66 The Label – People who run fast get awarded with medals. Eat a lot of hot dogs? Here’s a medal. Once upon a time, there was even a lot of groaning that participation alone was enough to earn a medal.
But dressing well—which is a whole lot harder than slamming a hot dog, and maybe even tougher than running a four-minute mile—was never recognized with hardware. Well, the era of unawarded dressing came to an end last night when GQ handed out the first Big Fit of the Night medal at its 2021 Men of the Year party.
GQ worked with celebrity jeweler Greg Yuna to design the first-of-its-kind prize. (The winner: Dan Levy in a funkified Gucci suit.) The result is a gold-plated medallion commemorating the date and place where victory was claimed. GQ’s art department came up with the design, and Yuna “basically freaked the rest,” he says. We talked to Yuna about the process of making the award, current jewelry trends, and what it means to freak it.
Your job must involve a lot of running around. But, to be honest, Uncut Gems is really my only reference point.
Greg Yuna: Uncut Gems was about a diamond district jeweler, but he was also a chronic gambler. Not all jewelers do that. That’s a guy who had a chronic gambling problem and got into a world of shit. But yeah, we do a lot of running around—what you see there on that block [in the movie] is what we do.
Okay, and I assume you know Mike Francesa.
Of course, yes.
How is the GQ Big Fit of the Year award coming along? Do you have it now?
I don’t have it in hand, but I will have it. But here’s what they were looking like in the wax. [Holds up purple mold] That’s the front. That’s the back.
And then is it going to be a chain?
It’s gonna be like a medallion like they do in the Olympics with that ribbon.
GQ’s art department came up with the initial design, right?
They sent it the way they wanted it. I’m basically freaking the rest.
What do you mean when you say freaking it?
Basically putting the metal where it goes, and putting the diamonds where I feel.
How long does something like this usually take?
To pump something out like this usually takes about four to six weeks from beginning to end.
I assume that your job involves a lot of last-minute requests, though.
It’s always last-minute requests. I never get a break, ever.
What sort of metals and diamonds are you using on this?
So on this, we went silver with a gold plate, with real diamonds. I added my little flair to it and we did the diamonds. I was like, we can’t go all the way silver and nothing else, so let’s just add some stones to it and make it sexy.
So what’s the process of getting a mold like that made? Like, you get the design and then what happens?
I get the design, I pull it up on the computer. I send it over to my 3D CAD Computer-Aided Design department and they print it out of basically a 3D printer. This comes out [holding up the mold], and I get the approval from you guys.
What happens after that?
Then I go get it cast in gold. Then I set the stones, and after I set the stones I polish the whole piece. Dip it in a nice 18-karat gold rhodium, which makes it that yellow. And then it’s done. We add the ribbon and we ship it out.
Having worked on the award, what do you think makes an outfit worthy of a piece like this?
I’d say a nice plain black shirt. A sexy blazer, or a nice cardigan. So you can see the medal, because that’s what’s important.
A plain black T-shirt. I’m surprised.
Plain black tee. Maybe some nice slacks.
How did you get into doing pieces like this?
I got into it through some very distant relatives. I worked with them for about eight years. They treated me like shit.
Your own family treated you like shit?
I mean, it’s just such a shitty business. No one wants to see you grow in this business. But anyway, I started with some distant relatives and then I ended up going on my own.
What keeps you excited and passionate about it?
Just being able to be creative. It’s like a bunch of science projects. You get to just put stuff together and watch it all happen. The finished product is so cool. It goes from raw metal to like this finished product and it just comes out so beautifully.
What’s the craziest piece that you’ve worked on recently?
A piece for J. Balvin. He just did a whole cartoon collection for his son that he wears. There’s Batman and Spongebob.
Are there clients that you particularly like working with?
I like working with SAINt JHN. I like working with J Balvin. Joey Bada$$ is another one. They’re easy because they know what they want. They’re very particular about what they want. It’s good to have direction—it helps me execute better.
You’ve been doing this for so long. I wonder if the types of requests that you’ve been getting recently have changed.
I mean, the technology is getting better—settings and stuff like colors— so I’m able to produce better work, cleaner work. Also, the people that are reaching out are just asking for extravagant shit.
They’re getting more extravagant. Why do you think that is?
In the jewelry world, it’s always about: who has the best? Who can show off more? Who can get the coolest? It basically goes hand-in-hand with style, right? It’s like, who can dress the craziest but at the same time look good? It’s this funky little world and amongst the jewelers we’re all trying to outdo each other. The Ice Wars. That’s what I call it: Ice Wars.
And I love that you’ll ice out the latest big watch [Yuna is wearing a diamond-set Patek Philippe Nautilus]
In the jeweler world, we’re always trying to figure out, What’s the most expensive watch that we can fuck up?
I like that you’re fully aware of the idea that this is “fucking up” the watch.
It doesn’t make sense. I know we’re taking this beautifully perfect Patek Philippe and we’re about to ruin it. But hey, that’s what we do.
But even you think that ruins it?
It depends on who’s looking at it. Me? I can see the beauty, but it’s my world. Someone like a banker, or someone who works in the corporate world, they look at something like that and think, you guys look stupid.