Chrome Hearts is a luxury brand that sells jewelry, clothing, accessories, eyewear, fragrances, home goods, and furniture. Although the brand’s name has “hearts” in it, their staples are actually crosses and text written in Old-English font. The brand is very successful with an estimated worth of around $1 billion, yet a majority of the general public has never heard of Chrome Hearts or knows very little about them. Chrome Hearts is purposefully mysterious and low-key, which leads many people to ask questions about the brand when they discover it. This article answers the common questions people ask about Chrome Hearts.
- How did Chrome Hearts get its start?
- Why is Chrome Hearts so expensive?
- Why does Chrome Hearts have few releases?
- How did Chrome Hearts become so popular?
- Why does Chrome Hearts do little press?
- Where can you buy Chrome Hearts?
How did Chrome Hearts get its start?
The Original Founders
Chrome Hearts was founded in 1988 by Richard Stark, John Bowman, and Leonard Kamhout. Stark was a leather dealer with a background in carpentry, and Bowman was a leather goods manufacturer. The two were actively part of motorcycle culture and wanted motorcycle riding gear like leather chaps, pants, jackets, and vests. Unfortunately, they could not find any on the market they liked, so they decided to make some for themselves and the rest of their biker friends. Stark’s job was to acquire the materials, while Bowman worked on the production. They got Kamhout, a jeweler whose specialty was sterling silver, involved to make the hardware and accessories. The three worked together out of a Los Angeles garage to make their pieces.
Laurie Lynn Joins and Bowman and Kamhout Leave
Laurie Lynn was one of Richard Stark’s first clients. She was an independent art director and photographer who also designed swimwear. She met Richard at a fish market in Malibu and decided to work with him on a collection of leather swimsuits. Months later, Richard and Laurie Lynn ended up marrying, and she joined the company as a partner. Stark, Bowman, and Kamhout had a falling out in 1994 for unknown reasons. Bowman and Kamhout left the brand, and Stark bought both of their shares. Chrome Hearts became owned by Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark, and the two built the brand to be what it is today.
A Family Business
Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark have 3 children who are also involved in Chrome Hearts. Laurie Lynn says, “A lot of kids are born into family legacy businesses but they don’t necessarily gravitate towards it; we’re really lucky that it’s the opposite.” Jesse Jo Stark, the oldest, is the vice president of the company. The twins, Kristian Stark and Frankie Belle Stark, also give their input on what happens with the brand. According to Laurie Lynn, everything related to Chrome Hearts is decided by a majority family vote.
Why is Chrome Hearts so expensive?
If one wants to buy from Chrome Hearts, they better prepare their wallet. It is difficult to give an exact price range as they have such a wide range of products with most of them up for resale at increased prices. One of their lower-priced items is their “Soap On A Rope,” being sold for $90. Most items are hundreds and thousands of dollars with some even in the hundreds of thousands. They’ve sold a $6,000 toilet plunger and a $160,000 ebony dining table.
One of the reasons why Chrome Hearts is so expensive is because all of their products are made in the USA. It is common for companies to have their products made overseas because the materials, labor, and taxes are much cheaper. Chrome Hearts started in Los Angeles and wants to stay in Los Angeles. They have their own production factory in central Hollywood that spans more than three blocks and has over 1,000 people working to create all Chrome Hearts products.
Few Releases of Small-Batches
Another reason why Chrome Hearts is so expensive is that they rarely drop new collections and products. They do not work on a seasonal calendar like most brands or really any calendar at all. They tend to release two collections a year and occasionally release individual pieces. With this release method, any and all Chrome Hearts items are classified as rare or limited before they even come out.
Why does Chrome Hearts have few releases?
It is due to the amount of time Chrome Hearts takes to create and produce their products. One of Jesse Jo’s first projects was a silver stud that is now one of the main hardware pieces on most Chrome Hearts products. That singular silver stud took four years to finish. Jesse Jo does not like the long timeline either: “Everything takes so long [to develop] it’s frustrating,” but it is all because of her parents’ attention to detail and desire for the highest quality that Chrome Hearts works that way. Even famous model Bella Hadid was not aware of the long timeline. Jesse Jo recalls Bella Hadid asking her, “Where are my boots?” Jesse Jo replied, “Bella, they literally are handmade. I need another two months.” This goes to show that Chrome Hearts does not quicken their process for celebrities and family friends either. Although it can be bothersome and frustrating to have to wait months and years for Chrome Hearts pieces, everything that leaves their production factory is high-quality craftsmanship and materials.
How did Chrome Hearts become so popular?
Chrome Hearts became popular through celebrities wearing the brand. It was never part of the plan to cater to celebrities and become a celebrity-loved brand, but it has worked to boost the brand’s popularity. It first started with bikers and rock and roll musicians who liked Chrome Hearts’ gothic, leather aesthetic as it matched their personal aesthetics. As the brand evolved, so has the clientele. In more recent years, it has mainly been Hollywood celebrities like models and rappers wearing Chrome Hearts. Through celebrities wearing Chrome Hearts, more celebrities follow suit and so do normal people who happen to have money and access to the brand.
