“Originally, I’m from Hong Kong. I moved to the States when I was 16, and I've lived in New York, Connecticut, Amsterdam, London... I picked up silversmithing when I was living in Amsterdam. I just fell in love with it. I worked from home, buying more and more tools until it just kind of took off. Now, my jewelry line is called Moratorium, and I sell through Opening Ceremony and Occulter.
I still make a lot of pieces by hand. I think my point of difference is that my entire line is made with precious metals. I’ve been asked to work in brass so that I can lower my price point, but I just don’t want to. I think jewelry should always be precious. Every piece is individually polished and soldered together, and then polished together as a whole—it takes days. I want to make things that, when my customer puts on in five years, are just as relevant—you’ll hold onto it because it’s sterling silver or gold, and it’s worth something.
Because I work with my hands, my hands are a nightmare. As you can see, I never even bother to manicure them. I’ll do my nails maybe three times a year because there’s just no point. Polish never lasts more than a few hours. And my hands are horrifyingly dry—I mean, I use hand cream all the time, and sometimes, I’ll even put olive oil on them and stick them in plastic gloves from the 99-cent store. But there’s really nothing I can do about it.
In general, my skin is very dry and sensitive, so I can’t use really perfumed stuff. I have to be careful of a lot of things, because I’ll break out in spots. In the morning, I just wash my face with water; I don’t need soaps. During the night, your skin replenishes itself, and I don’t want to wash all that stuff off. But, at night, I use VMV Hypoallergenics’ Face Wash.
To moisturize, I love La Mer because it's a really thick cream and so hydrating. I’ve been using it for so long. And I really like VMV Hypoallergenics’ Re-Everything Eye Serum, which you can also use on other thin-skin areas. It kind of smells funny, but it’s non-perfumed. I actually went for a facial at VMV Hypoallergenics' spa on Crosby; it’s amazing, and their products are gentle. If I have random dry patches, I use the Boo-Boo Balm from VMV and the Know It Oil, which is pure coconut oil. On my body, I just use regular Lubriderm or something else not-too-crazy.
Makeup-wise, for me, it’s about concealer, eyeliner, mascara. I don’t sleep more than six hours a night, because I'm working late, so I have dark under-eye circles. I can’t live without concealer— BareMinerals Correcting Concealer. I hate using foundation, because I hate the caked-on feeling of it on my face. But for photos, I have to use it sometimes, and the BareMinerals powder foundation doesn’t feel like a foundation. I don’t have to do it on my whole face, instead I can put some concealer under my eyes and put a little bit of the foundation powder on with a brush, and it feels like I’m not wearing anything.
Right now, for eyeliner, I’m using Make Up For Ever Aqua Cream. It’s a matte black, which I like and I use a brush to paint it on. If I don’t do eyeliner, I at least use some mascara. I’m using Tarte at the moment—I was using Dior, but it was irritating my eyes a lot. I have really sensitive everything.
I like lipstick, but it’s so high-maintenance. I wear it when I go out, either a nude-ish color or a really deep wine color. For the nude, I have a mix. If I go really pale, I use the Creamsheen in Restrict from the Gareth Pugh for MAC collection—it’s really, deathly nude, and very dramatic. I’ll use that over either another nude matte MAC, or a Shu Uemura lipstick. Otherwise, Givenchy Rouge Interdit Satin Lipstick in #53 Rouge Celeste and Chanel Rouge Allure in Maniac #147 are my dark picks.
My hair is tough. It’s really fine, but somehow, it always works itself into really serious knots. When I used to dye it, it was more manageable, because it was ‘treated.’ Now that I don’t dye it, it always knots up, and regular conditioner doesn’t get my knots out! So I have to do a Kérastase hair mask once a week. I love Kérastase—all of their products are pretty great. I’m not very good with hair, so I keep it very low-maintenance, easy. Sometimes, I’ll even get my hair tie caught in there, and Gavin has to cut it out of my hair; I’m just really bad at all of it. I don’t know how to braid or anything.
I’ve had my hair cut like this—sort of asymmetrical—for the last few weeks. I was just like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it, but fuck it. It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.’ That’s my theory with hair. I’m really adventurous because it’s just hair. It’ll grow back. Last year, I had full blond hair, and I had this ombré thing before that. The blond was hard to maintain, because I’m not good at the whole ‘sit down, do my nails, go to the salon’ thing. Having to get my roots done, which is basically three hours wasted, was just really hard. Gavin liked it. I don’t know if I liked it.
For scents, I wear Tom Ford Black Orchid perfume, or sometimes when I just want to change it up, I love Sud Pacifique Comptoir Paris, which makes me think of summer. I love that smell. With candles, I especially like musky, powdery smells—not sweet—like Le Labo Santal 26.
In general, I believe if your system’s good, your skin’s going to be good. For a while, I was doing acupuncture on a weekly basis. I don’t usually drink cold water because cold water is a shock to your system, and when you shock your system, things tend to go out of balance. The Chinese also eat a pretty balanced diet—fish, vegetables, meat—which I think also helps with your skin. [My husband] Gavin and I drink a lot of tea, like Black Rose tea, in the house. It’s a good detox, you know? I just got back from Hong Kong and we bought so many teas. Gavin is super into teas.
And then there are my tattoos, which I consider ‘accessories.’ They’re fun. My mom’s given up on the whole thing. I’m thirty something. What can she do?”
—as told to ITG
Jeanette Lai Thomas photographed by Emily Weiss in Brooklyn, New York on December 19th, 2012.