This is Halloween! This is Halloween … and we’ve got the perfect interview for the spookiest day of the year.
Designer/jeweler Allison Cimino of RockLove, maker of exquisite fandom-based jewelry, recently debuted a to-die-for line themed after Disney’s stop-motion animated classic and perennial Halloween favorite, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
One necklace in particular, featuring the tiniest, most perfect Zero the Ghost Dog charm has Nightmare fans talking, but the entire collection is a gorgeous, glimmering gothic dream. Take a look at the pics below and you’ll see what I mean.
After training as a silversmith and an “old-world” apprenticeship in Florence, Italy, Allison began creating history-inspired pieces and beautiful baubles for fellow creatives to benefit favorite charities or fund projects.
Eventually, she was asked to design merchandise for fandom-related properties, including Star Trek, Skyrim, Marvel, and Disney. RockLove pieces are handmade in New York City by Allison and her team, using fair trade organic materials.
The company’s recent collections include three Disney Villainess-themed lines inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid, and Alice in Wonderland and tie-in merchandise for the movie Christopher Robin.
Other RockLove collections feature imagery from Studio Ghibli, Marvel’s Black Panther and Deadpool, the Outlander TV series, Twin Peaks, and Firefly.
Below, Allison talks about the inspirations behind her Nightmare Before Christmas designs, her goth childhood, why diversity is important to her, and the most famous members of the RockLove team, who happen to be energetic canines.
You’re a designer/jeweler who offers exquisite, playful, fandom-inspired pieces through your business, RockLove Jewelry. You trained as a silversmith and apprenticed in Florence, Italy, and could have gone on to design many types of jewelry. Why did you decide focus on fandoms?
I have a severe metal allergy so when I began making jewelry, my focus was more internal: nickel-free sterling silver pieces I wanted to wear myself. Originally, collections were inspired by eras of history and antiquated techniques, while others were created for friend artists, authors, and musicians as merchandise for them to sell to their fans.
The proceeds would go to charity or fund something creative like a book tour or recording studio time. I never set out to create licensed fandom jewelry; it grew organically. Eventually I was invited to craft merchandise for much larger properties (like Star Trek and Skyrim, then Marvel, then Disney) and chose to accept projects for which I too was a fan.
You’ve said your jewelry is inspired by your love of history, science fiction, and fantasy. What sparked your interest in these subjects?
Originally, collections were more obviously historical, like my Vikings Collection, carried by the British Museum Gift Shop and Vikings Shop for History Channel. Or thistles and Scottish sentiments for Outlander: The Series. Now my historical references are more subtle, like the Poison Apple and Fairest Apple rings nod to Victorian Mourning, Fede, Claddagh, and Gimmel hand rings.
I’ve always loved these genres, fostered young by watching Star Trek and Indiana Jones with my father and reenacting in Renaissance Faires with my family.
You recently debuted your latest collection, based on The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it’s gorgeous! Tell me about your thought process when you first sat down to design this collection.
While I do “design on command,” I prefer to let ideas come naturally — that magic “aha!” moment all us artists live for! So typically, I design stream of conscious and create a story from those ideas. Most often I’m inspired by what a character or icon does, which gives me the chance to add articulation and interaction. What does Zombie Duck do? He rolls! What do Lock, Shock, and Barrel have? Removable masks! Then I figure out the engineering to make that happen.
That Zero necklace though! People are going crazy over it. Do you remember when you first saw TNBC and what your reaction was to it?
I was a goth kid pretty young. Very young, in fact. My mother is a professional cellist and I was training as a violinist starting at about 4 years old, so “concert black” clothing meant professionalism and sophistication.
Plus, Halloween was always our favorite holiday and we reenacted in Renaissance Faires, surrounded by pirates and skulls. It felt very natural to wear a lot of black, even as a child, and The Nightmare Before Christmas resonated as a cheerful and friendly movie to my kid-brain. My childhood bedroom was decorated in all NBC and dragons!
It feels to me we might be living in a golden age of geek fashion, especially for women, who in the past didn’t have so many options. Are there still changes you’d like to see when it comes to geek fashion for women?
I definitely agree that we are in a golden age of geek fashion … and as it progresses, I’d like to see the terminology change to “fandom” and “community.” As we all continue to wear, decorate, and support our favorite properties, it is no longer as niche, geeky, or nerdy. Everyone is a fan of SOMETHING, be it whimsical Disney characters or serious Game of Thrones … and with platforms like Instagram and Netflix, we’re all more open about our fanatic feelings.
I love that the models used in RockLove’s marketing campaigns are extremely diverse. Why did you decide to take this approach?
Being a small company has its perks, and with the Disney X RockLove photoshoots, I’ve been able to art direct each campaign myself. Most important to me is that the models are not just bodies, but badass boss ladies and role models. They are entrepreneurs and activists who drive body positivity, diversity, and emotional growth in our community.
I feel this interview would not be complete if I didn’t ask you about your two German Shepherds, who you consider important members of the RockLove team. Tell me more about them.
The OG RockLove fans remember my first two German Shepherds, Adara and Onyx, who have been my MVP employees since day one. We got Shilah, my little fluffle, two years ago and Adara passed last spring.
Trying to stave my husband off from getting another puppy because, honestly, three German Shepherds is a LOT. Any movement and everyone jumps up like, “Where are we going, what are we doing, let’s go!”
They spend all day wedged under my office desk so I have to sit with legs crossed in my chair. But I wouldn’t have it any other way and they make sure every package is thoroughly inspected and shipped with nose kisses!