Johnny Nelson, born in England and raised in Brooklyn, founded his self-named jewelry company in 2017. Each piece is proudly hand-crafted to this day in his studio, using various fine metals and stones. Nelson draws inspiration from his diverse artistic and cultural experiences that merge punk, hip-hop, and spirituality; his line heavily focuses on statement pieces that spark conversation amongst consumers.
Our team first met Johnny at our ‘Em(BODY)ing Gratitude’ event at Sage & Sound earlier this month. We knew from first meeting that he, as expected, embodied cool. He arrived in a custom jean jacket by designer Jacques Pierre Francois, a friend and fellow artist, offset with shades of white, as if his very world was a canvas. Spoiler alert...it is.
If you haven't guessed by now, Johnny's humble nature shines in person. He speaks often about having deep gratitude, and as he does, his gaze shifts up toward the sky. Johnny knows he is protected and guided by something larger than all of us, and his creativity is a way for him to extend that feeling to others. Also, anyone who refers to their "mumsy" as the original muse...well you had us at hello.
Q: You mentioned to Karen that you've always wanted to do a collaboration like this. What is interesting to you about beauty and skincare?
Johnny: Beauty and skincare is important to me because I feel like when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you can be your best self.
Q: Your mom made your first piece of jewelry; tell us more about her and how she inspires you?
Johnny: Mumsy made my first piece of jewelry. Yeah, she inspires me because she’s the first fashionista that I know. She's an icon in my eyes; she's confident, creative, and bold.
Q: You're the epitome of "going against the grain” –– what drives you and inspires your rebellious style?
Johnny: My creativity, right? The creative thoughts and ideas that I get. And what better way to put to use your ideas than on yourself? I've been doing that forever, since I was a kid. It was like, “Why are you wearing this? What made you do this hairstyle? Why are you wearing your pants like this?” That’s what I felt was cool in my head, so guess what? I'm putting it out there.
Also, what drives my rebellious style is certain things going on in the community; I want to make some impactful pieces that are just loud and in your face but have a message, you know, that can help and inspire conversations for change.
Q: How do you want people to feel when they wear this drop? Or any of your pieces?
Johnny: When people wear my jewelry I want them to feel empowered. I want them to feel strong. I want them to feel bold. I want them to feel edgy, but still, you know, classy and pulling off a fire look.
So with this OUI the People collaboration, I would like the people to feel bold, empowered, classy, edgy – not afraid to go against the grain.
Q: What excites you about collaborating with OUI the People?
Johnny: I thought it would be a dope idea! I was very excited when this project was coming into fruition. I definitely wanted to work with Karen because she’s Black, of course. I love what she’s doing with skincare and I feel like we share similar values.
Q: The single blade as an earring, you know we had to have it! What inspired this piece in your original collection?
Johnny: You know, like the cutting of the cord. But also, the razor blade being a staple in various communities. It was popular in the '80s and '90s, and even now in different countries like Guyana. People use razor blades a lot for just working in general and it's a hip hop staple, WuTang used razors in some of their artwork. But I think of it as the cutting of the cord – just a removal of anything that’s in the way.
My first earring that I made was a matchstick, and it's a full plug so it gives the illusion of something going through your ear. So what inspired this was; I'm familiar with the razor blade…how do I make this shocking image, something that looks like it might cut, look like it’s going through my ear? And, I think I mastered it.
Q: Your jewelry is photographed beautifully, with a strong yet soft perspective on culture. What messages are behind your creative vision, and what story are you trying to tell?
Johnny: One of the messages that I want to convey is empowerment; self-empowerment and empowerment of our people. To honor the legacy of those prior and to push the changemakers and the pillars of today and tomorrow – that's about it, that's the thing.
Peace and blessings,