Jewelry designer Jules Kim doesn’t like to be ripped off, so the fact that her studio is in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown, the home of knockoffs, is a bit ironic. Not long after launching her high-end jewelry line Bijules in 2004 and seeing her work worn by everyone Gwen Stefani to Rihanna, Kim started a weaponry series. Now she says she’s seeing shrunken versions of her “fucking glocks everywhere!” In response, she came up with a strategy: “I follow a strict schedule to get my stuff out before anyone can bite my style.”
As a nod to those annoying copycats, Kim created a sub-line called Bitejules. This collection of oddly cool pieces includes a cast of her dear old Aunt Winnie’s dentures and her roommate’s retainer. “When Winnie died, I called dibs on her teeth,” Kim says of the aunt who amused her nieces by doing tricks with her fake chompers. Though she seemingly has an oral fixation, she doesn’t plan on making this idea the focus of her entire line. “People are always asking me if I do fronts, but that just doesn’t interest me,” sighs Kim, casually dissing the idea that her future would include making jewelry for teeth, rather than from them.
It’s no surprise Kim wants her jewelry designs to separate her from the pack. Like many identical twins, she has spent her life trying to prove her distinct identity. She recently paid homage to this struggle and her Korean heritage by getting Brooklyn tattoo artist JK 5 to adorn each of her forearms with a twin blade. The tattoos are symbolic because they reflect how the sisters appear to the rest of the world. “They look the same from afar, but when you get close, the details are different,” Kim says referring to her newest ink. A calla lily flower inked on her inner biceps is her tribute to a romance and friendships she had while living in France. She also has a French verse tattooed on her hip: Il faut se preter aux autres et se donner a soi-meme. Roughly translated, it means it’s necessary to give yourself to others in order to gain for yourself. “It’s a Buddhist mentality that the more knowledge you share, the more people are open to you,” says Kim. Her fifth (and oldest) tattoo is “Love” in Korean on the back of her neck. “It was a statement against my father. I wanted to put something on my body that I thought I didn’t have,” she says with a hint of regret in her voice. “My whole body is a story, but that one doesn’t mean as much anymore.”
The next chapter in Kim’s story is a Coney-Island-themed line of T-shirts for the brand Jeepney, available this summer. Kim’s style is so original (check out her line of jewelry made from hair extensions) it’s hard to imagine how she’s going to top herself next season. One piece of advice for her competitors— biter beware.