Laurie Lynn Stark is one half of the quintessential California rock-and-roll fashion brand. Here, she gives a tour of her beach abode and tells C what’s in store for the next generation taking the stage
Photography by BRAD TORCHIA
Words by ALESSANDRA CODINHA
Prop styling by SCOTT HORNE
Laurie Lynn and her three children (from left) Jesse Jo, Kristian and Frankie Belle.
On a wintry Malibu morning, Laurie Lynn Stark, resplendent in an oversized navy cricket sweater she co-designed with Drake, perches on the back of her large off-white sectional couch and surveys the foot traffic at her beachfront home. Attractive young people, including her 31-year-old daughter (and Chrome Hearts vice president), Jesse Jo, and 19-year-old twins, Kristian and Frankie Belle, show up with others in tow. One has a small dog. One has a soda. One has a fast-food bag.
All are friendly and seem very at home—and all are wearing a variety of Chrome Hearts items: a tank top, a bracelet, a pair of those oft-imitated gothic cross-embroidered jeans. “I don’t actually know who that is,” Laurie Lynn says, sotto voce, as a nice young man in some combination of the above helps himself to a fish taco in the kitchen, near the dining table set with the plates she personally designed with artisans in Positano, Italy, and her Baccarat x Chrome Hearts crystal. “That’s just how it goes here.” Because, as it turns out, not only is Laurie Lynn an integral part of what Vogue has called one of “fashion’s most rebellious success stories,” she’s also everyone’s favorite mom. “They’re my best friends,” she says of her three kids. A badass business titan and her teenagers still want her at their parties? She’s doing something right.
Chrome Hearts is not a typical fashion success story. Founded in the late 1980s by Laurie Lynn’s husband, Richard Stark, it’s a rock ’n’ roll cult favorite turned industry powerhouse. Famed for its premium-priced leather motorcycle jackets, biker gang-style branded hoodies and dagger motif jewelry, the brand (privately owned by the Stark family) is beloved by everyone from Rihanna to Rick Owens, The Weeknd and Billie Eilish. That means retail clout: 34 stores across the world (plus one redesign on Paris’ Quai Voltaire coming in the next two years by starchitect Jean Nouvel). Laurie Lynn and Richard trade off on who builds and who designs the interiors of which store, a contrast she says is obvious when you know where to look. “It’s a ‘his is black, mine’s white’ kind of thing,” she says, though some things, such as the lack of any exterior signage and “fuck you” carved into the floorboards, remain consistent throughout.
“I knew by age 10, fashion was my ticket out”
LAURIE Lynn STARK
Laurie Lynn Stark of CHROME HEARTS stands beside her beachfront 1971 Malibu Colony home.
Stockists include Maxfield in Los Angeles, Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Dover Street Market Ginza in Japan. Last year, the brand picked up the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award at the CFDA Fashion Awards, the gold standard of industry recognition. Cher, an early customer and close friend of the family, presented it to the Starks on stage; Ralph Lauren wrote Laurie Lynn a congratulatory note. “Getting a note from him personally was so heartfelt to me,” she says. “I literally just stared at it.”
Bella Hadid, Rei Kawakubo and the late Virgil Abloh have all collaborated with Chrome Hearts, a label worn by a wide range of stars such as Lenny Kravitz, Orville Peck, Future, Lou Reed and Martha Stewart, among many others. “I want to be Martha Stewart,” says Laurie Lynn, a professed homebody who dries and bundles her own sage. “I’m a huge fan. I call her my alter ego. My nickname is ‘Martha’ in my kitchen.” But at the CFDAs, decked out from head to gold peep-toe in what Highsnobiety would later call an “immaculate CH drip,” it was Stewart who took cues from Laurie Lynn.
Clockwise: Chrome Hearts towels hang at the ready for a beach day. The Stark home offers prime views of Malibu sunsets. A motorcycle parked out front beckons for a ride up the coast. The Perfect Religion photograph by Laurie Lynn hangs above a BROYHILL BRASILIA credenza.
There are Stark family homes all over the world, from St. Barts to Aspen, Colo., and L.A. to Malibu, but this one, a sleekly modest surf shack from the street, is perhaps a singular reflection of Laurie Lynn’s unique blend of design prowess and relaxed, confident charm. The 1971-built five-bedroom is comfortable and understated—a throwback to when Malibu was truly a weekend escape for celebrities and a primary residence for hippies—with a private deck and panoramic views of the coastline. Yes, that’s a monumental one-off Chrome Hearts table in the living room, and a huge John Baldessari piece on the wall alongside her own large-format black-and-white photography and works by artists including Peter Beard, Ellen von Unwerth, Bert Stern and Marina Abramović. Yet it’s also a beach house: a casual place to curl up with the kids and watch locals hunt for shells in the sand along Malibu Colony beach, or to host an impromptu party for 30 or so friends from the neighborhood. Everything about the place is considered, down to the vibes: Laurie Lynn is a believer in feng shui. She’s placed crystals strategically throughout the house—and outside, buried in the ground—to clear and protect visitors’ energy. Every morning that Laurie Lynn and her daughters are together, they dance and do morning gratitude practice in the crystal-bedecked meditation spaces she’s created in each of their houses for that very purpose. (She has also been known to host full-moon sound baths for friends.)
Laurie Lynn grew up here, on Point Dume, surfing these breaks, seeing this house from the sands. “It was sort of a goal, a monumental goal,” she says. “It’s like driving down that street and you’re like, ‘I’m gonna live here one day.’ I was 14 or 15.” The Starks couldn’t really afford it then, she says, but she and Richard made it work, renting it out to pay off the mortgage and renovation costs. “I manifested it,” she says. “It was meant to be.”
