In a Risk Restricted exclusive, Risk interviews jewelry brand CHRISHABANA, starring (in order of appearance) Sammy Kims, Dominic Spencer, Edwin Evangelista, C'andre and Ian Rolen, photographed by Travis Chantar, styled by Colin Anderson.
RISK MAGAZINE: What is the brand ethos and mission of CHRISHABANA?
CHRISHABANA: When I started the jewelry brand 12 years ago, I always wanted to look at it through the eyes of an outsider – an outcast. I always wanted to use the medium of metal to convey subversive ideas that question the status quo. With my current team, we have all worked hard to keep this mission alive. From our jewelry designs to the larger projects we’ve been proud to take on, every product we put out speaks to people of all walks of life who share a rebellious spirit. Me and my team aim to cater to these communities and use the work we create as a way to hopefully highlight these individuals in a real way.
"Every product we put out speaks to people of all walks of life who share a rebellious spirit."
RISK MAGAZINE: What was your introduction into fashion, and specifically jewelry? Who and what influenced you to create the brand you have today?
CHRISHABANA: While it’s not technically jewelry, I did design all the armor that my characters wore when I played Dungeons and Dragons. This was when I was around 5 or 6. I played it a lot with my brother and family. When I look back on all my sketches and fashion drawings since then, they’ve always been heavy on metal and hardware. It wasn’t until the early to mid 90’s as a twinky club kid in San Francisco that I got fascinated by all things Gaultier, Mugler, Walter Van Beirendonck, even Hussein Chalayan. I especially loved Shaun Leane’s pieces he created for McQueen’s runways in the 90’s. So so beautiful, with a heavy nod to fetishism and queerness. To this day all these moments, designers
and artists inform my design decisions.
RISK MAGAZINE: Sexual liberation is a theme often found at the CHRISHABANA brand. How has the freedom of expression influenced you and your work over the years?
CHRISHABANA: Thank you for picking up on that. I guess we really put the sex out there! Sexual liberation, specifically as it pertains to queer and minority communities, is something that we have touched on for some years now. We always seem to challenge social issues such as censorship and put a lens towards this hypocrisy in society that both demonizes
and celebrates sex positive people.
In 2018, during a time when fashion photographers and designers were getting cancelled for deceptively luring would be models and taking their nude photos, we mounted an exhibition co-sponsored by CAM4 and Hud App where we freely invited our friends and followers to send their own nude photos (some wearing our jewelry) and incorporated
it into a Frankensteinesque cellphone/mannequin sex sculpture held at a sex dungeon run by NSFW.I just thought, why beat around the bush? Let’s just ask our fans to send THEIR nudes. We expected some backlash but surprisingly people around the world eagerly submitted over 1000 pictures and videos to the project! People really got sexy and creative with their nudes ---- we plan to revisit their submissions on our Only Fans page soon. Fast-forward to our shoot just a couple weeks ago, where we worked with photographer Eli Wirija (@elizabethwirija) to shoot a cast of POC sex workers in an effort to highlight and benefitthem through our media and press channels.
"I think anyone operating a business especially at this time is a risk taker."
RISK MAGAZINE: Would you describe yourself as a Risk taker? If so, what is a Risk you have taken to be
in the place you are today?
CHRISHABANA: I think anyone operating a business especially at this time is a risk taker. From a business standpoint, the coronavirus severely impacted the brand and made us pivot into other categories like full costume and custom work. While we still have a big emphasis on metalwork, our jewelry design has given way to more statement and body
pieces. This territory has been a change for me but a welcome one as I have started creating molded body pieces, even jockstraps, nipple covers, corsetry, etc etc. Additionally, I think it goes without saying that I have taken a lot of risks to get to the point where we are at now. When you are a creative trying to stamp an aesthetic and build your name, you will be surprised at how your body can shift and adapt to accommodate your passion and work. The things you will do to seal that deal, make ends meet, so on and so forth. It’s one thing to be employed by a company and still get a paycheck, even though you’ve been sick or tired. It’s another thing to own a company that is reliant on your direct action to keep it afloat – there are no sick or tired days here. Just me and my team and our collective passion to keep it going.
RISK MAGAZINE: Online censorship has become more prevalent in recent years, often targeting LGBTQ+ platforms, especially those of color. How has censorship affected what you do? What does the CHRISHABANA platform look like free from limitations or boundaries?
CHRISHABANA: Censorship is the worst! It has definitely been one of the biggest obstacles at times and while it may not completely affect what I create it certainly challenges the way I display it. On a positive note, it has pushed my team and I to think outside the box and be innovative with the way we communicate the brand message. A CHRISHABANA platform free from limits? Wow the fantasy!!! I think if you combined our Instagram, Only Fans and Tik Tok pages (coming soon) it might look something like that…
RISK MAGAZINE: As a brand and home base that is made up of and represents the LGBTQ+ community, (in depth) how has the fight for equality in politics, sexuality, race, gender etc., impacted the work and art you create?
CHRISHABANA: It’s funny. When I was conceiving the brand so many years ago, I admired other designers such as Martin Margiela who wouldn’t show his face and wanted his design aesthetic and shows to convey his stance on culture and life. While I still admire this philosophy and try to have my work speak for itself, I realize we are in a different world
now where the public needs to get to know me not only as a designer, but as a person. I am a queer Filipino man who immigrated to the states when I was 12 and since then I have tried to aid fringe communities in our fight for equality and visibility through volunteer work. With the CHRISHABANA brand, I have been able to channel that philanthropy into the brand aesthetic. We have increasingly been more active at not only highlighting outcast communities, but supporting them in other ways. For example, last year we decided to divert the release of our Spring eyewear collection with Jazzelle Zanaughtti (@uglyworldwide) into a fundraising effort to donate to the NAACP Legal Aid Defense Fund at a time when many brave civil rights protestors were being brutalized and put in jail. Toward the end of the year we took it a step further and partnered with South African Artist Desire Marea (@desiremarea) and footwear giant Teva (@teva) to power an auction of custom pieces on behalf of the Transgender Law Center, America’s largest trans-led civil rights organization. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to make jewelry and design a vehicle for doing good.
In a Risk Restricted exclusive, we interview jewelry brand CHRISHABANA, starring (in order of appearance) Sammy Kims, Dominic Spencer, Edwin Evangelista, C'andre and Ian Rolen, photographed by Travis Chantar, styled by Colin Anderson.
Photographer Travis Chantar
Stylist Colin Anderson
MUA Ryan Burke
Bookings editor Jack Goldsmith