The 72 year-old Korean jeweler, affectionately dubbed ‘The King of Canal Street Grillz,’ was a prominent Downtown cultural fixture throughout the ‘90s, creating custom gold mouthpieces for everyone from Ryan Mcginley and Dash Snow to Leonardo DiCaprio and his entourage. Now an honorary member of the A$AP crew simply for the caliber of his caps, Goldcapp put Canal Street on the proverbial map as a hub for creatives from a diverse array of backgrounds. But due to the waves of gentrification that have swept the area in recent years, clients waned and his 261 Canal Street shop was sadly forced to close its doors.
But now, thanks to Kim and ON CANAL, the King is back holding court as part of the Bijules Incubator, a talent development program for emerging and independent jewelry designers, artists and brands located at 322B Canal Street. Drawing from her personal experience and success in the New York City jewelry market, Kim has created this mentorship program not only to provide opportunities for talent and exposure, but to foster a supportive community around a trade so near to her heart. So, when Kim came across Goldcapp, helping the legend to build a sustainable legacy was pretty much a no brainer. Besides the more obvious parallels, such as their careers and a shared Korean heritage, these two are synced, both creatively and philosophically.
When I stepped into the ON CANAL pop-up on a rainy evening last month, Kim was on the phone while Goldcapp was on his hands and knees constructing the space’s a door frame. Throughout our conversation, it became clear that Charlie is a man of few words and immense discipline; but Kim’s words on their relationship and ongoing collaboration speaks volumes.
Read our interview with Kim, below.
Tell me what you’re doing here at 322B Canal Street.
I’ve been a jeweler for the last fifteen years, and here at the incubator, I’m helping to foster emerging and independent jewelry talent. In that sense, I’m helping clear the path of some of the pitfalls that independent jewelers might have in the business in general, but also in design. Those are mistakes that I’ve made, and plenty of people have made, but I think it’s important for them to have an overall theory about how to navigate in the business of jewelry design. When I started in 2002, it was a real renegade time, and now it’s quite a different world and therefore a lot of the mistakes that could be made can be avoided.
What do you think is the relationship between necessity and creativity?
Necessity and creativity—for creatives, it’s the only thing that we have, which then makes it defined as necessity. So, even in our manifesto, if you can see in the front of the shop, it says: ‘Who we are determines what we wear. What we wear is not for everyone. Who we are determines what we make (as designers, and makers). What we make is also not for everyone.’ Then it goes on to talk about our incubator of talent development program for emerging talent and designers, artists and brands that create because it is who they are—it’s the only thing that we can do. So, the words necessity and creativity go hand in hand when you are a creative soul. It may not mean that you’re making a painting or singing a song, as a creative, all of those things become a need—a physical, and mental, and creative need to explicate, to expound, to produce.
Then it says, ‘Believe in what is right, do what is right, and support the right ones,’ because on every side of right, there is a wrong, and what I really want to encourage is that need to be right is what will drive you to stay creative—if that makes sense. Working in the fashion and luxury industry, there are so many things that we really don’t need.
Yeah, most of it.
All of it! That shit down there [referring to a rowdy VFILES party two doors down]—we don’t need that! But maybe they feel that because they need to feel better. As creatives, we need it to stay alive, so our level of survival is really almost instinctual—sort of like fight or flight. But we’re constantly fighting; we’ll never flee. We can’t, because we need to survive.
For example, Charlie is now making our door because he needs to help, and that’s part of the condition that’s happening here. When I touched base with him, five or six years ago, I really wanted to explore the mouth as a part of the body, because that’s what my system rotates on—what is neglected, because I must feed the neglect. So, I must evaluate different aspects of the body that have not been explored by fine jewelry. Of course, grills have been made since way back when, but there is a cultural stigma that I’m not really trying to ignite. What I’m trying to do is ignite an interest in one’s intimate aspect of the body, because the ears, that’s fine, but once you put something in someone’s mouth, it’s like fucking sex, and this man is 72 and he’s doin’ it every day. You know what I mean? That’s way intimate. It’s not like we got grills for down there.
We should—you guys better jump on that!
Right! I don’t know if he would be into that, but the point is that what is truly interesting to me is that this man has been doing this for so long, and unrelentlessly. That’s his uniform—some oversized shirt and a baseball cap, and he has all of his tools in his backpack, and that’s that. So, if you want something, he’ll run up to you no matter where the fuck you are, open your mouth, stick it in, wait five minutes, you shut up, he taps his foot, and then sucks it out and goes home and he makes it—that can happen within 24 hours. That instant gratification—that’s why he does it, because as soon as it’s out, he’s confident about finishing it within a very specific amount of time.
When I met him, I was like, ‘Holy shit, this guy has so much life—he’s got more life than I do,’ and he’s 35 years older than me. That was super inspiring—and I’m half Korean, too. I was like, ‘Yo that’s my people right here.’