varon is the mexican jewelry brand mixing rare stones and futuristic designs
Aaron Changpo's surreal, eye-catching designs are out of this world.
Photography Arthur Couvat
Aaron Changpo, designer of the Mexico City-based jewelry brand Varon, wasn’t exactly destined to follow in his Grandfather’s footsteps working with precious metals. He first studied anatomical drawing, then became a set designer, before trying his hand at the family business. “I was lazy, and I was like, ‘I’m going to sketch my jewelry line and my grandfather is going to do it for me,’” he laughs rather sheepishly, years later. Said sketches, however, turned out to be too expensive to make, so heavy were Aaron’s designs. “My grandfather said, ‘Congratulations, these are crazy ideas, here are the contacts for two friends of mine who I think can help you.’’ And thus, Varon was born six years ago. “I was like, ‘What the fuck!’”
Aaron’s often surreal designs often elicit a “What the fuck” response, as they’re unlike anything else in the ever more crowded jewelry market. Rather than heavy, they’re robust in a unisex way, embedded with clear plastic which in turn contains a precious stone. All his pieces are made by hand in Mexico City, by artisans he’s built a close working relationship with. “They’ve also learned through their grandfather or father,” he sighs when asked about the relationship he has with the people who make his work — increasingly, their children don’t want to continue the craft. “It’s a generation through generation learning experience, which is really beautiful. But at the same time, it’s really hard.” The acrylic pieces in particular are a dying art, making it incredibly hard to find artisans who can create them. “Luckily, I have two families that work with me on this,” Aaron says. “I’ve been working for six years with one, and seven the other. The fine jewelry process, and all the labor by hand, its dying. Carlos, one of the people I work with, wants his daughter to have a future, whatever it is, even though he earns a lot of money. It’s changing from generation to generation,” he sighs. “I want them to know it’s an amazing, fascinating art they practice. They are so special.”
The aforementioned acrylic, in particular, is one of the designer’s obsessions, along with crystals, because of the way light passes through it. “I’ve always had this thing with light, which is why I’m interested in minerals, and how they reflect light, or how if I put a floating element in acrylic or resin, it just expands the design and seems to resonate more with the eye,” he says. These retro yet futuristic materials also lend themselves to the genderless nature of the brand, something that’s super important to the designer. “It wasn’t a thing, and now it’s being embraced. In Mexico, a conservative country, you really have to hit the design perfectly so that a man will want to wear it,” he explains. “Because woman have that thing of the ‘boyfriend shirt,’ but a man doesn’t often say ‘Oh, these are my girlfriend’s pants.’ You have to be secure in your masculinity to say that,” he laughs. “My jewelry, the idea was always that it could be embraced by any sex.”
Varon, then, is about both the ancient and new, combining a deep knowledge of jewelry making with innovative materials and a desire to make things in a genderless way. Having said that, Aaron’s greatest source of inspiration might be more terrestrial — Mexico. “That's how I've been growing myself through the years, thanks to that sense of community. In Mexico, you really can find it. If you know how to move your cards and have the sensitivity to talk to people, you can get through to them and really create something.” He then muses on the timeless, yet timely nature of jewelry. “Gold has been used in every society and every civilization on earth through the history of time.” He laughs, “there's even a theory that we humans were created to source gold for another alien people.” If said aliens were to alight in the Varon HQ, which is in fact the designer’s apartment, no doubt they’d see a kindred spirit in his questioning designs.
Varon is now for sale at Opening Ceremony, The New Museum, Assembly, and H Lorenzo.
Photography Arthur Couvat
Styling Nayeli de Alba
Production Aaron Changpo
Models Jip, Merlin, Ferdi at Let It Go Management