We catch up with Kylie, Future, and Travis Scott's jeweler to find out how social media is changing the gold teeth game.
"Gold Teeth God, how may I bless you?" That's how Ian Marks answers every phone call. He's the 23-year-old LA native making some of the most imaginative jewelry around. From ILoveMakonnen's gold Xanax chain to Ian Connor's iced out overbite, his signature shimmery styles aren't just flash and cash, they draw from personal influences, like a childhood spent eating Sour Patch Kids and playing Mario Party. Despite being in the grill game less than two years, the God is already living up to his moniker. In the past, grills had been available only to rap royalty or clued up hip hop heads willing to track down off-the-grid shops. Filling a gaping hole in the market by matching inventive design with savvy millennial marketing, the God is a posterchild for social media's revolutionary impact on brand building. Meet the man who wants to give you, as Nelly once said, "a smile on da rocks." Call him George Foreman cuz he's selling everybody grills...
Why did you start making pieces?
I got my first grill and I really loved it, so I started wondering how they're actually made. But I had to go out to the Slauson Swap Meet in order to get it, so I figured out that if I brought it to Beverly Hills, it would blow up. When I saw Johnny Dang fly to California from Houston just to make Juicy J a grill, I figured I'm already here, why not learn myself?
What does the process entail?
When you place an order online, we first send you an impression kit to take a mold of your teeth. After we've got the impression, it takes about two to three weeks to make the jewellery. I use a dental technician that I trained from the beginning--I've been doing this for about a year and a half. My guy is a technician that a lot of dentists in LA use to make their veneers, and they have no idea that I'm using the same person as them. The dental labs are the ones that actually make veneers, your dentist just inserts everything. It's the same people, though.
What was your first grill like?
It was a bottom fixed, and I must have been about 20 when I got it. But my first cool grill was when I got my first diamond. My friend's grandpa did the setting on it, he used to work for Cartier. It was the best grill I've ever had.
Describe your typical day.
I'm always on the run. I have a couple assistants that I'm firing and hiring all the time. They're usually taking care of my business stuff, and I'm just having lunch with clients, smoking weed, and laughing.
Your work is very different from what you'd find in a jewellery shop on the street. What are some of your influences when making pieces?
It's all stuff from my childhood and what I like. For example, I used to kill bags of Sour Patch Kids when I was younger, so it was only right that I started making Sour Patch Kids jewelry. Since I grew up in the 90s and 00s, I love Mario and I'm really inspired by BAPE and Nigos. I won't even sell Jesus pieces or crosses, no matter how much you pay me. I like to make stuff that people are interacting with every day, like Range Rovers, emojis, or Xanax.
Have you noticed any trends emerge in grills since you've been making pieces?
Just having all gold isn't cool anymore--you have to have diamonds and you have to be next level. The teeth I made for Ian Connor had emeralds, sapphires, and were open faced. I've also started selling a lot more fangs with a bar--that's what Beyonce started wearing, so as soon as she got that grill, everyone wanted it. But where I'm taking the jewellery is to a different level. I started out only making teeth, but now I'm really known for my necklaces, like the G Wagon I did for Kylie Jenner. This bracelet I'm making for Travis Scott is one of the dopest things I've ever done. It's inspired by a rodeo theme--he's getting a piece with a bull and a cowboy iced out.
How does social media impact your brand?
Social media is my entire brand. 85% of my sales come from direct marketing through Instagram--it changed everything. It's given me the opportunity to meet up with all these people because they see all my work. I didn't even know Travis Scott until three weeks ago when he called me over to his house after seeing a bracelet I dropped with a Mario Mushroom. Social media gives me the opportunity to be really in the game.
What advice do you have for kids who want to start their own businesses, shiny teeth related or not?
You can do whatever you want. If you're using Instagram as a platform and you either have enough money or enough will power to make shit happen, you can be the God, too.
Text Emily Manning
Photography C Flanigan via Getty Images