Matt Digiacomo’s Focal Point painting anchors a cozy vignette, replete with a Chrome Hearts blanket and cone fireplace.
A John Baldessari print from the 1970s holds pride of place above the piano.
There was no indication, in the beginning, that Chrome Hearts would become the kind of company whose wares were so coveted that the eco-friendly coffee cups from its in-store cafés would turn up on resale sites like Grailed. Laurie Lynn was already a designer when she met Richard. She’d been a designer since she was a preteen, really, wearing low hip-huggers she had dyed pink to wear to school, before Dittos came along and made that a thing. She’d stud jeans and sell 10 pairs to buy the new ones she wanted. “I knew by 10, fashion was my ticket out,” she says.
“This house was a monumental goal. I manifested it”
LAURIE Lynn STARK
Laurie Lynn lounges on her waterfront deck.
A blanket fit for the founding family.
When Laurie Lynn met Richard, she already had a business, and he became her leather manufacturer. “I was designing bikinis, super successful, written [about] in the papers,” she says. “The top of my field [at a] very young age.” She’d send accounts his way so he could afford to keep making the biker jackets he was passionate about on the side. “And I said, ‘What’s going to distinguish your biker jackets from everyone else’s?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know.’ And I’m like, ‘Put nickels on ’em, Indian head nickels.’ And then a rocker guy came along and said, ‘I want an Indian head nickel jacket.’ And he got one client, and was like, ‘I think I’m going to quit and do a business.’ I’m like, ‘Good luck with that! Bye! I’m going to Australia!’”
Laurie Lynn was traveling the world, styling and designing for about five different clients (including, at one point, Chippendales), producing TV commercials. “I was just having a blast doing everything and living in Europe,” she says. Richard stopped his other business to focus on Chrome Hearts, and then he asked her to stay with him and the brand. “I’m like, ‘Oh, no, no, no. We’re not working together. I like you, but we’re not working together.’ And we ended up working together. He needed clients. I needed a manufacturer. He needed help. I was his muse.” And then she became his partner.
Now Chrome Hearts has done collaborations with brands ranging from Ladurée to Comme des Garçons, and they sell—and sell out—everything from tanks and tees to furniture and multithousand dollar “oddities,” such as staplers, tape dispensers and meat cleavers. Because they feel like it. What’s more rock ’n’ roll than that?
Take, for example, the heart surgeon who came and asked for a Chrome Hearts stethoscope: “It was my best work, because he’s using that stethoscope to save a life,” says Laurie Lynn. “That makes me feel better than dressing anyone that can get any designer in the world.”
In a conceit worthy of Marcel Duchamp, turning the ordinary extraordinary, their $6,000 ebony and gold toilet plunger reportedly sold out at Maxfield. Creating a meat cleaver or potato peeler isn’t just a vanity project, she explains. “It’s a nightmare to make a meat cleaver—you gotta have 10 artisans. I can barely make 50. I’m not making any money on the meat cleaver, but it’s more important to me. It’s more important to the family. And it’ll be around a lot longer. If I made millions of shirts and millions of sweatshirts, I’m going to make a lot more money than on this stupid meat cleaver,” she says.
“They have to have a purpose higher than mine. A conscious purpose”
LAURIE Lynn STARK
The kids take a joyride through the neighborhood.
The Starks see Chrome Hearts as a brand with a future that stretches into the next 150 years, instilled with the kind of integrity that begets longevity: Richard is fond of telling reporters that Chrome Hearts “isn’t in the fashion business, it’s in the Chrome Hearts business.” What Laurie Lynn would like to do, now that she’s dressed the cool kids of every generation since the brand’s inception, is to dress someone less likely to get invited to the Grammys, the Oscars or the CFDAs. “What I’d like to do is dress a humanitarian that has completely not expressed themself in a way of dressing,” she says. “Somebody that isn’t interested in fashion at all. Someone that doesn’t have the perfect body, that doesn’t have the know-how. To empower them through clothing, through a look—that really excites me.”
She’s also keeping an eye on the future. This next generation of Starks has access and opportunities she never could have dreamed of at their age: Jesse Jo has amassed nearly 500,000 Instagram followers and has a music career in addition to her role at the company; Kristian is the artistic director of the store in St. Barts; Frankie Belle has followed in her mother’s footsteps with her own bikini line, Dipped in Blue.
“I wanna say, look, your biggest accomplishment may not be the same as mine, but you could do so many things I wasn’t allowed to do because I didn’t have the means. I didn’t have the connections.” She tells her children: “Use your connections wisely. Use your platform wisely, and excel in another way that I did not. We made money and we made a brand. To keep it going, they have to have a purpose that is higher than mine. Right? A conscious purpose.”
Hers lately has been making Chrome Hearts more environmentally conscious and more progressive, whether that means commissioning groups of women weavers in Kenya to make the straw hats for the St. Barts store, or pulling carbon out of the air to make dyes, or ensuring its suppliers aren’t polluting somewhere out of sight. At this point, she refuses to place an order at a factory if it doesn’t take responsibility for its environmental impact, even if it slows down production. “I feel good about trying,” she says, as the sun begins to dip toward the horizon in Malibu. Truth is, she has a lot to feel good about.
Feature image: Laurie Lynn dreamed of owning the home since she was a teen.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of C Magazine.
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