The weight of a name can’t be overestimated. In fashion, this is a blunt truth that’s known by designers and consumers alike. Heritage brands take pride in lineage, renewing tradition in ways that are relevant to a new age. Big names in streetwear create worlds that exist on the scaffolds of community and being in-the-know. So what happens when a brand disowns its name as soon as it’s conceived? To be UNNAMED is to be undefined, without limits or boundaries. For an up-and-coming brand, this lays a blueprint that opens up possibilities, but also un-manifested guidelines as to how the brand will grow.
UNNAMED is based in New York City, which serves as an origin story for the brand’s beginnings in jewelry. NYC’s industrial identity and famed jewelry district appropriately link up to UNNAMED’s Alinea collection. Founder Christina Liu has lived in the city all her life, so quite naturally, NYC’s grayscale color palette, warehouse spaces, and buildings that seem to be forever under construction inspire her in ways that will remain a part of UNNAMED. The brand’s debut collection is self-aware of this influence, consisting of pieces that are plated with 14k white gold and feature built-in retro reflective material that’s an homage to the NYC streets filled with safety road markings and stop signs. Much like the essence of her brand, Liu values ideas for what they’re worth beyond a name. After spending years under the spotlight as an influencer, she was ready to hone in on a new entrepreneurial identity.
Liu met UNNAMED’s co-founder Jerry Hu during a trip to Korea, where the couple eventually formed a bicoastal connection — one that remains strong to this day as they travel between NYC and Los Angeles. Hu owes his experience in jewelry manufacturing to an equally fateful turn of events — his father emigrated to the United States and founded a manufacturing technology company in a past which seems nothing short of destiny. As UNNAMED launches, Liu and Hu anticipate continuing production in LA while the brand stays grounded in NYC. Although they’re certain that travel will remain an essential part of UNNAMED’s growth, this past year has significantly hindered that part of their lifestyle.
As UNNAMED wrapped up its second year of development during the coronavirus pandemic, Liu continued to balance her social presence with classes attended in her office over Zoom. Without the freedom of travel and exploration, Liu and Hu seek to bring that missing experience to their audience by dedicating collections to cities in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere around the world. This philosophy extends into the realm of lifestyle and UNNAMED’s future aspirations, whether that be in the form of clothing or campaigns. UNNAMED seeks to share new experiences which recreate the anticipation and excitement that Liu and Hu feel when they visit a surreal location for the first time. “It might not be completely like the last collection, but it’s inspired by one region or an idea that kind of levels up each other,” Liu expressed.
The duo is constantly hungry for new ideas and very much aware of how everyday experiences can translate into their brand. They recall visiting art museums and attending Paris fashion week pre-Covid, soaking in inspiration from films and one particularly funky store they happened to come across during a casual stroll in the neighborhood. “The two years of development were just kind of cooking with a bunch of things that we experienced and saw,” Hu recalls himself pondering. “How do we tell the story of that experience through this platform, which is our brand?”
There’s no better time than the new year to explore uncharted territory and unnamed ideas, some of which Liu and Hu plan to unveil in their next clothing collection during the first quarter of 2021. They expect their audience to gain not only an appreciation for the locations shared in their campaigns, but their significance and the history of their beauty as well. This duality between UNNAMED’s industrial, man-made aesthetics and sustained, natural practice speaks to the diversity which Liu and Hu have planned for the brand, as well as the responsibilities they hold as creators. From the start with their Alinea collection, UNNAMED placed quality and time at the forefront when Liu made the first prototype at home two years ago with an exacto knife. “The first campaign was actually shot in December of 2019. So we’ve just been sitting on the collection ever since,” Liu reminisced. “I feel like my biggest lesson from this year was patience. You kind of have to ride it out and be okay with it.”
UNNAMED’s Alinea necklace, bracelet, and ring follow the same spirit, and are all handmade to limited quantities after the team conducted extensive research and development to achieve the desired results. “We really want to deliver this to the people that really do want it,” Hu explained. “We want to grow the community in a way that’s in a sustainable sort of fashion.” UNNAMED’s jewelry metal is completely recycled with origins ranging from airplanes and automobiles to skyscrapers and rockets. This practice trickles down to UNNAMED’s packaging, which includes reusable protective pouches that double as wallets for coins and cards, per Liu’s suggestion. On a broader perspective, Hu hopes to witness more scientific collaboration within the industry to inform how materials and luxury can be responsibly redefined.
Their infectious vision has caught the attention of fashion consumers, DJs, and performers who gravitate towards the high-reflectance technology infused in the brand’s jewelry. During the day, UNNAMED’s chains are minimal and subtle, until they come to life in the evening when they take on a new form under flash. “People who buy the chain can be different in very definitive ways,” Hu says. “But also at the same time, they’re all connected in this ineffable way.”
Just as art can trigger a visceral reaction in a viewer, Hu believes people who wear UNNAMED share a similarly unnamed feeling. In a sense, this attraction stands as a testament to the future of the brand, which started on a blank slate and has already connected a diverse audience through a shared vision. This way of thinking is a reminder of the collection’s namesake, the Latin phrase a linea. Very much like the marking of a pilcrow, it denotes a different paragraph, and with it a train of thought which defines the start of a new chapter for UNNAMED.