The collaborations of Graham Tabor and Miguel Villalobos seem to belong to a world somewhere between fashion, art and fairy tales. The multi-tasking duo, who works and lives together, co-create experimental jewelry, fashion editorials and sculpture that is revered in fashion’s most insidery circles. “Graham Tabor and Miguel Villalobos are true Renaissance men. There is nothing these two cannot do and they do it all with purity, love and a sense of our times,” says fashion icon and blogger extraordinaire Diane Pernet.
The design purity she refers to can be found in both the innovative aesthetics and the high integrity of the couple’s craftsmanship. Tabor and Villalobos make all their jewelry and accessories by hand and shoot all their images on film. Creativity seems to literally flow from their fingertips. “The material is our inspiration,” says Tabor, “When we make an object, we like to feel it in our hands to touch and contemplate it.” This hands-on process has resulted in the seriously chic and wearable leather and silver jewelry collection 1-100 that was launched last summer. The pieces have a raw and edgy sensuality, with dangling leather strings and craggy surfaces. “Jewelry is talismanic,” says Tabor, “We wanted to make big pieces that you really feel.” Adds Villalobos: “Women tell us that our jewelry is empowering.”
The couple, who met in 2005, work separately too. Villalobos is a fashion and portrait photographer for magazines like V, VMan and iD and designs and illustrates for different fashion brands, (past clients include LAMB, John Varvatos and Zaldy). Tabor has a design and consulting studio whose clients have included Thakoon, Rachel Roy, TSE and Helmut Lang. He also created the well-received one-off clothing collection Blouson Noir with iconic stylist and Harper’s Bazaar senior fashion editor Melanie Ward last year.
The couple’s Chelsea apartment is a treasure trove scattered with props, tools, completed projects and works in progress. On the walls hang fantastical twig tiaras, cardboard masks and dried flower crowns that they have made for fashion editorials that they style and shoot together. “The first project we did together was an editorial published in Metal Magazine. Miguel took the photos and I made macramé bondage masks for it on the train coming back from visiting my sister in Washington, DC,” says Tabor. “It was the first time we mixed fashion editorials with things we made.” And once started, the collaboration seemed unstoppable. An experimental shoot of models wearing animal masks made of found cardboard, turned into the solo sculpture exhibition Hic en Nunc at the Brachfeld gallery in Paris last summer. “We were inspired by trips the natural history museum in Paris and our experiments in creating sculptures for our shoots,” says Tabor, “Our initial idea was to create a cabinet of curiosities filled with animals that had gone extinct or became endangered during human memory - like building a fake museum.” They rented space in a Brooklyn warehouse and started putting together gigantic cardboard and resin animal skeletons that they shipped off to Paris. “It was supposed to be just one installation,” says Villalobos, ”But we got carried away.” Upon their arrival, they found that one of their oeuvres, a huge whale “skeleton”, couldn’t even enter the gallery. “We had to disassemble it to fit it through the door,” says Tabor, “We stopped traffic on Rue des Archives for an entire afternoon.”
Future plans include expanding the jewelry collection to include a super-exclusive line of elaborate one-of-a-kind pieces unique, sort of the jewelry equivalent to haute couture. They also dream of moving into a proper atelier. “Sometimes we feel like we live in a very expensive art school dorm,” they say. Any art student should be so lucky.
Graham Tabor + Miguel Villalobos