One of music’s most legendary wardrobers now makes jewelry for mortals, too
You may not know Michael Schmidt’s name, but it’s a certainty that you’ve seen his work.
The Los Angeles–based wardrober and custom creator has, for decades now, been the creative genius that big-name stylists and edgy musicians call when they want to collaborate on an earth-shatteringly cool, one-of-a-kind piece of fashion or jewelry.
Those chain mail dresses Tina Turner wore in her heyday? Schmidt made them. The kooky Romanesque outfits LMFAO wore when cavorting with Maddona on stage at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show? Also by Schmidt, whose studio created nearly 300 pieces for Madonna’s 2012 MDNA Tour and numerous pieces for her 2015 Rebel Heart Tour—his fifth with the iconic artist.
The chain mesh, “Ivy Park”–emblazoned T-shirts Beyoncé’s been wearing on her current Formation Tour were also designed by the artist. In fact, Schmidt’s made special pieces for the majority of living female music/performance legends—Rihanna, Fergie, Dita Von Teese, Dolly Parton, Janet Jackson, Deborah Harry, and Lady Gaga included.
Michael Schmidt created this 24k gold mesh T-shirt, studded with crystal letters, for Beyonce’s Formation Tour.
An iconic Herb Ritts photo of Tina Turner in a Michael Schmidt–made chain mail dress.
Metal and liquid-y chainmail are signature materials for Schmidt, and since 2001 he’s been creating jewelry, bags, clothing, and furniture for the jewelry-centric brand Chrome Hearts.
Now he’s making jewelry and apparel under his own shingle, Michael Schmidt Studios, available on a brand new shoppable website.
Schmidt’s jewelry—a clutch of complicated, seductively punky masterworks wrought in base and fine metals—bear many hallmarks found in his custom work, including densely woven, sinewy metals.
The line—priced from around $500, ascending to the double-digit thousands for diamond-studded pieces—is currently being stocked in some of the swankiest stores in the United States, including Maxfield in LA and Ikram in Chicago.
We caught up with the designer days after his website went live.
When did you start making jewelry specifically for retail?
Michael Schmidt: I’ve made jewelry for as long as I can remember, since I was a child. Once I moved to New York City in the ’80s I began making wearable art pieces in earnest. The pieces we do now are informed by the techniques and materials we utilize for our entertainment industry clients, but in a more accessible way.
You’re known for your creative custom pieces for celebs—what made you want to start creating jewelry everyone can get their hands on?
Schmidt: Working with entertainers is a collaborative experience, which I very much enjoy. Sometimes, however, one wants to create something for purely selfish reasons. It helps to define one’s voice in the world. My jewelry and wardrobing collections allow me to do that.
Sterling silver mesh Lyre bracelet, $3,425
Are your jewelry pieces inspired by famous pieces you’ve done (like Tina’s chain mail dresses)?
Schmidt: I’m often asked to reproduce pieces I’ve created for various performers, but I prefer that those pieces remain unique to the individual and moment for which they were designed. I will often, however, create a piece inspired by it, which we then offer in our collections.
What inspires you when you’re designing jewelry pieces?
Schmidt: I think if you keep an open heart and eye, you can be inspired by anything. It’s most fun when it occurs unexpectedly!
Chrome spiked cluster necklace, $895
Is every piece of jewelry a one-off, or do you make to order?
Schmidt: I have an amazing team and we make everything to order in our studio.
Where in LA is your studio?
Schmidt: Downtown, in the Arts District. I love being surrounded by other artists.
What’s your personal take on jewelry—what do you like about jewelry? What special powers do you consider it to have?
Schmidt: Most people wear jewelry of some sort. It’s often a memento from a special occasion or to mark a moment in time, or perhaps a remembrance of someone we’ve loved. Sometimes we just like the shape, the color, or some other characteristic. We can’t even explain why we like it; we just do. Jewelry has a significance beyond the piece itself in a way that clothing usually does not. We carry talismans to mark the passage of time in our lives. I can’t think of any other sort of adornment, other than tattoos, with which we imbue so much meaning, can you?
Top photo: Michael Schmidt in pieces from his jewelry collection
(All photos courtesy of Michael Schmidt Studios)