Founded by Oliver and Isabel Stine in the early 1900s, the Hakone Japanese Tea Garden, located in San Francisco, California, has become a sanctuary from the hustle of urban life. California is also the home base for featured jewelry brand LITTER.
The brain-child of sisters Rachael Mann and Mackenzie Burdick, LITTER’s blend of rock-n-roll sophistication and street tough panache came about innocently enough just two years ago.
Burdick, a fashion design graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), scoured hardware stores for objects to build her unorthodox jewelry items.
After seeing former reality t.v. star Nicole Richie wearing an elastic headband, Burdick immediately reworked a necklace she was wearing to create her version.
“I created one with a nut and bolt in the center. My sister Rachael wore it and a lot of people who saw it loved it. She and I started collecting different types of vintage chains from Goodwill and flea markets, and a friend of me and my sister’s asked us to make some pieces for a jewelry show. Every piece sold out.”
Though neither sister had any formal training in jewelry making (Mann’s first love is interior design), they were both eager to embark on bringing an edgier visual language to the industry’s table.
Gathering and reclaiming old jewelry from flea markets and thrift stores served as the inspiration behind their company’s name. Like the work of Coll Smith (England), Liz Law (USA), and Suzanne Donegan (Ireland), the LITTER brand ultimately embodies reworking vintage jewelry within fresh, contemporary contexts for a whole new generation to enjoy.
“We continued to build LITTER to see where it would go,” says Burdick. “In the beginning we worked from the guest bedroom in Rachael’s house until we relocated to an art studio. The first couple of months were rough, but on-line word-of-mouth really helped the brand takeoff.”
Alongside their subtle yet arresting head jewelry designs are shoe jewelry, and body jewelry that consists of thumb holsters, hand bracelets, stainless steel shoulder chain jewelry, and chain garters. Designs are sleek, provocative, and sexy; understated but with a distinctive hard-bitten essence.
The brand’s Sterling Silver Cougar Claws, for example, are straight out of Halle Berry’s version of Catwoman! They are rings for the fingertips that look downright dangerous! Be warned the line is definitely not for the inhibited type as many of the stainless steel chainmail, and machine chains are to be worn against bare shoulders, backs and legs.
Even the more conservative pieces like pendant necklaces, rings, and chain bracelets are transformed into trinkets with attitude that feature swords, bull heads, beetles, and thorny roses.
Since the launch of their line, the sisters have been guests at the 2009 premiere of the film September Issue, and have met with representatives for Chanel and Vogue.
As the design duo continue to expand their jewelry line—amidst sisterly screaming matches—they hope to add furniture and clothing lines to the list of merchandise.
“We want to hit up flea markets and vintage stores buying furniture and clothing, and then open a temporary showroom of refurbished goods,” says Mann.
“It’s funny that is what we do now; we are pirates for scrap gold chains, old furniture and clothes.”
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Cougar Claws Fingertip Rings
Photo 2 (center): Stainless Steel Machine Shoulder Chain
Photo 3 (bottom left): Gold Tone Beetle Hand Bracelet