Looking Back at CHRISHABANA and CAM4’s Rated-R NYFW Pop-Up
The jewelry designer gives all the details on the sleek-meets-subversive activation in collaboration with an adult webcamming site
Things got pretty wild at 151 Ludlow this past New York Fashion Week, playing host to conceptual jewelry brand CHRISHABANA’s Spring/Summer 2020 presentation—a collaboration with the adult webcamming site, CAM4. The highly experiential month-long pop-up merges the worlds of sex and fashion in a series of interactive elements throughout the exhibition. The eponymous designer himself sits down with V to discuss how this unique activation is challenging taboos around sex and censorship.
In your own words, please describe the relationship between jewelry and sex?
I think both jewelry and sex share an aspect of intimacy and personal expression that is very specific to the person wearing or doing it. There are a lot of heavy metal and jewelry elements involved in various forms of fetish as well, which is actually my favorite thing about this subculture—it helps to heighten sex and sexual expression. It’s a relationship that may be hard to grasp for some. For me, the two have always swirled around in my designs in a very fluid way.
What about the LES neighborhood appealed to you? Why did you choose to bring the pop-up here?
When we were looking at locations, we made sure to partner with CAM4 to target key areas in New York such as Soho, Meatpacking, and the Lower East Side. Transparently speaking, it was difficult to secure certain spaces in Soho and in the Meatpacking because upon presenting our shop concept, there were certain perceptions of “questionable content.” Our work with CAM4 on this pop-up might be sexy, but isn’t overtly sexual in nature; which made us wonder why we had such a hard time securing a space. It was a fortunate coincidence for the LES location at 151 Ludlow to graciously open up their doors and host the conjoined visual narrative of CHRISHABANA and Cam4. It’s a more edgy, free, and vibrant part of the city that is a lot more welcoming than some parts of what I call the “puritanical New New York.”
What do you hope that attendees who come to this pop-up will leave with? What are the main takeaways?
I would love for guests to leave feeling like they were able to expand their sexual awareness and see that the worlds of art, fashion, jewelry, and sex aren’t mutually exclusive but can all be seamlessly combined into an intriguing, and immersive experience. We aren’t only showcasing our own jewelry, CAM4 sex toys, and apparel, but are also presenting collaborative accessories and tees, as well as other products from our designer friends and partners. I hope that while they visit here, our guests will have some good ol’ dirty fun in the process.
The press release discusses how censorship is limiting freedom of expression. Could you expand on how this issue will be discussed or made aware of at the pop-up?
Judging from the way the world is getting more and more conservative, our pop-up’s very presence is a stance on keeping freedom of expression alive and well. With our opening presentation that just debuted this past Thursday, we played with the notion of what is deemed sensitive and flaggable content on social outlets such as Instagram. We made CAM4 collaborative metal pieces to highlight but also hide the nipple and frontal areas of both the men and women we cast in our show. Amanda Lepore wore some nipple pasties in sterling silver, while François Sagat wore a metal codpiece that resembles a cock cage connected to a ball chain and leather harness. It’s just so ridiculous how it’s not even about nudity on Instagram anymore, but more of someone judging what they think might be too sexual. It’s really limiting artists and designers from fully expressing themselves in a medium that was supposed to be all about expression in the first place! On a related subject, our Instagram page got taken down because it was too sexy for them. We got warnings on content that they thought was showing nudity (again, it was sexy, not sexual), then the day before the show it was removed. As of now, if you even search a hashtag with “CHRISHABANA” in it, you can’t find it. No conversation, just deleted. This is our new world!
How does a jewelry brand challenge a taboo like sex?
If anyone is familiar with our jewelry, they know that we aren’t just a brand designing and selling jewelry. Our pieces are thought-provoking, subversive, and challenge normal standards of what is wearable art. The subject of sex as a taboo has always been something that I want to tackle, so all of the brand imagery surrounding our pieces have a punk aesthetic that has lately been filtered into fetish and other socially hidden taboos. We also purposely align ourselves with brands such as CAM4 who welcome sex and expression with open arms and we come up with unique activations that push the subject of sex to the masses.