Their Rock & Roll Cult Following
In 1989, the original trio of founders got offered to do costume design for the low-budget American comedy horror film, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown. Before the movie’s release, its working title was Chrome Hearts, which is where the brand got its name from. One of the stars of the movie was the then-girlfriend of the Sex Pistols’ lead guitarist Steve Jones. Jones’ girlfriend introduced Stark to him, and he became a fan of Stark’s designs. He would ask Stark for custom-made gear and wear them on stage. Word spread around the rock and roll community, and other popular musicians and bands began to wear Chrome Hearts. The clientele included Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Cher, the Cult, Heart, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, and more.
Hollywood A-Listers: Models and Rappers
Two Hollywood celebrities who love Chrome Hearts are model Bella Hadid and rapper Drake. Bella Hadid is a family friend of the Starks, specifically Jesse Jo’s. As a teenager, she would visit the Chrome Hearts factory. In 2017, she released a 40-piece apparel and accessories collection with the brand. It was called the CHROME HEARTS x BELLA collection. Since then, she has collaborated with the brand a few times. If Chrome Hearts had an official ambassador, it would be Bella Hadid.
Drake also has a collaborative relationship with Chrome Hearts. Throughout 2020, he was constantly seen wearing Chrome Hearts at public appearances and in social media posts. He also famously got a Rolls-Royce Cullinan and worked with Chrome Hearts to make the interior Chrome Hearts-themed. In May 2021, Drake dropped his first collaborative collection with the brand. The collection was “Certified Lover Boy” merch and was a way to promote his album of the same name.
Why does Chrome Hearts do little press?
Celebrities and Chrome Hearts collaborations can serve as a sort of press and marketing for the brand, but it is not nearly as much press for the average brand. Richard Stark does not believe in press and putting Chrome Hearts up for view on the Internet. This philosophy goes back to his earlier days: “When I was growing up, if you bought an album, you were lucky if it said anything on it. You were lucky if there was a picture. You didn’t know anything, couldn’t look it up – and it was kinda cool. Now it’s just all there at your fingertips.” In other words, Richard Stark loves the surprise aspect of not knowing what you are getting until you actually get it and wants to keep this aspect with Chrome Hearts through little press.
The Little Press They Do
Laurie Lynn and Jesse Jo are in charge of press. Laurie Lynn handles a lot of the business aspects that Richard has no interest in. She oversees the photography and marketing by taking photos for the ad campaigns and Chrome Hearts Magazine, which she founded in the early 2000s but stopped publications in 2017. Richard says, “Without my wife, everything we do would be zero press.”
As the Stark children are from the generations where everything is online, they wanted Chrome Hearts to have some sort of online presence, even if it’s small. After years, Chrome Hearts made Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Jesse Jo is in charge of the Instagram account. She says, “I wanted to share a little more that’s not as accessible for some people, if they can’t visit the stores and stuff.” When she said “a little more,” she meant it. The Chrome Hearts Instagram feed is filled with pictures more for the aesthetic rather than showing off the items themselves, and the captions typically consist of a few words.
Where can you buy Chrome Hearts?
Chrome Hearts Stores
Chrome Hearts has 33 stores worldwide. In the Americas, they have locations in Aspen, Honolulu, Las Vegas (Caesars Palace and Wynn Plaza), Los Angeles, Malibu, Miami, New York City (West Village and Upper East Side), and St. Barth. To cater to Chrome Hearts’ large following in Asia, they have 3 locations in China, 1 in Hong Kong, 1 in Taiwan, 10 in Japan, and 4 in Korea. They also have locations in Europe, specifically in London, Manchester, and Paris.
Third-Party Retailers and Resalers
Chrome Hearts also is available through third-party retailers and resellers. The boutiques that sell Chrome Hearts are Riccardi in Boston; Hirshleifers; Nuages in Aspen; George Green in Chicago; Joy Fashion in St. Moritz, and Maxfield in Los Angeles. They also are sold in high-end department stores Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges. As for resale websites, StockX, The RealReal, Grailed, and Hype Clothinga carry Chrome Hearts.
Chrome Hearts commits to in-person shopping because they do not sell their products online. Besides resale websites, even their third-party retailers are not allowed to sell anything Chrome Hearts on their websites. This means that customers are in the dark about what products Chrome Hearts has unless they can visit the stores that carry Chrome Hearts. However, Chrome Hearts does sell some items that do not require as much craftmanship on their website. The list includes candles, perfumes, soap on a rope, incense, nail polish, a matchstick holder, and their magazines as a set.
Clearly, Chrome Hearts is a very unique brand across all aspects. This probably first became obvious to the public in 1992 when Richard Stark accepted the Accessories Designer of the Year award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) with no care. The CFDA is widely known in the fashion industry, but Richard Stark had no idea who they were and almost rejected the award. Chrome Hearts still does not care about awards and fame. They operate completely on their own terms with no rules or labels.“I just call Chrome Hearts, ‘Chrome Hearts.’ If you have to tell somebody what you are – you aren’t.” – Richard Stark