theme of the commune, which was that we all chose to make crafts of some sort." Finding a very receptive audience for his highly unique creations (made with materials sourced at the local hardware store), Morris then relocated to NYC and helped pioneer the wearable art movement of the late Seventies and Eighties with his seminal Soho store/gallery, Artwear, which featured his jewelry alongside that of fellow artisans Cara Croninger and Ted Muehling. He also worked closely on collaborations with designers such as Geoffrey Beene, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein (earning himself a Coty Award in 1981) and began a decades-long collaboration with Donna Karan, who used RLM jewelry in 36 runway shows. He won two CFDA Awards for accessory design, was given the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and collaborated with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on jewelry for the Elizabeth and James collection in 2008, which introduced his ouevre to a whole new audience.
Looks Like: A continuation of the iconic, multicultural RLM look, his newly relaunched collection, Robert Lee Morris 2.0 (as I like to think of it), features bold forms, earthy colors and a lower, contemporary price point. "Ever since I started working with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen a few years ago, my designs became a huge hit with a very young crowd of Hollywood starlets, who then influenced a younger audience," explains Morris of his revamped collection, which is produced by Haskell Jewels and debuted this season. "Traditionally, my work as been endorsed by the readers of mainstream fashion magazines, and has appealed to the chic working woman who is looking to me for fabulous daywear." For fall 2012, RLM's fabulous daywear includes bold gold collars, statement-making silver cuffs and his signature knuckle rings, all fashioned from plated brass to keep things affordable. Spring 2013 sees the addition of shell, horn and bone pieces, along with cast metals given a black, turquoise and green patina. "As a very serious artist, the most important goal for me has always been to create work that reflects my soul, my worldview, my inner self," says the self-described, German-born "Army brat," who lived in Japan and Rio de Janeiro before studying art and filmmaking at Beloit College in Wisconsin. "While I love all other art forms, and feel very comfortable with my abilities in drawing, sculpture, filmmaking, etcetera, I realized that jewelry somehow was more challenging to turn into a true art form, and I wanted to be a pioneer. As I move further and further away from the concept of fine jewelry, I want to make jewelry that breaks new ground every season." And that, dear reader, is exactly what he does.
Sold At: Robert Lee Morris retails from $150 to $1,200 at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdale's , Kirna Zabete, the Robert Lee Morris flagship store in Soho and at boutiques nationwide.
graphic design by K Sarna