Of all the roles that Laurie Lynn Stark fulfills — mother, photographer, BFF to movie stars and a creative force behind Chrome Hearts’ bold accessories and fashion — she revels in one that converges her interests: a patron of emerging artists and young fashion designers.
To highlight this, Stark and her husband Richard have christened a new retail store in Miami’s Design District that devotes nearly every inch of its 5,000 square feet to art and art-inspired fashion. It will open on Wednesday with a performance by Zoë Kravitz.
This story first appeared in the December 2, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At the gallery-cum-boutique, the second floor will be occupied by Fahey/Klein Gallery’s first local exhibition of 20th-century photographs, which Stark co-curated. She also approved a brightly colored yarn cave spun by the Haas Brothers to house The Elder Statesman’s cashmere knits, invited hair stylist Oribe to create one-of-a-kind wigs and handpicked a display of comics-inspired works by Los Angeles-based illustrator Matt DiGiacomo. Visitors also can take in Mother Nature’s art in a garden wall dotted with more than 1,100 indigenous plants and stretching 15 feet high and 80 feet long, as well as a feng shui-blessed arrangement of rose quartz, black tourmaline, pyrite and clear quartz in the courtyard. After all, Stark says, feng shui is an art in itself.
“People think it’s weird and hippie. It’s an ancient art,” she says. “We’re into nurturing the arts. To me, [the store] just blends all art.”
While all the artwork in the shop is for sale, commercialism ranks low on Stark’s list of priorities. If she had aspired to be commercial, she would have sold the family-owned company years ago and watched the designs be produced in China rather than in one of the four buildings comprising Chrome Hearts’ factory in Los Angeles, where the company is based. Along with Richard, who started as an apprentice to a woodworker and a craftsman in a leather tannery before launching Chrome Hearts in 1988, she says she funnels at least half of what they make back to the arts.
In a way, the Starks are kind of rock ’n’ roll mini Medicis. Recently invited to join the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Laurie Lynn loved the graffiti-scrawled Design District so much that they bought an iron-and-brick building there four years ago and left it alone until now. Since picking up the property, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Hermès have all moved into the neighborhood.
In fact, the Stark clan — which includes their eldest daughter, Jesse Jo, who is also a musician and helps guide the creative direction at Chrome Hearts; and tween twins Frankie Belle and Kristian Jack — initiates collaborations with a wide range of people, all of whom share some kind of special connection with them.
The striped button-up shirts by Comme des Garçons that they tweaked with sterling silver fleur-de-lis buttons came about after Richard modeled on the runway for Rei Kawakubo. Actress Kate Hudson, who happens to be Laurie Lynn’s close friend, is offering stackable square-shaped rings, dainty bracelets and other fine jewelry she designed with Chrome Hearts at the store. While sitting on opposite ends of the style spectrum, vintage-loving Lily Ashwell and luxe Goth Gareth Pugh entered the Chrome Hearts world, respectively, through a childhood friendship with Jesse Jo and introduction by Rick Owens. Indulged tots can cuddle the cashmere teddy bears with silver stars for eyes courtesy of The Elder Statesman, which also counts the Starks as investors.
“Somebody can find something for every age,” Stark says. “It’s not like any store we’ve done. I want [customers] to see the diversity and that we can do anything.”
To help broaden Chrome Hearts’ reach further, Stark is also funding five young artists who are dabbling in everything from documentary filmmaking to social media. “I pay for everything if they don’t have money,” she says. “They’re put in a position where they can excel.”
It’s too early to tell whether the Millennials who are supported by the Starks will become the next Botticelli, da Vinci or Michelangelo. What they do have for certain is a venue in which to show their works, namely, Chrome Hearts’ global network of 25 stores, including its new flagship in New York that will be unveiled next year with a gallery and other features similar to those in the Miami store.