Designer Laura Wass makes striking geometric jewellery sported by Beyonce and other celebs

(Far left) The crown Beyonce wore in her 7/11 video; (far right) the headpiece that featured in Childish Gambino's Awaken, My Love! album cover.
(Far left) The crown Beyonce wore in her 7/11 video; (far right) the headpiece that featured in Childish Gambino's Awaken, My Love! album cover.PHOTOS: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Enter Laura Wass' Brooklyn studio and you will find brass bunny ears, candy-coloured bras, gold crowns and other pieces that are a futuristic cross between happy-go-lucky and streetwise.

Out of the ordinary as they may appear, you have probably seen them before - a visor crown covering Beyonce's head as she meditated and spun in her music video for 7/11; a stellated octahedron propped atop one of Erykah Badu's iconic tall hats as the singer performed in Philadelphia and New York recently; and a bone-white halo on the cover of Awaken, My Love!, the most recent album from Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover.

Though Wass also sells less ostentatious jewellery - necklaces made of miniature pyramids, simple metal cuffs and bracelets with thin, dangling chains - she considers the funkier stuff the soul of her company.

"These pieces are all about exuberant self-expression and becoming almost like a superhero," she said.

"They're both sincere and kind of funny, but that for me is really where I see the value of the brand."

She creates these stylish items using bungee cords and dozens of plated or powder-coated metal tubes and beads.

The headpiece on Childish Gambino's album cover, for example, required 157 tubes and 824 beads.

Laura Wass, the founder of WXYZ Jewelry, in the design she wore when she met singer Erykah Badu, who wears her creations.
Laura Wass, the founder of WXYZ Jewelry, in the design she wore when she met singer Erykah Badu, who wears her creations. PHOTOS: NYTIMES

"When we're weaving, we make it as efficient and streamlined as possible," the designer said. The goal is to have one knot per item. "There are no redundancies. Ideally the cord ends where it starts. It's kind of like solving a maths problem."

Wass' big break came in 2014 when New York luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman invited her to design a window as part of an artist series, helping her attract the attention of stores such as Colette, 10 Corso Como and Boon The Shop.

That success eventually delivered fans such as reality star Kylie Jenner, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards as well as musicians Phantogram and James Blake.

Sometimes, as with Awaken, My Love! and Beyonce's crown, Wass does not know where or how her ultra fashionable pieces will end up.

In other cases, she has made personal connections that led to collaborations.

She met Badu at a party while wearing one of her own creations - a gold voluminous mask made of pyramids.

"Erykah came up to me and was like: 'Hi, my name is Erykah. Can you make these pieces for me?'" she said.

"And I was like, 'Absolutely.'"

Wass, 31, majored in Latin American studies at the University of Pennsylvania but had always been interested in the creative arts.

After graduating in 2008, she took on several jobs in manufacturing and product design, supporting labels such as Coach, Swarovski and Diane von Furstenberg with their jewellery collections.

In 2012, she founded WXYZ Jewelry.

Why the obsession with repeating shapes? "I was into the simplicity of the fundamental structures on which our entire world is built," she said.

"The structures of life itself are built on these fundamental shapes."

As for what is next, she wants to go bigger.

"At first, I wanted to crack the code of creating a brand that's distinctive and recognisable and has a clear voice and breaks through the noise," she said.

"In order to do that, I had to get really specific. Now I see these things almost as miniatures for building sets and sculptures and creating immersive worlds."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'The jewel's in the crown'. Print Edition | Subscribe