Thief and Heist has joined forces with the Elton John AIDS Foundation to create limited-edition rainbow-colored Tags to commemorate 50 years of Gay Pride that was marked by the Stonewall uprising.
The alliance is rooted in friendship as much as altruism, since the brand’s founder and creative director Francesca Amfitheatrof is friendly with the British singer-songwriter and his husband, David Furnish. “Obviously Elton is a huge lover of jewelry. He has always been extremely interested and supportive of what I do. While I was at Tiffany [as design director], he followed what I did very carefully. He’s now following what I do at LV [as artistic director for jewelry and watches at Louis Vuitton],” said Amfitheatrof. “He’s always been a fan and he is a great jewelry client.”
The Thief and Heist x EJAF item, which is priced at $125, is being offered in coral, orange, green, yellow, pink and purple with 20 percent of all sales benefiting the EJAF. Once the Tag’s sterling silver clasp and nylon band are attached they are not designed to be removed, and are expected to last for an average of two years. The bracelet will be sold in London’s Dover Street Market — a new outpost for Thief and Heist, as well as on its own site.
The timing of the tie-in comes as John is the focus of the film “Rocketman,” has a new book coming out and is in the midst of his last concert tour, “Farewell Yellow Brick Road.” With more than 300 million records sold, Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, is the most successful solo male in the history of the American charts and the third most successful artist overall, behind Madonna and The Beatles.
In a statement, John said he was pleased to partner with his friend and her brand Thief and Heist to support EJAF and the fight against AIDS and HIV. “This June, as people around the world celebrate Pride, Francesca and her brand have created colored Tag bracelets to support the Elton John Aids Foundation. Twenty percent of each Tag sold will go to support LGBTQ+ people who struggle to get access to HIV services, testing and treatment because of stigma and discrimination. We are therefore very excited to invite you to join us in celebrating Pride this year by wearing your heart on your sleeve, and your pride on your wrist,” he said.
Amfitheatrof said, “I just want to raise as much money as possible for EJAF. We’re at such a turning point with the prevention of AIDS, with the reversal of HIV. There’s actually hope around it.”
While inclusivity is becoming more ingrained in fashion marketing, Amfitheatrof believes authenticity must be inherent in design. “A lot of times there are a lot of words created, but the products don’t reflect those words. Jewelry is so steeped in traditions that dictate what you should wear and when, but it isn’t always so inclusive. I think that’s an interesting area to look at. If men want to get married, do they want to get engaged? If they do, what do they wear? If they want to commit to someone and there is more fluidity with genders, why can’t they also have different things that they can buy?” she said. “I think it goes back to the design, the actual single object that you buy because that’s what lives with you, stays with you and is what you want. The marketing is sort of superfluous. I think sometimes people can read between the lines and see that.”
While many wonder what it must be like to hang out with the multi-Grammy-Award winner, Amfitheatrof knows. “In London, the musician has always been very supportive of young artists, designers and musicians — including ones in recovery.” An avid collector of friends with a voracious, inquiring mind, John has been around the art world, amassing an enviable photography collection, she said. “He’s hilarious. Elton has one of the most wicked senses of humor. He’s outrageous, funny. Cheeky. He likes to stir the pot. He’s a gossip — everything,” she said, adding that he likes to see what she is wearing and be in-the-know about everything.
As artistic director of jewelry and watches at Louis Vuitton, she is gearing up for the launch of the brand’s first-high jewelry collection in two weeks. With a pop-up in SoHo for the B. Blossom line and another on Fifth Avenue, Amfitheatrof dropped into the SoHo one last week. “I love it. The salespeople hear everything firsthand so it’s extremely important to communicate with them as much as possible,” she said, adding that she prefers to go incognito with shoppers. “I like to observe because then you hear the truth.”
With jewelry, the customer is never who you think, she said. Noting how the Tag bracelet appeals to all ages, she said, “It breaks traditions. It allows for new traditions. That’s why it was important for me to do something for Pride. This is a New York brand that is celebrating Stonewall so it’s important to be part of the conversation.”
Launched in April, Thief and Heist’s designs are meant to be more playful and to start a new conversation about jewelry. She said, “There are so many ways and approaches in fashion that are changing. I find it very exciting. I know that so many people are scared of change, but actually it is bringing so many, interesting conversations. Jewelry can be part of that in an interesting way.”
Her brand’s approach, like its name sounds, is about being rebellious. “Elton is the classic example of doing things completely on his own terms. It’s pure talent. From the minute he did his first gig in L.A., it was just stellar. It was like a rocketman. But he is an amazing personality who has helped so many musicians. It’s quite incredible what a huge influence he has had. And he’s had a huge influence on people in recovery, people who have addictions, HIV sufferers. He’s really used his fame and his influence in an incredible way,” she said.