Lynn Ban doesn’t do basic. The jeweller and fashion designer takes everything to the max. Her look is unapologetic, bold and individualistic, and her joy in dressing up is totally infectious. “My style is eclectic, eccentric, chic, crazy,” she says whilst on a stop-over in the UK, where her 13-year- old son is about to start boarding school. “I think fashion really transforms you. You take on a persona of whatever you’re wearing. You live that, feel that and exude that.”

Follow Ban on Instagram and you’ll see her “demonstrating” her latest looks in entertaining little clips set to music by her husband, Jett Kain, who used to be a producer and reporter for MTV. Here’s Lynn crossing the street in a rainbow egg cape by Tomo Koizumi. There she is doing a ballerina twirl in a vast Molly Goddard tulle dress or taking a daytime stroll in a Gucci track top and maxi dress, with her hair teased into a towering cartoonish beehive. “Getting dressed is like playing a character for me, depending on the occasion or my mood,” she explains. “From the dress to the hair, the make-up and the accessories, it’s all just storytelling, which I love.”

Ban wears couture on the ski slopes, Noir gowns for a walk in the woods, and takes her poolside cues from Liz Taylor, matching her swimsuit to a full suite of lapis and diamonds. Feathers, lamé, crystals, sequins, architectural rules, holographic leather, huge bows, sweeping capes and thigh-high boots are her go-to signatures. “The bold and the beautiful to me is very much how I look at fashion. I think it’s about making a statement, bringing joy to yourself and to others and being fearless,” she says in typical tigress style.

Ban was born in Singapore but moved with her parents to New York and Hong Kong, before studying French literature and art history at Cornell University. She cut her teeth in business, bringing her father’s Genki Sushi franchise to the US, where it became a downtown New York hotspot before the 9/11 attacks devastated the local area.

Her next business venture, an upscale vintage boutique launched in 2002, was born of her passion for clothes. Nowadays her wardrobe includes Saint Laurent couture from the ’60s and ’80s, rare Comme pieces (she buys a catwalk piece every season), and many museum-quality contemporary curations, from that Tomo Koizumi egg dress to the heart-shaped red fur coat from Hedi Slimane’s final Saint Laurent show, which she lent to the Met for its 2019 Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibition. “[Met head curator] Andrew Bolton contacted me for the Hedi piece,” says Ban, “I was surprised that they didn’t have one in their archive. It was really exciting to see. I went to the preview with Tomo so it was fun.”

For Ban, deciding what to wear depends on her mood. “Some days I’m the Rick Owens girl – I love Rick, it’s tough and a kind of armour,” she says. “It’s just cool. Most days I’m Halpern or Moschino, [where] it’s about that fantasy and fun and dressing up and just feeling fabulous. So, it’s the contrast of different designers and different moods and occasions. When we meet, she’s wearing a gold lamé floor-length dress from the resort collection, inspired by her love of travel, that she launched during lockdown. “I’ve always designed things other than jewellery. I love the creative process; I started making a few samples and I ended up with a whole collection!” Lynn Ban doesn’t do anything by half.

Ban didn’t train as a jeweller, but she did grow up around gems. Her mother, who has a fashion degree, is a gemologist and Ban remembers playing with her jewellery as a child. “I had a very fashionable mom and she really indulged me and cultivated my love of fashion,” she says. “I would see how she dressed and we would go shopping together. From a young age my taste developed [through] poring over magazines and images and loving every aspect of fashion, from the clothing to the hair and the make-up to the jewellery.”

Indeed, clothes are just one part of Ban’s total look. “Oh, a wig is like a hat,” says the designer of her wardrobe of hairpieces and wigs. Today she is sporting a hand-painted multicoloured glitter mani that mimics the rainbow pavé of her jewellery designs. She has them done every three weeks by cult Japanese nail artist Nails by Mei, who is favoured by high fashion’s A-list, including Marc Jacobs.

Ban had been commissioning bespoke pieces of jewellery for years before finally launching her own brand after she got fed up with not finding what she wanted in-store. Her first jewellery collection was made up of only 10 pieces. If they didn’t sell, she reasoned, at least she could keep them. That didn’t happen, though, because Barneys, Max eld and Dover Street Market all placed orders. Her unconventional designs, which take inspiration from armour, ancient Egyptian symbols, the Bauhaus, pop art and rock’n’roll quickly found a fanbase, particularly amongst musicians. Ban has collaborated with Rihanna on tour jewellery and counts Madonna, Gaga and Megan Thee Stallion as clients. Ban’s fashion collection is huge. She keeps much of it in a separate location to her New York apartment. Most things are hung on rails, but the museum-quality pieces are stored in acid-free boxes. Everything is digitally catalogued on a database, including her “many hundreds” of pairs of black trousers, although Ban knows exactly what she has without having to look it up. “You know it’s grown over the years,” she says of her collection, “but you take care of it and you curate it, and it’ll last forever.”

Ban still has her very first Chanel piece – a biker-style belt that she got as a teenager. “I’ve always been a collector of fashion, I’ve held on to everything since I was 16,” she says proudly. In all that time, her taste has remained remarkably consistent. “I was attracted to statement, collectable pieces, and I took care of my stuff and held on to it.”

Ban shops off the runway (“I’ll see something on the catwalk and think, ‘I have to have it’”) and has developed special relationships with the designers she admires over the years. She was introduced to Michael Halpern through Patti Wilson, who styles his shows. When they met, says Ban, “it was love at first sight”. She went on to design jewellery for several of his shows. One of her favourite pieces, a custom sequin cape, came about after the two got chatting. “I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a sequin cape with a big hood?’ Halpern duly made it for her. She doesn’t just save her special pieces for grand occasions, but wears them IRL. “I think fashion, especially something fabulous and over-the-top like that, is meant to be worn.” On a trip to Dubai with Halpern, to attend a Matches Fashion event, Ban saw a camel safari on the itinerary. “I thought, ‘I’m gonna wear that cape on the camel, because it’s fabulous and it’s fun. I’m not just going to wear it for a picture and then change into my sweats.’”

Ban remembers the day she visited a Yayoi Kusama exhibition dressed in a pink holographic jacket and pink Rick Owens platform waders (“very like Blade Runner, futuristic”). It was spring and the cherry blossoms were blooming in New York’s botanical gardens, where a group of little girls thought she was a superhero. “It just brought them joy, you know, and it brought me joy, on this beautiful spring day, to be wearing something so fun and fabulous.”

The designer’s relationship to her clothes is one of devotion. She’s prepared to put up with a little inconvenience for the right look, admitting that it’s tricky to exit a car in one of her bubble-shaped Comme pieces, but even she has her limits. “If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to look very chic. You have to be comfortable and be able to move,” she counsels. “For me fashion, is a wearable artform, but it’s also emotional.” 

Taken from Issue 67 of 10 Magazine – BOLD & BEAUTIFUL – order your copy here.

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