Bliss Lau first rose to fame as the designer behind the body chain Beyoncé wore in the music video for “Drunk in Love.” The bauble skyrocketed in popularity, and Lau’s business took off, with collections full of the body jewels.
Lau first started her business at the age of 22 and it has since evolved to include more than just the chain she became famous for. Now, she’s focusing her attention on a new collections of rings and bracelets, all inspired by significant events in her life.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Honolulu, Lau moved to New York when she was 18 to attend college at Parsons. She visits Hawaii every few months, but lives full-time in a Financial District apartment with her husband. They’ve lived there for nearly four years, but will be moving soon enough—they recently bought a new apartment on the Lower East Side, and will be moving there after finishing up renovations.
The jewelry designer invited the Observer into her home, showing us her favorite spaces and unique collection of objects, including a Game of Thrones dagger, a framed Comme des Garçons jacket and of course, the Beyoncé body chain.
What drew you to this apartment?
I love the view of the bridge [from the terrace]. I do a lot of my sketching outside, as well as just relaxing and meditating. I don’t think I could live in New York without an outdoor space! I’m moving to the Lower East Side, which I’ve very excited about, but I’m sad because I’ll have a smaller outdoor space.
Tell us about your favorite décor pieces.
Everything in my apartment has meaning, like the stone on my bookcase with a hole in it. When my husband proposed to me, we went on a weekend vacation. On a canoe ride that weekend, I found this stone by the steam, and I was so obsessed with it. It has this hole in the middle of it, and all my jewelry is based on negative space. Also, I’ve been trying to get a weapons wall for a while, and this [dagger] is what they use to kill the White Walkers on Game of Thrones! It’s from Hawaii; the stone comes from the volcanos.
What’s the story behind the framed bomber jacket?
This was the first piece of art I ever bought—I was 19! It was from this store called Antique Boutique, it was the hottest fashion boutique in New York City. I used to go there and look at all these avant-garde clothes, especially from Comme des Garçons. Prince and Madonna used to get dressed there. It went out of business when I was in college, and twenty minutes before they closed, I walked up to the owner. I had maybe $150 in the bank, and I go, “I’ll give you 50 bucks for that.” He goes, “Sold!” It’s actually one of 14 wall hanging pieces from one of Shinichiro Arakawa’s shows in Paris!
How does your work as a designer impact your home décor?
I have to have everything looking beautiful at home, in order for me to feel like my life is balanced and organized. I use a lot of color in my jewelry, but I really only wear black in general. But the colors in my house are inspiring! I have so many different objects, and we’re always moving them around so I have different things and experiences I see every day.
I’ll only do certain work in my home. I keep it very separate, so that things that stress me out don’t happen in this room. I’m always clearing out the energy. I have so many things that I do—sage and all that. I’m always burning something. I’ve got all the crystals, all the minerals!
Why did you decide to launch your first jewelry collection of body chains in 2007?
At the time, no one was wearing body chains. It was totally revolutionary when I came out with it, and it took a really strong woman to wear it. I call it sensual armor. It’s exactly that—love your body, wear it for yourself. Be the girl that wears the jewelry for herself.
Tell us about the Beyoncé chain from “Drunk in Love.”
I call it the Dark Lady. I did a whole series, and I named it after Shakespeare; there’s a sonnet in The Tempest called The Dark Lady. It’s onyx, made with vintage glass chain and rose gold. People still buy it all the time, it never stops! I love it.
How did you move from body chains to rings?
The collection actually started off with my wedding ring. My husband proposed to me at the Met, during the Alexander McQueen exhibit. He gave me this sketchbook, and said I should design my own ring. I finished it two days before I got married! The body chains were doing really well, but longevity is something that’s really important to me as a designer. If you have a body chain, you’re going to wear it a couple of times, and you’ll feel empowered and sexy, and that was important to me at the time and always will be. But after I made my first wedding ring, I thought, ‘I’m going to make a piece and you’re going to wear it every single day, and it’s going to be a representation of love and affection and relationships in a way that’s so different.’
What’s coming up next for your jewelry designs?
All the pieces I do end up being somewhat autobiographical. I’m developing a concept around this feeling of giving birth, and life and the rotation. I’m half Chinese, and Chinese believe that jade is protective. It’s the idea that if you wear it on your skin and something happens to you, the jade will break before you do. I’m working on a collection using jade that’s about that representation of protection. I also want to make a bracelet representing life. I’m looking into quartz as a concept, because quartz is a stone that absorbs energy and organizes energy.