Fashion and functionality can often be at odds, but jewelry designer Mel Hacken's line HardThemme brings them together for true innovation. Hacken's industrial chokers are not only sexy, they can also be used by the wearers for self defense--an important duality for Hacken's queer clientele.
OUT: Tell me about how your pieces bring together fashion and function.
Mel Hacken: The functionality and the aesthetic of my pieces have an interchangeable dynamic. Industrial hardware and chains exist on a visual plane as symbols of resilience and strength. The weight of the pieces provide comfort, especially where they lay in the middle of the chest. This, in addition to the pieces serving as something comfortable and easy to fiddle with, helps with anxious feelings. As far as the self defense aspect, the chain pieces are all made with large clasps so that they can be easily removed. Whether it's used as a deterrent or needed to be swung at an aggressor, the piece will literally be at your fingertips for assistance.
As this project started with just making pieces for myself, chokers were my initial interest. There's something to be said about a sturdy structure hanging just right around my neck. They create an essence of security for me, and that sentiment seems to be a common feeling for others as well. Although I've now branched out to making longer chains for people who prefer otherwise, in addition to belts and harnesses, I still feel a continuation of that of fortitude regardless of where and how the piece hangs.
What makes your pieces queer?
Queerness as a general term lives outside the default world; it deconstructs "normality" as far as what is deemed as protection. Pepper spray, knives, even bandanas tied to padlocks are all typical tools of self defense that ends with a person putting themselves more at risk than actually helping. [My pieces are] made for people that are targeted not just by harmful people with even more harmful ideologies, but the police as well. Queer folx, especially QTPIOC, are able to wear these pieces perceptibly only for fashion, and this disguise can help limit their weapons being removed or used as a target for dangerous -- and deadly -- law enforcement interactions.
Why is it important to support small queer businesses like yours?
The importance of supporting small queer businesses lies within the structures of who capitalism is built to serve. Being an openly queer-run business means being viewed as a "niche", and can easily be dismissed by heteronormative society as irrelevant. I'm self funded and try and keep costs as low as possible to better provide for members of my community that aren't in positions with disposable income, as well as people who are marginalized in ways that I benefit from privilege. Supporting small queer businesses is simply a method of reinstating community collaboration in ways that try and exist outside of reliance on cisheteronormative influences.