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NYC's Chris Habana, designer at Chris Habana + My Enemy, discusses his work/studio/residential space tucked away in Alphabet City.
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Chris Habana
Designer | Chris Habana, My Enemy

NYC designer Chris Habana (Chris Habana, My Enemy) takes gothic iconography and filters it through a pop lens. Here in his Alphabet City apartment, he discusses his collections, lifestyle, and rising star in the jewellery scene.
"When I first moved to NY, I decided basically that I would kind of focus my energies on getting myself out there in some way. I studied clothing, but I was a drop-out. I did projects outside of that, so everything's kind of self-taught, and then I started literally just putting together old jewellery, collaging together vintage jewellery and stuff like that to make new pieces... It first started out that way.

I just took it to a store. There was a really cool store in New York. It's called Seven. It's still in existence now, but it was in the Lower East Side back then. They took it on, they referred me to a company in Tokyo that represented American designers in Tokyo, they showed it to them, and then all of a sudden, I was in Tokyo. So that was kind of crazy. I got off to a really good start." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"The brand takes gothic iconography and filters it through a pop lens.

I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school, and while that actually made me desensitized to religion and all that stuff... You know, when you start listening to certain things, depending on how you are as a person, you take it on or choose to negate it, but what I actually got into was more the imagery and the iconography and the ritual of it all.

I really got off on, like, if you have to kneel to pray. I was super proper about it. The image of the cross has always been a muse, has always been in my life and also, now especially, used in my work. And it's not because of any reason because I go to church and love God and that kind of business. It's just more because I really like the idea. The shape of it is really great." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"I don't consciously think about [designing for genders]. When [a piece is] done, I'm like, oh, maybe this is more feminine than masculine and vice versa, but I tend to not think about it. My stuff is for men and women, but there are some pieces that are definitely obviously women because of the scale of them, and they're a lot more grand or something. But more often than not, I like to think that my pieces are kind of unisex." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"Urban Outfitters actually had asked me to do a line specific to them, and it was a part of a series where they were collaborating with designers... Urban did really well with the My Enemy line, and so I just asked them if I could just use the name and wholesale out to other retailers, and they were like, "Sure." Yeah, I'm really lucky. The Urban thing definitely helped out a lot..." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"It wasn't until I moved to the East Village, to this apartment, actually, that my life just completely changed. It was crazy. I started meeting all of these people that lived very close to me, and my friend base exploded. The business started growing like crazy. It was really insane.

I went to a party in the Upper West side the other day, and that was really fun, but I looked around and I was like, 'Yeah, this isn't my neighbourhood.' This is my neighbourhood. This is my home. I walk around, and I feel like it's mine. Everything around it is for me." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"I like the fact that I don't get freaked out at all that my workspace is two feet away [from my bed]. I will say it is getting a little tight to have both in here. It would be great to make this my living space.

Right now I don't [care about work-life separation]. If I was in a relationship, it would probably tilt more towards the negative, because even if I have a guest here and I have to work, they're trying to fall asleep while I have my work. But right now, it's completely manageable." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"With my stuff, it's so specific, that if you like it, you really like it, and if you don't like it, then you really don't like it.

By nature, I always think down. I always think lower end instead of higher end. I still haven't made anything out of any kind of precious metals. All my pearls, even from my last collection, are glass pearls.

For the Chris Habana [line] these days, I really have to think about it and think, okay, what would a more sophisticated version of me do? It still has to be edgy, but what would a more grown-up version of me wear, you know, as a woman or as a man?

Whereas My Enemy, it's literally like middle fingers/St. Mark's/in-your-face/goth-punk-trash/Hot Topic, even, that type of reference point, where it's more obvious and still in a good way, I think - very bratty. My Enemy's more bratty, where Chris Habana is more reserved." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC) on his two split jewellery lines
"I love this apartment. I've never been the type of person that has wanted space and wanted things that were big. My family is pretty well off in the Philippines. I grew up, luckily, in a good type of environment in terms of wealth or... at least home and property. It was a lot of space, and my dad's place had marble floors and a big back yard and all that shit. In the Philippines you're either really rich or you're really poor.

But I don't know what happened. Nothing translated to me in terms of wealth. I'm fine with smaller spaces and making it work." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"There's a sense of religion to my collection. There's a certain sense of aggression also, and I would like to think that has to do with more the fact that I was into role-playing games when I was younger - Dungeons and Dragons, stuff like that. And even skipping into my late-teens, early 20s, I really was going out in San Francisco to a lot of clubs and really getting into counter-culture and that type of thing.

So all those types of images just combine together to form what I do. So I literally just draw from what's happened to me, what is currently happening to me. I don't stray too far in terms of inspiration. I'm not the designer, at least right now, that goes out... to the gallery and gets inspired by an artist, and all of a sudden I'm there. I'll reference different artists, but it's never jumping off one. My jumping off point is always like, what's happening with me right now? And I don't have to think about it." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"I went to Vegas for a trade show there, and that was amazing.

I hate that place, [though]. I don't get it. I don't get the rules. I would imagine if you're fine by the rules of having to... wear pants or collared shirts and shit like that, maybe it's fine.

People had this routine where they would look at me and then look at my shoes and then look for their friend really quick and be like, 'Oh, my god. Can you believe he's wearing those shoes?' They're just platforms. It's not a lot... I need to be comfortable, obviously, if I'm dressing the way I'm dressed. But it was just relentless, just relentless, the people." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"It's just like a slow growth, but they say jewellery, it's like a slow growth of maybe 5 years, but once you hit it, you can kind of like stay and coast for a while. And actually, oddly enough, 2012 will be our 5th year from 2007, from me actually officially doing it." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"I've always been social. It's kind of exploded since I moved here, actually. I definitely had friends before, but like I said, the second I moved here, I just fell into a group of people, and even above and beyond them, I've just been really open to meeting people, you know? I had my birthday here last year or the year before, and I packed in 70 people here. Every inch was covered.

I get into these bouts where, if a lot of people come at a certain time, I start feeling like the place is like Grand Central, and I go, 'Oh, my god, no. I have to be alone.' So it goes back and forth. I mean, for the most part, I would hate it if no one came over here." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"The business aspect, I could honestly do without. I'm definitely one of those typical designers that doesn't want it and needs someone to actually help me.

The selling part's the other part I hate doing, too. I have to go to shows and stuff like that, and it's weird. People would never really necessarily think that about me because I'm pretty social and, you know, I like talking to people, but I'd rather talk to people about where they're from or how their family life was when they were growing up. That's the kind of conversations I like having. I don't necessarily like saying, 'Hey, don't you like this? It'll go with every outfit, you know?' That's not really my thing." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"I just wanted to have fun, so for my spring collection [for next year], which the inspiration board kind of shows, I just wanted to have fun. So I kind of drew back upon my rave days and my club days, and if you look at my spring collection for both lines... it's more light and fun as a collection. There's colour in it, you know?" - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)
"We're going to actually have to grow [the business] more. We're probably going to take up the whole wall at some point, because all of my old samples, they just have to go into a cabinet. [We have 3 people working here in total] at any given moment, 3-4. During show week -- we showed for Fashion Week -- there were 5-6 people here helping out." - Chris Habana, jewellery designer (NYC)