tack, the genderless jewelry brand combining equestrian culture and kink
Los Angeles-based artist Charlotte Chanler tells us why horse hair leashes should be worn like ties and what sad clown silk briefs say about our preconceived notions of gender.
What do you get if you combine equestrian culture, art history, and a healthy dose of kink? Your mind could probably go in many strange directions, but likely none are as exquisite as Tack. The genderless jewelry and accessories line by Charlotte Chanler is an unconventional coalescence of the young Los Angeleno's life exploits so far: a horse rider, a BFA grad, a fine jeweler. Charlotte's latest trade is an architect of empowering adornments for people of all gender identities. While discourse over recent years has been effective in ripping up the gender rulebook, Tack draws inspiration from places where rules never existed at all: like a Renaissance oil painting that challenges our rigid perception of reality or a stable full of animals concerned only with emotion.
Tack's first jewelry collection includes lush horse hair leashes, rings, and collars, plus a selection of more delicate earrings and nameplate "Loverboy" chains that utilize the artist's fine jewelry background in playful ways. Charlotte has also branched into lingerie with a range of 100% silk underwear — also genderless — appliquéd with cheeky snakes, television sets, sad clowns, and take-out boxes. "Maybe what's underneath my underwear is a sad clown's face, or a hanging lantern," she says, suggesting that our concepts of gender are perhaps only linguistic. We talk to Charlotte about why old paintings are deceptively modern and why jewelry gets left out of the gender-neutrality conversation.
You worked for a while in the fine jewelry industry in New York. What did you find interesting about this experience and what did you find dissatisfying about it?
Working in that industry was like getting a crash course in business school — it's definitely an experience I'm grateful for. Over the course of my time working in fine jewelry, I was managing the wholesale department, working as a bench jeweler in the studio, and managing the repairs and returns department, so I really got an expansive look at the different facets of the industry. Of course, like every industry, it has its flaws.
Genderless fashion has been a topic of conversation for years now. Why do you think it has taken so long for a similar dialogue to open up around jewelry?
I think, unfortunately, jewelry has been pigeonholed in contemporary culture as something that's marketed almost exclusively towards women. There are men's lines as well, but often they're still just as exclusionary, and just as predictable. This is ironic, because historically, adornment was for everyone. I'd love for someone to be wearing the Tzigane leash in place of tie.
Adornment is something so inherent, not only in humans but in animals as well. There's this type of octopus that places shells outside its home, for no other reason than because it's beautiful and brings joy to it, and maybe attracts another octopus friend. And when the jewelry and fashion industries feel empty or uninspiring, I think about that octopus.
Can you tell me more about the equestrian influence? I did horse riding for 10 years so I find this really interesting, especially how the collection is closer to what a horse would wear than what its rider would.
Rad — we should totally ride together sometime! That's exactly where I was going with it. The name Tack comes from horse tack, which is the equipment you use, bridles, saddles, bits etc., which is all the same, regardless of the horse's gender. I've been riding my whole life, but in high school I became really competitive with it. I would take off from school for months at a time to go to where the show circuit was and get tutored in a trailer, sort of like joining the circus. It was a wild way to grow up.
Now the competition doesn't interest me much, and I'm so happy just to be around horses. When I was living in New York that was almost impossible, but since moving to LA I found a farm close to my house where I volunteer during therapeutic lessons for children and veterans dealing with PTSD. Horses are better teachers than most people are. They are natural empaths, and to connect with them you must have respect, control of your emotions, trust, confidence, and most importantly, be able to pick up on queues from them. If we treated each other this way, we'd all be better off.
Are there any specific artists and artistic eras that you find particularly interesting and why do they make suitable references for Tack?
Oh man, so much. In brief, when I think specifically about what has influenced Tack, classic Renaissance oil paintings certainly come to mind. There's such an amazing breadth of style in the art of that time period, and people are often depicted in ways far from the gender specificity our modern culture so often demands. In those paintings I'm drawn to the darkness, the willingness to confront death, the humor, the oft-present seemingly invented animals off to one side or the other, babies who look nothing like babies, the still-lifes in drool-worthy disarray... It's so honest and surreal before surrealism existed as a school of art unto itself — it reminds me that the way we see reality at any point in human history is an eternally shifting and evolving perspective. I want to make things that can exist in that space of change.
I really love the silk bikinis and briefs. How did you approach designing these in a way that is also genderless?
The designs are all about inclusivity. Assuming that certain styles are specific to certain genders is something I don't identify with at all. The series I've been working on with the patches reminds me of Magritte's "The Key to Dreams." It's a series of paintings in which there are cells with imagery, for example, in one there is a horse, and under the horse it reads "the door." We only see a horse and say horse because we're taught that when we're young. And I think that correlates directly with the way we see gender and our own bodies. Maybe what's underneath my underwear is a sad clown's face, or a hanging lantern.
Text Hannah Ongley
Photography William Foster