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Heather Benjamin for Bliss Lau
Sex and punk elegantly balanced in the sculptural jewelry designer's latest collection
by Karen Day
on 09 May 2012
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Balance is the term that first comes to mind when describing Bliss Lau's approach to jewelry design. A soft-spoken Hawaiian with a New York sensibility, she embodies a certain duality that comes across in her work. The statement-making body accessories comprising Lau's line are at once elegant and provocative, with a posh-punk aesthetic brilliantly captured this season by emerging illustrator Heather Benjamin.

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Benjamin is the brains behind the lewdly funny, manga-esque illustrated zine, "Sad Sex", which Lau discovered through one of her young interns. With classical music playing in the background, Lau talked to us at her NYC studio. "I think I was interested in working with her largely because of this idea of her working with the female body and breaking boundaries with that, and then just the fearless, gnarlyness of it—it's just really powerful and fantastic," she explains.

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Lau commissioned Benjamin to create a series of drawings inspired by the "Sad Sex" seductress, but that would more appropriately showcase her Spring/Summer 2012 collection. "We had this idea of this naughty girl running rampant through the city doing things like smoking, hanging out with tigers, just this idea of this magical, sexy, sort of wicked girl that has fur coats and an amazing manicure but is like totally cool and punk rock, and she does dark things but she does them in fabulous ways," says Lau.

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The finely detailed illustrations perfectly capture the essence of Lau's pieces, which turn robust materials like powder-coated brass into finely crafted designs. There's a 1920s kinkiness to Lau's accessories that is obvious from first sight, but it becomes even more pronounced on the body. The armor-like weight makes you feel regal and powerful, but the delicate way the pieces lay on your skin and move with your body also provides a feeling of sensual refinement. Like the flexible "Hourglass" necklace or "Calder" bracelet, which are technically flat metal pieces that fully form around the body thanks to her clever use of vintage snake chains.

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For Lau, designing to the kinetic and sculptural elements jewelry can possess is as important as the visual component. For her S/S 2012 collection, Lau was inspired by the geometric solid. She channels this concept into works that trace the body, giving masculine shapes the ultimate in female sex appeal. "In a way you're kind of engineering how a person's going to hold themselves", she explains. Lau's vision encourages bold moves but with poetic rhythm.

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Lau designs to enhance every part of the body—from rings that connect to the wrist to leather pieces that draw beautiful attention to the waist. Her sculptural jewelry sells online and in stores around the world. See her website for a full list of stockists.

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