viral fashion 2012 mitchel primrose interview jewelry accessories rachel zoe trends news celebrity designer spotlightIt’s not every day that you come across something exciting or fresh when it comes to jewelry. One season earrings are where it’s at, embellished cuffs are must-haves the next, more about and of course diamonds remain a girl’s best friend while gold is still the standard-bearer. But while items of the precious sort can (and do) make you do a double-take, remedy its rarely due to how interesting they are. Once in a while, however, you see something that defies convention, something that takes the idea of jewelry beyond its narrow limitations. Such is the case with California-based jewelry and accessory designer Mitchel Primrose, whose signature haute-fetish collars, cuffs and chokers — in exotic, color-drenched skins like lizard and alligator — have quickly caught the attention of everyone from to Rachel Zoe…. and ViralFashion, of course. Elegantly spare, dangerously chic, and more than just a little bit sexy, his designs are not for the faint-hearted. We caught up with Primrose, whose designs are featured in our latest editorial License To Thrill, and found out more about the man whose name is poised to be the one on everybody’s lips…

VIRAL FASHION: So Mitchel, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Did you grow up expressing yourself creatively?

MITCHEL PRIMROSE: I grew up just north of Nashville, Tennessee, in a small family. We are very close and I’m lucky to have that. As a kid, I always played “dress-up” with my sister, and did a lot of theatre once I got a little older. My mother and sister are very artistic, but I was more so, in a crafty way, always building things, making something… I wasn’t into drawing or painting real-life objects, more abstract things I created in my head.  And later on in high school I started sewing and designing clothing and accessories.

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VF: Did you always have an interest in fashion and design? Was it something that you were exposed to early on?

MITCHEL: I always had an interest in what I wore, or styling how I looked and I think it just grew as I did… My mother and grandmother are very stylish and I think my sister and I both picked up that trait early on.


VF: When did you decide that you wanted to become a designer, and how did you start out on that path? Were you sure that that was what you wanted to pursue?

MITCHEL: I discovered Gianni Versace when I was 12 years old, and that really changed how I saw fashion and the possibilities out there. From that moment on I knew I wanted to be a designer, to learn a craft, and really create a world one day that represents me – my brand. I always knew it would be my path, even if I kept options open in other areas of design, I knew I had to become a designer… To put myself out there, take the risks and change my life. My mom and grandmother taught me how to sew /Once I learned how to sew…from then on I just started making things and always had this love for accessories. I think I’m just fascinated with how things are constructed and the detailed steps it takes to fabricate something – a garment, a handbag, anything!


VF: Who are some of the people who have influenced you, both personally and professionally?

MITCHEL: My earliest inspirations were all the women I had in my life growing up: my mother, sister, grandmother and my great aunt. I’ve just always loved stylish classy women; my 8th grade English teacher is still one of the most glamorous women I’ve ever known. Through my experience over the years, I’ve been lucky to have worked with some amazing people. I actually met one of my best friends that way, and she definitely inspires me. I’d have to say as a mentor figure, I learned the most from working for Robert Rodriguez – hands down the best job I ever had.

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VF: Where did you learn the art of making jewelry?

MITCHEL: I’ve used chains since I learned to sew, and being that I loved making things – I played around a lot with beads and other materials. I would put sequins or beading on things I made or embellish something I bought. Even though it is time consuming, I’ve always liked it. When I worked for Robert Rodriguez we decided to show a collection with jewelry, and Robert asked me to create necklaces based on his sketches. I hand-made them, and the pieces ended up selling to Neiman Marcus. That pretty much launched our jewelry department, which I was given the design position for. I think just working that way, through the seasons, everything got better and I learned more through research and working with our manufacturers.


VF: When did you establish your own brand? Tell us how that came about, what led you to do so. Was starting your own brand always your goal?

MITCHEL: Having my own brand was always my ultimate goal. I started my line in Fall 2010, selling to small stores in LA. In only 2 years, it has changed so much. I think the fact that I finally had no other voice saying how anything needed to look took me a little while to absorb, and find the confidence in myself to just start producing what I felt was right for my label. I did a lot of mixed media and semi precious beads in the beginning, but once I started the exotics, things really changed and I’ve found my niche.

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VF: What initially caught our eye when we first saw your work was how bold your pieces are. They’re not loud and they don’t scream, but they absolutely demand a second look. They’re very commanding, quite forceful, aggressive and erotic in equal measure. That’s just our take; how do you define your aesthetic?

MITCHEL: I must say, I’m very flattered and grateful for your description of my work. I’ve not had anyone describe it exactly that way, but funny enough, that is my exact intention. I always want to keep an element of classic taste to the pieces, but never understated or “too safe.” I’m someone who loves saturated color and bold design, but not things that scream for attention – I always hope that comes across in my pieces, to have an element of power and even eroticism, but not so much that it overwhelms your look or over-powers the wearer.


VF: When did you begin working with different leathers, and what led you to do so?

MITCHEL: I worked heavily with leather at Robert Rodriguez, both with the garment qualities and the belts we made. I did a lot of sourcing for Robert and loved finding new things from the tanneries. I think having that experience really helped me. So, when I decided to add leather to my assortment, I felt nothing was better than exotic skins to capture the distinction I wanted for my brand.


VF: Tell us a bit about your design process, where it begins, how it moves forward and evolves before resulting in a fully formed collection. Does it start with color, with shapes, with textures, or are those aspects usually informed by a more general theme/idea that you seek to express.

MITCHEL: Typically, I start with the shapes and function of the pieces. If I fall in love with an idea for hardware, then I work around that and compliment the metal. For example, my signature stud is on every piece and I love it for both the aesthetic reason and its functional purpose. After I get the general shape or key hardware idea down, I move into color story and then I start making proto-samples, which I create all by hand myself. Usually, I start with paper patterns that I draw out, and then move into a “dummy version” I create in cowhide. This is done to see if the shapes work and how they mold on the body. With each season I do have a theme or feeling I want to evoke, but I think that is expressed with the shapes and hardware I start with.

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VF: Being that you’re based in California, where there are such strict regulations against the use of one of the most popular exotic skins — python — do you find it challenging to work within those limitations when seeking out materials to work with, or do those limitations force you to look for different, perhaps more unconventional skins to use in your work?

MITCHEL: At the moment I have more interest in maintaining a focused collection of skins, which is why I only use lizard and American alligator. I have thought about snake and researched other exotic skin options, because I do feel the line may need that injection one day. However, at this time I do not feel particularly “limited” because I have not reached my limits with the materials I use now. I want to establish a core, or signature for the brand, and I think the continuity of skins that I use helps create that


VF: What would you say the future holds for Mitchel Primrose, both the man and the brand? What can we expect next? Any plans to add some men’s styles to the collection (hint, hint)?

MITCHEL: There are so many things I want to expand into – and given time things will unfold. The next addition to the line will be a few belts, and continuing with the range of clutches for SS13. I’m not 100% sure when the men’s items will be added, but I do think many styles translate easily to menswear. Maybe for now the brave will have venture to the women’s floor? As for me personally, I am in a very good place with my life and grateful for everything and everyone around me. So, for now I just press on and continue working hard and making beautiful things.

by Justin Friedman

For more information about Mitchel Primrose visit his website at