From bikers to businessmen, strong personalities are taking a shine to King Baby Studio.
“It starts with a dog tag or a pendant,” says designer Mitchell Binder, describing the reaction among fans of his line of men’s jewelry and accessories. “A week later they buy more, and then all of a sudden they look like Mr. T!” From sterling silver cufflinks and belt buckles to club rings and rosaries, Binder’s bold, hefty designs incorporate renegade imagery, all suffused with a certain bad-boy mystique.
Binder founded his company, King Baby Studio, in 2000, but was designing pieces for the likes of Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and elite members of the LA-area’s biker scene as far back as the early 1980s. Today, he designs and produces his jewelry in a converted warehouse in Santa Monica, California. Anthemic, psychedelic classics like Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” score his promotional videos, which also show the designer, a half-smoked cigarette dangling from his lips, casting molten silver in a blazing fire.
Like deciding to christen a ferocious Rottweiler “Mr. Cuddles,” the name “King Baby” is tongue-in-cheek, but actually originates from the writings of Sigmund Freud. Clients chuckle when Binder tells them that Freud coined the term “king baby” in reference to a mental condition in which the patient believes that the world truly revolves around him (like an infant).”I was reading about this one day in my kitchen and the description struck a chord because it reminded me of myself… and most of my customers,” jokes Binder. He then sketched out what is now the company’s logo- an impish-looking crown-bedecked baby smoking a cigar.
Current collections feature roguish skulls and dragons to more menacing brass knuckles, daggers, and .38 Special bullets. There are also lyrical fleur- de-lis and plump, winged hearts for those with tamer tastes. The head of a lion is a favorite motif. “I came up with it when I was traveling in Paris and found myself drawn to a huge doorknocker,” he explains. “To me, the lion symbolizes strength- it’s relentless and an example of something masculine but elegant at the same time.”
It’s easy to see why bikers, rock starts and Goths are on board with the King Baby aesthetic, but what about the “regular” guys? Is the allure completely lost on conservative bankers and lawyers? “Everyone has that cool factor inside of them, but some have to ease into it a bit,” says Binder. “Everyone’s got a little a rebel in them.”