Eight Questions w/ Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Bunny’ Designer Emma Addams
Jewelry and rock & roll have always made a sexy couple. From Keef’s (Richards, if you weren’t sure) skull ring to Ozzy’s cross necklace, what well turned out rocker has ever said no to one more piece of provocative silver?
Yet few designers have made as committed an alliance to the dark arts as Emma Addams and her Australian lifestyle brand Heart Of Bone. Coming up on a decade since she launched it in a small Melbourne apartment she shared with her new baby, HOB was a hard labor of love until it was discovered by Billy Idol – and shortly afterwards Billie Eilish, whose sporting of Addams’ now iconic Bad Bunny ring was partly what catapulted her into the stratosphere.
The boldest of the boldfaced names followed into the fray, with HOB devotees now including Miley Cyrus, Lil Nas X, Courtney Love, Daphne Guinness, Paris Hilton, Karl Lagerfeld, Slash, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rick Owens, Dita Von Teese, Marc Jacobs…we could go on for awhile.
Never one to rest on her laurels, or skulls, Addams’ inspirations for 2021 include a new line of veritably indestructible and hi-polish designs called STAYTRUE ™️ by Heart of Bone, a decidedly more accessible collection (she’s even enlisted legendary Bowie photographer Mick Rock for the campaign), and an alliance with the undisputed kings of Australian rock, AC/DC, described as a revolution in luxury rockwear.
We slowed her down just long enough for an enlightening chat, and she was also generous enough to put together an exclusive summer playlist for BlackBook, which only confirms her excellent taste in music.
Emma Addams, The Rainmaker Playlist
“My taste in music is quite erratic (as is my general state of being). Like with many creative things I do, I can bounce across multiple musical genres with absolutely no regard for the utter confusion I may leave in my wake. I’d say every single one of my mates – or anyone who has spent any length of time with me – has said at some point, “What the fuck am I actually listening to right now?” Funny but very, very true. My musical taste is all over the place.
Maybe it’s too personal but also of note, sadly I have of late been nursing a very broken heart. Broken hearts do not happen to me often, this is maybe the second time in my life I have had one. I hope to never have another again! So it seems, and very much to my surprise, that even the darkest of black hearts can shatter into a million tiny pieces and that nothing seems to help a broken heart heal more than music does. So…created from the carnage of lost love, I present to you the bittersweet mixture of medicine for my current broken heart, “THE RAINMAKER.”
The brand is less than a decade old, so success seems to have come pretty quickly. What was the genesis of Heart of Bone?
It sounds crazy but making jewelry was never even my intention. It all seemed to come together in this explosion of creative energy post the birth of my second child. My daughter Azzedine was born in June 2013 and five or six months later suddenly another baby was born, Heart of Bone. My experiences are spanning 20 years across both careers within the interior industry and fashion industry. From working as a buyer and creative director, to my traditional training in antiques restoration all contributed to the initial idea of starting my own brand.
I’d been working on a semi-business plan for a homewares company that was to be called Heart of Bone for over a year. I decided to create what I wanted for myself: a high end luxury brand with a rock & roll vibe and a with dark twist. Think traditional, ornate and hand painted antique French porcelain made for the Addams Family.
I found a short course in Melbourne teaching some traditional jeweler’s wax carving techniques, and during the first class I created a skull ring with a wreath of leaves. And thus Heart of Bone began. It all felt very right and the idea of doing anything else but jewelry just fell away.
Who were some of the first celebrities to embrace Heart of Bone?
I think within the first few months of the Instagram account being created in 2013 I was approached by Josie Stevens, an entrepreneur herself and manager/wife of Steve Stevens, longtime guitarist/collaborator of Billy Idol. Josie ordered some designs for herself, Steve and Billy as they were touring Australia and shortly coming through Melbourne to perform. They’ve been incredible friends and loyal supporters of me and the brand since. Then there was Marc Jacobs wearing my rings. We met in the smoking area at Chateau Marmont – where you meet the best people is always in the smoking area, right?
Yeah, that’s probably true.
After chatting and smoking together, he got a Bowie and Carmen Miranda ring on the spot off me. It was probably what I created for Jean Paul Gaultier though that took the brand to the next level. It was a couture sterling silver skull ring with Breton stripes of dark blue sapphires across the skull and a sailors cap pavé set with white diamonds. Gaultier was in Melbourne at the time to open his incredible retrospective at the NGV. Then followed Dita Von Teese, Slash, Daphne Guinness, Kelly Osbourne, Kelly Rowland, and Miley Cyrus – who I’ve also been working with again in last few months. Janet Jackson wore the brand on a cover for Essence magazine.
And then Billie Eilish found you?
Yes, the 15-year-old Billie Eilish, who had borrowed some designs for a photo shoot. She then reached out herself via Instagram wanting me to create a bespoke upside down cross necklace and bracelet for her upcoming performance on the The Ellen Show. We’ve been creating together with Billie and her team since then. I think neither of us knew that she’d be the biggest pop star on the planet now.
For me personally however, I gotta admit that when Karl Lagerfeld was photographed wearing a Heart of Bone skull portrait ring of himself in his office in Paris, that was probably the moment my heart actually skipped a beat.
What is the Heart of Bone aesthetic philosophy?
Heart of Bone’s brand experience is authentic because it is the physical manifestation of its creator’s inspiration and artistic intentions. Our designs are all crafted by hand individually to order – therefore each piece is unique. They have a rebellious attitude, an otherworldly kind of beauty, a dark twist and an unexpected sense of playfulness.
It’s all about self-empowerment, self-belief, strength, resilience, being confident, authentic and true to yourself. I love that those values we hold dear shine through in our designs and in turn speak an unspoken language out in the world at large. These are the kind of values and community ethics that I want for my kids to grow up around, so I’ll be proud if I’ve done a good enough job communicating that through Heart of Bone.
Are there any other jewelry designers who have influenced you?
I try not to be influenced by other jewelry brands, I find that inspiration rarely comes from obvious places and never from what my contemporaries are doing. I have hundreds of books on antique jewelry, couture jewelry, antique furniture, art, design, architecture, food, interiors, strange and unusual collections of old medical and anatomical drawings. My office and my house are filled with semi-organized piles of vintage bits and bobs that I hoard relentlessly and to be honest, I don’t think I can name specific designers or artists as strong influences. It’s a bubbling cauldron of bits of pieces all thrown together that creates something magical.
Obviously you take pride in your Australian roots; how did that translate to connecting with an American audience?
I started Heart of Bone by myself, with a 6-month-old baby in a cot in the corner of my tiny studio, making one-off pieces by hand from start to finish while the baby slept. It all started here in Melbourne and the roots of the brand are very firmly planted here. When we launched the Heart of Bone x AC/DC collection in April 2021, it was the first-ever of its kind, it had a focus on both ours and band’s Australian roots, and I’m sure that was a major factor in the band considering working together with us, a small, family run Melbourne-based company.
But most of the celebrity clients we work with are US-based, so one would presume that the natural and organic gravitational pull towards the American market has evolved as a consequence of that.
Who would be your next dream client?
Not telling, you’ll just have to be patient.
And most importantly, what have you been listening to lately? And any new bands on your radar?
One of my best mates Twiggy Hunter is in a local band called Ocean Grove and their new music is blowing my mind at the moment. I go all over the place though, Led Zeppelin to Miles Davis to Anthrax to AC/DC to Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Metallica, Motörhead, The Cure and Billie Eilish…but I’m kind of a ’70s rock girl at my core.