Diamonds, along with marriage and breakfast cereals, are just one of the institutions said to have been killed by millennials this past decade. But recent menswear developments, with iced-out jewelry being done in new ways, could signal the precious stone's return to the forefront of high-end accessories, not to mention challenge the old adage that diamonds are a girl's best friend.
Established by Yoichi "Jury" Kawamura in 2005, Japanese jewelry brand EYEFUNNY was a Paris Fashion Week FW19 standout at Poggy's Box showroom curated by Motofumi "Poggy" Kogi of UNITED ARROWS & SONS and POGGYTHEMAN. The label conflates high and low aesthetics by assembling diamonds into shapes and patterns associated with streetwear and pop art. The approach is a breath of fresh air in a stuffily traditional industry, attracting fans such as Ronnie Fieg, Daniel Arsham, Aleali May, Don C, and J Balvin.
EYEFUNNY's range includes bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, and timepieces that feature smiley faces, safety pins, letters, mushrooms, stars, crosses, and lightning bolts.
Of course, when it comes to diamonds, quality is crucial, and each stone is hand-checked for quality by Kawamura himself. EYEFUNNY works with Mumbai-based diamond supplier Patsons and keeps its products compliant with the Kimberley Process, which seeks to minimize the number of conflict diamonds (rough diamonds used to finance wars) entering the market.
“At the very beginning, I loved diamonds — when I was 24, 25, around the time I first started to shop for them," Kawamura tells Highsnobiety as he shows us his brand's latest wares. "But there were no pop designs with high-quality diamonds. Normally, people say diamonds are a woman's best friend, but they can also [be a] best friend for men, because diamonds are the most beautiful object in the world and I think we need to share that kind of beauty from the Earth."
Another designer fusing high and low aesthetics with rare stones is Virgil Abloh, whose debut jewelry line Virgil Abloh™ was presented during Paris Fashion Week at an OFF-WHITE pop-up to accompany the brand’s FW19 show.
Inspired by that most banal of office supplies, the paper clip, Abloh’s jewelry line is adorned with sparkly diamonds, the iced-out clips linking together around the neck. This high/low approach to luxury dismantles the tradition of diamonds as aloof, flashy accessories gaudily seen on the likes of 50 Cent in the ’00s.
Abloh also added a bit of sparkle to his FW19 Louis Vuitton collection in Paris, including jackets, sweaters, and even a crystal-encrusted white glove that functioned as an invitation to the brand's Michael Jackson-referencing runway show.
Recontextualizing diamonds is one thing, but there’s still a financial barrier that prevents any diamond trend from going totally mainstream. Much more affordable rhinestones, however, appear to be everywhere.
In a recent 032c drop, for instance, sweaters carried crystal logo embroidery created out of Swarovski-made glass diamonds. As the brand put it, “Our brain told us that glitter could not survive in the beige-gray concrete forests of Berlin-Kreuzberg. But our hearts told us to never overlook the wisdom of kitsch. Being covered in crystals is a way to bring your own light to any situation, even in times of darkness. This is lesson number one of Bling Bling Brutalism.”
Perhaps this recontextualization of diamonds, and by extension sparkly ’fits, is symptomatic of wider changes in luxury and the dismantling of gendered shopping in general. Handbags, for example, were once the pinnacle of the women's luxury market and now they're all over men's fashion week, showing how items once marketed exclusively to women are now crossing over.
Dior's collaboration with Hajime Sorayama, for example, had a highly covetable metallic saddle bag that is expected to retail for around $25,000. Fendi, meanwhile, collaborated with Japanese luggage label PORTER on a new range of men's bags, including the hugely popular Baguette and Peekaboo models, updated with luxe nylon.
Disgruntled baby boomers' complaints that the current generation is "killing" the diamond industry could be undone by millennials updating the stones for use in ways beyond engagement rings and the like. Instead, diamonds can become an ungendered display of extravagance, whatever the occasion, whether you're a man or a woman.