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The Singular Aesthetics of Martine Ali

From ‘MTV Jams’ to Isa Genzken, a deep dive into the jewelry designer’s personal moodboard.

WRITER: ASHLEY SIMPSON
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Growing up in Chicago, Martine Ali always knew she wanted to be a jewelry designer. “Since I was a very, very little kid,” she says via Zoom from her home in Brooklyn. Inspiration came close to home—and not always from the sources we’d expect. “Fast food and TV,” she grins, speaking of her earliest touchstones. “At that point, no one had really told parents [those things] were unhealthy.”

Fast-forward two decades and Ali’s dreams have materialized, following an ascent from a childhood business to designing for DKNY to launching her namesake line. Merging the stylistic influences she absorbed from MTV Jams, TRL and 106 & Park in the late ’90s and early 2000s with a sculptural, modular design approach that allows the wearer to unlock and reconnect the pieces, her creations are suited to any individual’s aesthetic and functional needs. Kendrick Lamar, Machine Gun Kelly, Doja Cat and Rihanna have all worn Ali’s heavy sterling silver chains, outsized crosses and artful charms. Artists like Isa Genzken and archival print publications—ranging from music mags to vintage porn and car publications—provide inspiration.

For GOAT Black Friday, Ali designed and styled a selection of exclusive pieces, including a chainmail bag rendered in a dark, gun-metal finish and a large colorful cross sitting on a delicate charm necklace. Both styles match the transgressive, ’90s-inspired edge the rising talent is known for. 

I'm always looking back to see forward [...] The images, fashion and music I remember taking in as a kid are a constant point of reference for me now.

MARTINE ALI

“It's important to me to create pieces that anyone can style into their wardrobe. I'm designing for a creative individual that has a very distinct personal style. They're looking for pieces that can become their signature, pieces that can tell their story.”   

One of the most important pieces of jewelry I saw was in 'Thong Song' by Sisqó; this really long dragon chain. I was like, ‘Wow, that is so fucking weird, I love that!’

MARTINE ALI

“This bag is the new crossbody, the new over the shoulder, made link by link at our Brooklyn studio. I've never made anything so intricate.”   

When you can create something that allows people to exercise those muscles, it’s a really powerful connection.

MARTINE ALI

“Aaliyah is an icon, her chain game is legendary. Creating legendary jewelry moments on modern icons is what we do [...] I want to be the fashion reference for someone else 20 years from now.”