Who Started Chrome Hearts? (A Brief History of the Brand)

who started chrome hearts

Chrome Hearts is a luxury brand that produces handmade and high-quality jewelry, leather goods, furniture, and clothing. Chrome Hearts was founded in 1988 by Richard Stark, John Bowman, and Leonard Kamhout. Today, it is owned by Richard Stark and his wife, Laurie Lynn Stark.

chrome hearts leather pants

How It Started

In 1988, Richard Stark and John Bowman started the brand while working out of a garage in Los Angeles. Originally the label specialized in leather jackets as both men had a background in leather goods. They wanted to create unique leather jackets that were not available on the market. They started creating their famous silver jewelry when Leonard Kamhout joined the team, who was a master sterling silver jeweler. The brand started to grow at a rapid pace from 1992 to 1994. In 1994 the three original members of the brand had a falling out. That is when Bowman and Kamhout resigned from the brand and Laurie Lynn Stark became a co-owner with Richard Stark. In 1996 Chrome Hearts opened its first store in Manhattan, New York. In 1999 they opened a second store in Tokyo and by 2000 they had opened a store in Los Angeles, where the brand was founded.

chrome hearts richard stark

Who Is Richard Stark?

Richard Stark is an American fashion designer born in 1960. He has a background in carpentry and before starting Chrome Hearts he sold leather hides to manufacturers. He then started making motorcycle gear for his friends in the early stages of Chrome Hearts. Stark met his wife Laurie when she purchased leather swimsuits from him in the early 90s. Today, it is hard to find any interviews or public appearances of the designer. He likes to have the brand speak for itself while he works behind the scenes.

Chrome Hearts Goods and Products

Chrome Hearts creates luxury goods including jewelry, eyewear, leather goods, furniture, and clothing. The brand is most well-known for its jewelry which is made from sterling silver and often adorned with skulls, crosses, and other gothic imagery. Another popular piece is the Levi denim jeans customized with unique silver hardware and cross leather patches throughout the pant. These pants run in-between $5k-$10k in the resale market and are extremely hard to get your hands on. Chrome Hearts also offers special order services. In the past, they have made 1-of-1 customized baby strollers, golf bags, Birkenstock sandals, and more.

Chrome Hearts Collaborations

    • Chrome Hearts collaborated with The Rolling Stones in 2002 and produced the famous “Lips and Tongue” pattern, which became a bestseller.
    • In 2007, Japanese fashion house Comme des Garçons collaborated with Chrome Hearts on a series of pendants and apparel. Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons collaborated with the brand previously in the 1990s by showcasing their items in the Aoyama flagship boutique.
    • In 2009, BAPE (A Bathing Ape) teamed up with them on a series of t-shirts including the Chrome Hearts X BABY MILO 12 piece limited edition.
    • In 2010, they worked with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and Rick Owens on a shoe design. The shoes are embellished with a variety of silver decorations. They collaborated with Owens on jewelry and sneakers that were shown at Paris Fashion Week in 2010. This collaboration has become extremely valuable.
    • In 2014, Chrome Hearts acquired a minority stake in high-end knitwear brand The Elder Statesman. In early 2016, the company added its signature silver highlights to the iconic Adidas Stan Smith.
    • In November 2014, Chrome Hearts opened its first Miami boutique, which included a Fahey/Klein Gallery on the second floor where photographs from around the world were displayed. Matt DiGiacomo’s work was exhibited as well as photographs were taken by Robert Mapplethorpe.
    • In December 2015, Chrome Hearts teamed up with Ladurée and built a macaron and tea café on the ground floor of its Miami location. A collectible macaron box was also for sale. They collaborated with Sean Kelly Gallery to exhibit artworks by Mariko Mori on the second floor.
    • From Off-White, Chrome Hearts has worked with Virgil Abloh on a number of projects. They collaborated on capsule collections in 2015 and 2016, the latter of which was largely comprised of t-shirts. In 2018, they released a hoodie and another collection. In 2019, Abloh, along with Louis Vuitton, hosted a show at their New York location.
    • Bella Hadid used to visit the factory in Los Angeles as a teenager and worked with the company on a 40-piece clothing and accessories collection that was released in 2017. The CHROME HEARTS x BELLA collection debuted at Paris Fashion Week and is exclusively available at Selfridges. Chrome Hearts has collaborated with Bella Hadid on a number of occasions since then, including the release of an eyewear collection and tie-dye t-shirts for a Feeding America fundraiser during COVID-19.
    • In 2020, Drake collaborated with Chrome Hearts on his Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which included a unique hood ornament, air conditioning knobs, and rims. It was on view at the Miami Institute of Contemporary Art for one week. In May 2021, they collaborated once again to release a collection to market Drake’s album Certified Lover Boy. This included hoodies and sweatpants.
    • Chrome Hearts and Baccarat collaborated on a decanter and tumbler set in June 2021, which featured the Pyramid Plus design from Chrome Hearts.

Chrome Hearts Awards

Chrome Hearts received a CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year award in 1992, which cemented its reputation and increased brand awareness.

They have been nominated and been a part of numerous awards and ceremonies throughout the years because of their longevity, originality, and exemplary quality of products they create.

chrome hearts store

Chrome Hearts Today

Today Chrome Hearts is one of the most popular designer brands in the industry. Currently, there are Chrome Hearts stores located in 23 different cities spanning over 5 countries. Chrome Hearts has been worn by celebrities since the early 2000s but has boomed in popularity recently with their cross-stitched denim jeans. As worn by Kylie Jenner, Drake, Offset, and more. Getting your hands on a pair is difficult as they don’t sell items online besides for their fragrances and occasional accessories. To buy a Chrome Hearts item you will need to visit one of their flagship stores or purchase secondhand through an online consignment store like The RealReal.

Connor Goodale

Connor is the owner and chief editor of Archive Avenue, a website dedicated to fashion and lifestyle. Connor has always had a passion for style and fashion. He created this website to share his unique view of the fashion world.

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