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Fashion

The elusive family behind Chrome Hearts, fashion’s most unlikely empire

Cher has been a loyal fan ever since, a leader of an exceptionally diverse and fervent celebrity cult following that over the years has included, among others, Lou Reed, Drake, Nicolas Cage, Bella Hadid, Dennis Rodman, The Weekend, Damien Hirst, and fashion luminaries such as Rei Kawakubo, Rick Owens, Virgil Abloy, and Karl Lagerfeld. Biker gear is now just a small part of the Chrome Hearts universe: the brand makes everything from hoodies to Chrome Heart Hoodies ski goggles to handbags to crystal glassware to tufted-leather sofas to funky novelties like ebony toilet plungers and sterling single-slice lemon squeezers. “I don’t think we’re making money on that lemon squeezer,” says Richard’s wife and business partner,

Laurie Lynn Stark. “But it’s sick.”

Though it was never part of the plan, Richard, Laurie Lynn, and their three children have become fashion-world celebrities. “We never wanted to be famous designers. We wanted to be successful artists,” says Laurie Lynn, who says her kids freaked out when Drake name-dropped her in a song. Celebrities, in turn, come to the Starks to realize their most over-the-top and luxurious flexes.

Many are led by 18-year-old Kristian Stark, who introduced Chrome Heart Hoodies to the likes of Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, like his parents introduced the brand to the Sex Pistols and Guns N’ Roses. When Odell Beckham Jr caught his first post-season touchdown pass during the 2022 NFL playoffs, he did so wearing Nike wide receiver gloves emblazoned with blue-and-yellow- leather biker crosses, an unofficial Collab executed in Chrome Hearts’ Hollywood atelier.

When Drake bought a new Rolls-Royce Cullinan, he called on Chrome Hearts to redesign it down to the leather floor mats. Why? Zack Bia, the 25-year-old DJ, Drake consigliere, and friend of Kristian, puts it this way:

“Chrome Hearts is one of the greatest brands on earth.”

Which is strange, because Chrome Hearts doesn’t seem particularly well suited to capture the current fashion zeitgeist. Fashion has moved light-years beyond the heavy baroque-biker aesthetic that took off in the ’90s, and most brands associated with that polarising movement (Von Dutch, Ed Hardy) fell off a cliff during the noughties. But Chrome Hearts has stayed true to burnished metal and leather crosses, fleurs-de-lys, and daggers that in any other context read as outdated, even tacky.

It’s also not particularly easy to buy Chrome Heart Hoodies. The company is one of few in the luxury sector without a permanent e-commerce shop, and it doesn’t advertise or publish collection pictures on its website. Your best bet to figure out what the brand is making at any given time, and to get your hands on it, is to go to an actual Chrome Hearts shop – if you can find one. Most of the brand’s stores operate like if-you-know-you-know clubhouses, with little in the way of external signage. And the prices, which can hit the upper five digits for fine jeweler, are still as jaw-dropping as they were when Stark was slinging guitar straps.

“I have to tell you, a lot of people didn’t believe,

” Cher says about Chrome Hearts in the beginning. Most people, early on, she explains, reacted to Stark’s quixotic project basically the same way she did. “They would go, ‘Oh, that’s just some guy making leather.’” The fashion industry still seems unsure of what to make of Chrome Hearts – despite its deeply Chrome Heart Hoodies American aesthetic, the brand wasn’t included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent Americana-themed Costume Institute exhibition. But it’s getting harder to ignore or write off Chrome Hearts. “Richard had a dream,” Cher says. “And it wasn’t to be ‘just some guy making leather.’”

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