From NYC to the Californian Desert, Respect The Chief
Respect the Chief
Respect The Chief is the product of creatives A.J Woodruff and Matthew Fullum, and began to take shape in Brooklyn New York in 2014. The two combined their strengths in design and craftsmanship and sought out to start Respect The Chief. Starting with vintage jewellery and custom work, they eventually expanded to creating their own line of jewellery influenced by the minimalist design of the simple ring. Respect The Chief is now based in the California Desert where the two moved to explore nature and the desert creative community. They are inspired by the landscape as well as the history and craftsmanship of Native Americans in surrounding areas. The Brooklyn map hangs in their living room to remind them of where they came from, and the first ring made sits on the jewellery workbench to remind them of where they can go. It started with a gift, and Respect The Chief is their gift to you.
What’s the story behind the name?
We know it's a super unusual brand name, especially for a jewellery company, but our name has a lot of meaning behind it, and is also a great conversation starter! I have always had an appreciation for the design and craftsmanship of tribal jewellery from a variety of different cultures. Matt was really inspired by that when he first started making jewellery, and it’s what initially sparked the idea for us to start a business. We loved how speciality adornments were often reserved for leaders, elders, and respected people in tribal cultures, and we wanted to continue that tradition in our own jewellery. The name Respect The Chief came about as a way to pay homage to the great leaders of the past and also encourage individuals to be leaders in their own lives. We want everyone to adorn themselves like a Chief and be courageous and strong especially in the face of adversity.
What’s the inspiration behind the Gemini collection?
We moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the open desert when we started our collection, and we were instantly enamoured by the nature around us. The stars were so clear and dreamy, we quickly fell in love, and it kind of stuck with us. Both collections were inspired by the stars and space, but at the beginning of the second collection, I had been reading a lot of mythology in relation to constellations. I'm always on the hunt to spot different zodiacs in the night sky. Although neither of us is a Gemini zodiac, the story behind the Gemini twins is so interesting. They go through these life phases of friendship, betrayal, and ultimate sacrifice and love. In our current political and social climate, we thought it was necessary to highlight the importance of brotherhood and kinship. The collection is directly inspired by the constellation and how NASA referenced it during the creation of their spacecraft, but the purpose of the collection overall is to state that we are all connected, we are all brothers, we are all Gemini.
Describe the typical Respect The Chief customer
The Respect The Chief customer appeals to a wide range of people both male and female which we love. He/she does not follow any particular style or pattern, but each is confident in self and appreciates great design and quality. They always recognize the craftsmanship first and secondly take note of the small details. They are less concerned with branded fashion but seek individuality and beauty. We are so thankful and really appreciate all of our customers as each of them is genuinely interested in fostering an upcoming brand. It really means the world to us that they have chosen our pieces in an industry with so much competition.
Why the focus on craftsmanship?
Matt and I are both perfectionists in very different ways. When we thought of doing a collection, we knew we would be competing with brands that have been around for years and decades, so we knew our jewels had to be just as good as what was already available on the market. Although neither of us is trained in jewellery design/manufacturing, we wanted to create a product that was beautiful but would also stand the test of time much like many vintage and antique pieces. We focus on craftsmanship not just for the customer though, but for our own egos as well! We want to be proud of what we produce, and we want to be confident in selling it. We just aren’t the type of people who could stand behind a poorly made product. It would make us both super paranoid to be selling cheap jewellery, and we would always be wondering how it would hold up in a week, month, or year. Our jewellery looks delicate but can withstand quite a bit of abuse. It's pretty on the outside, but tough on the inside, much like our customers. Our jewellery is made for real people with real lives.
What can we expect from Respect The Chief over the next few seasons?
The first two collections we have been exploring who we are stylistically, but I think we’re ready to delve a lot deeper creatively. We’ve been able to meet a lot of great stone cutters, and we are looking to do more stone mixing as well as integrating other materials. We will continue with both tribal and celestial influences, but we will also be referencing more art from a variety of eras. We have matured creatively a lot since our first collection, so our jewellery with definitely reflect that with a touch more whimsy, because...life!