What are some trends you have seen in the jewelry world this season? In the adult website world?
I try not to look at other jewelry much because I really like to keep my vision focused and true to what I envision. I will say that I have seen a lot of hardware repurposed as jewelry, and I wanted to think about what our take on that was. Because of this, we have actually customized chains and cast our own links for the Spring/Summer 2020 season. As for adult accessories, I am always inspired by sex toys. If you Google “cock rings,” you will likely see them realized in our jewelry, but as finger rings and such. Our Triple Orbit ring, for instance, looks almost exactly like a shrunken cock ring. I’m so proud of that!
Can you explain how CAM4 makes the adult website more diverse? What positive effects have you seen from the inclusion?
CAM4 is the leading cam site welcoming and championing diversity across all of its performers. Their age limit is 18 and over, while other sites have an older age of participation. The site also welcomes different kink and fetishes to its platform whilst other sites may limit this. They have one of the largest gay demographics on their site, and outside of any laws and regulations, they give the performer their own schedules on when they want to perform. It completely matches our own aesthetic of championing the most unique and diverse group of people, not only in race, gender, and body type but also in age. Since working with CAM4 on our last season’s exhibition, “Send Nudes”, we have progressively been broadening our scope and I myself have been able to realize all my visions for what I have always wanted to create. The Spring / Summer 2020 presentation that we just mounted and unveiled at the shop had pieces ranging from binding corsets as torture devices, car crash inspired patchwork pieces, and oversized ball chains tailored to look like an actual textile. Our casting this season was amazing! It showcased models such as the aforementioned Amanda Lepore, Francois Sagat, but also Jazzelle Zanaughtti, Boy Radio, Caitin Kitten, Rose Anger, Tiara Kelly, and Damian Dragon! We patterned our casting after individuals who not only represent diversity but are taking active steps in altering their physical, intellectual and even digital beings to become the people they were meant to become. I would never have been able to realize these pieces without the support and partnership with CAM4.
8: What other “high-concept” brands will be featured at the pop-up? How did you choose them?
We are so excited about this lineup of brands. We called on our design and art friends, and collaborators, and now have pins and stickers from Walter Van Beirendonck, shoes from A.F.Vandevorst, leather accessories from Zana Bayne, leather pieces from Vex, accessories and jewelry from Linder, and an amazing bag from Massive Goods! Other pieces include custom steel collars from Andrew Clark and various media from publishers Vasta Eros and Scumbag Fagmag. For those who want to play around with some sex toys and even apparel, CAM4 has put up their own dedicated Marketplace in the shop.
9: What are some of the most exciting interactive stations that are going to be filtered out throughout the duration of the pop-up?
There’s quite a bit happening at the shop, but I will say two of my favorite things are these: One is the CAM4/CHRISHABANA token. In the CAM4 world, performers get paid in virtual tokens to do what the viewer wants them to do. This helps them earn money and some of these performers get paid. For the shop, we created metal gold plated tokens which are handed out to guests upon entering into the environment we created. They can use these coins to then activate different things in the shop such as discounts on certain pieces, interact with our Bed Window Display, or the pink latex curtained stage in the back. On our third week, we are also having a Dirty Karaoke event, where we present pre-recorded karaoke vids to some of our favorite sex-themed songs, and we will invite performers and the public to come and karaoke those exact songs for us. That should be a fun way to cap the last week of this month-long pop-up.
10: With the pop-up, you hope to hold up a mirror to people and say, “this is who we are. All of us. So, let’s be proud of it.” How do you think this way of thinking will benefit attendees?
The act of feeling special and comfortable in your own skin is something that is frequently said and proclaimed in social media, but in actuality, we all have to work on truly accepting ourselves for who we are, and be proud of it. I hope our CHRISHABANA XXX CAM4 pop-up shop and event space will help people realize that their kinks, their fetishes, their libidos aren’t evil or bad. It’s something healthy that can be channeled in the highest form of fashion and art. We hope people can come by and experience all of this.