BLING MAN RODRIGO OTAZU: SHINE ON CRAZY DIAMOND

LADY GAGA, PAULA DEEN AND NEW JERSEY HOUSEWIFE MELISSA GORGA ARE A PRETTY UNLIKELY TRIO, BUT THEY’VE GOT ONE THING IN COMMON: RODRIGO OTAZU. THE ARGENTINIAN, NEW YORK-BASED JEWELRY DESIGNER HAS BEDAZZLED ALL THREE OF THE LADIES, AS WELL AS COUNTLESS FASHION MODELS (HE WAS A MODEL HIMSELF WHEN HE STARTED MAKING BAUBLES), AND THE GIRLS FROM SEX AND THE CITY. SINCE HE STARTED HIS BUSINESS AT 18, HE’S TRAVELED THE WORLD DESIGNING, MAKING AND PROMOTING HIS SHOW-STOPPING, EYE-POPPING PIECES. DIRTY CAUGHT UP WITH HIM IN ARGENTINA ON SKYPE, WHERE HE WAS WORKING ON PIECES AT HIS MOTHER’S KITCHEN TABLE.
PHOTOGRAPHY Justino Esteves
TEXT Kirsten Matthew

 

 

DIRTY: WHERE ARE YOU?

RODRIGO OTAZU: I’m at my mother’s in Argentina. I move around. I’m going to Bali, Hong Kong, Australia; I am going everywhere. It’s a huge part of the motivation to find a new point of view, freshness to my work. I’ll be here for a few months, then to Marrakech to get inspired.

 

D: WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTERESTED IN MAKING JEWELRY?

RO: I was born with pearls and diamonds in my hands! You never know why you do this or that. I’ve been destroying jewelry boxes, putting jewelry and clothing on my mother forever. I was the black sheep of the family. I taught myself what fashion is. Now I realize I was really creative; it was in my blood. It was always a game to me.

 

D: WHAT WAS YOUR BIG BREAK?

RO: I got a full page in Vogue many, many years ago. I was 18.

 

D: HOW LONG AGO WAS THAT?

RO: You never ask that of a lady!

 

D: SINCE THEN THE BUSINESS HAS GROWN AND YOU’VE MOVED IT TO NEW YORK. HOW MANY COLLECTIONS DO YOU DESIGN A YEAR NOW?

RO: I hardly finish one and I start with the next one. There is no such thing as collections with me. There are officially eight, but then Miss Gaga comes along and says, ‘I need some beautiful earrings darling.’ Or there’s a photo shoot with Vogue. Then I have to start designing. The pieces are made from Italy to China. I work with Swarovski crystals a lot, Japanese pearls. I have factories in Italy. I have a factory in Bali.

 

 

D: SPEAKING OF MISS GAGA, SHE’S WORN MANY PIECES DESIGNED BY YOU, INCLUDING THE JEWELRY SHE WORE WITH HER NOW INFAMOUS MEAT DRESS. HOW DID YOU START WORKING WITH HER?

RO: We were at V magazine; they were honoring Iman and a photographer pointed out the guy that does Gaga, Nicola Formichetti. Faster than a speeding light, I was talking to Mr Gaga. Working with her team is a way of picking my brains and exaggerating and exploring ideas from a different point of view. They have a strong point of view and so do I and from that come strong things. He’s an amazing sweet, wonderful guy and Gaga is really somebody I love. She does not forget to say thank you at the end of the day. But I had done great stuff before that. I did Britney Spears’ ‘Slave for You’ video. I’ve seen Mariah Carey’s jewelry box – that’s amazing. She’s very sweet. But Gaga took me to the next level in my head.

 

D: YOUR JEWELERY HAS BEEN WORN BY SARAH JESSICA PARKER ON SEX AND THE CITY 2 AS WELL – HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

RO: I got a phone call from a friend of mine, who had emailed Patricia Field. He said come now and we met with Patricia Field at Pure Management. We were all wearing tiaras and making a show for the stylist. That day they had finished searching for jewelry so it was just luck – right time and right place. They took a lot. It was really fun, a really cool thing to do.

 

D: WHO’S PERSONAL STYLE DO YOU GET INSPIRATION FROM?

RO: Elizabeth Taylor I look up to, and Ginger Rogers. But I think today the future is more the inspiration. Take elements from the past and look into the future. The more that I work with people that are very successful, I see that they are all in the future. I’m including myself in that.

 

D: WHO ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH?

RO: I’m not saying anything. I’m the kind of guy who likes to do and not tell. There are so many blah, blah, blah people in this world and I’ve been one myself. So I’d rather talk about what I’m doing rather than what I’m planning.

 

D: THEN YOU WON’T WANT TO TELL US WHAT YOU’VE GOT COMING UP IN YOUR NEXT COLLECTION?

RO: I have something fabulous coming up, but I cannot talk about it.

 

D: WHAT ABOUT ANY PLANS TO MOVE BEYOND JEWELRY?

RO: I love women’s bags. I love them. Bags and shoes. I die for them. So I’d like to do a collection of women’s shoes and bags. I’d need to find the quality that’s right, the details that are correct, and I haven’t put my mind to it yet.

 

 

D: EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE ON THE ROAD ALL THE TIME, YOU CALL NEW YORK HOME, RIGHT?

RO: I’ve lived in New York for three years. I arrived and I was scared to death. There is a magic New York has, a ‘je ne sais pas’. To visit is one thing, but to be part of the noise is another. You have to conquer New York, push it to be yours. I live in West Village and there are so many beautiful tiny little restaurants. They are not the hot places, like The Lion. I’m not really part of the fancy scene. I like the small little cute restaurants that only locals go. I’m a New Yorker baby.

 

D: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORKING?

RO: Eat a banana with low fat milk and talk to journalists.

 

D: SERIOUSLY?

RO: Yes! I find it very funny to speak with journalists. They are like shrinks, going into corners of your head… I love to work. I like to go to the gym and be active. I have an endless to-do list. When I use my time to do ‘nothing,’ I watch a movie. But I’m busy all the time.

 

D: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?

RO: As I was getting on the plane to Argentina I got a call to do 20 pages with V magazine. So I have been gluing stones, making magic in my mother’s house.

 

D: TELL ME SOMETHING NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT YOU.

RO: My work is loud and crazy but I am a very private person, so the things I am telling you, not many people know. Nobody knows me, I think. I’m just a guy from Argentina. So get to know me!

 

RODRIGO’S HANDYWORK

 

 

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