Tiny charms and dainty pearls may suffice as the ideal jewelry option for some. But for those looking for tougher pieces with a lot of attitude, there is King Baby. Brain-child of avid biker and rock-‘n’-roller Mitchell Binder, these handcrafted pieces deliver a lifestyle message that cannot be ignored. The company has two studio-showrooms, where all the pieces are made by hand, the original in Santa Monica, and the latest incarnation in Nashville, TN.
At the young age of 15, Mitchell Binder moved from Jackson, Mississippi to Los Angeles with his mother, who urged him to get a job. After a stint as a dishwasher, Binder began an apprenticeship with a jewelry designer in Los Angeles. It wasn’t long before he fell in love with the jeweler's process, and knew he had found his passion.
He began designing pieces of his own at night, which he would take to craft fairs on weekends. Living in L.A., surrounded by a large mix of interesting and creative people, provided him an opportunity for his jewelry to gain attention and popularity. Quickly he was on his way to becoming one of the most sought-after jewelry designers for Hollywood’s music and acting elite, crafting pieces for superstars as varied as Liz Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith.
Influenced by the free spirited rock legends of the 70’s such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, Binder describes the line as “half rock-‘n’-roll and half outlaw biker.” He also found inspiration by traveling, and was particularly influenced by European architecture. But he’s also very clear on which side of the Atlantic he’s most loyal to. “I try to put a very American touch on my designs,” he told me recently, when I visited with him on the occasion of the Nashville store’s grand opening, “and we’re very proud that we make everything in our own shop. That’s just not done anymore on the level that we’re at.”
Some of King Baby’s current celebrity clients include Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Drew Barrymore, Uma Thurman and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. King Baby pieces were also used to amp up Tom Cruise’s sex-appeal as Rock-God Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, also seen on the cover of W magazine. “Now it’s crossed over to this new generation of musicians, like Taylor Swift and Usher, and people that I really don’t know that well, but through word of mouth have become my clients. That has helped me grow the brand,” Binder added.
The Queen Baby Collection was successfully launched in 2007 after Neiman Marcus requested that Binder create a line for women. But that wasn’t as easy as designing the men’s line, Binder quickly discovered, “I just tried to scale the designs down in size and I quickly realized that I had to do more than that. I relied on many girlfriends, and girls that work for me and with me, and I think I finally got a handle on it. It was a struggle.” He even took the women’s jewelry for a test run, as he does with all of his designs before putting them on the market, with the exception of the earrings, of course.
The Queen Baby line is a cool mix of rock-n-roll edge with feminine details, made of chunky silver united with precious stones, roses and crowned heart beads, and gold skulls with bejeweled eyes. Pieces range from about $200 for bracelets and rings, with pricier gold and more intricate pieces starting at about $1,000.
But don’t think you have to be a touring musician or A-list celebrity to own one of Binder’s unique designs. In fact, he’s delighted with the vast variety of clientele King Baby has acquired, “What I have learned, and one of the reasons I like my job so much, is the cross-section of people I get to meet. You would think that most of them would be musicians. But King Baby customers can be anyone from a CEO of a large corporation that you think would never wear my jewelry to someone that just got out of jail that’s on parole. I love that part of it.”
King Baby also offers belt buckles, leather goods and the Fender Collection, and Binder has been experimenting with graphic tee’s, leather jackets, and a very limited collection of jeans, which has up until now at least, been basically made for a few privileged friends. And now, after a three year research and development process, Binder has expanded his offerings to include Unisex Sunglasses ($175- 525).
Binder happily expresses his passion for designing, “What I love about jewelry is, it becomes a very personal piece to whoever wears it. That’s one of the things that just does it for me. It gives it meaning, it’s very fulfilling, and it gives people some sort of identity as well. That’s the gift. That’s the specialness. That’s what I want to hang onto.”
King Baby’s recently opened location in Nashville, TN is in an upscale, modern neighborhood, called The Gulch. The original plan was to renovate the building that was already there, but it was found that the space was too run-down and old. So, Binder had the original building torn down and the new King Baby Studio built to his specifications. The new space has a rugged yet sophisticated vibe, with guitars hung on the walls and a King Baby custom motorcycle awing visitors near the entrance. One can only imagine the array of celebrities and country music stars who will soon be stopping by.
The Santa Monica studio is located at 1621 12th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404. The newly opened Nashville storefront is located at 615 9th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203.
In addition to the storefronts in Santa Monica and Nashville, also find the King Baby collection at Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, South Coast Plaza and Tampa. King Baby (and Queen Baby) treasures can also be found online, at Kingbabystudio.com.