What do you call a bustier that takes up to 280 hours to make, consists of around 3000 individual items, is linked individually by hand with all crystals and is also glued individually by hand? Wearable art. “These are actually works of art, not items of clothing, but they can be worn, as long as the wearer takes care,” says Michael Wilson the artist responsible for these bustiers. Wilson who is from Capetown, South Africa, is the owner of the brand Michael Wilson Designs [MWD].
Wilson designs sexy, unique, beautiful high-end one of a kind pieces that range from $2500 to $8000. “I make each and every item myself, by hand,” says Wilson. “For example, the top that [model] Bar [wore in the SA Sports Illustrated shoot] consists of around 3600 pieces, each linked individually by hand with a pair of pliers using very small links [3x2mm]. The crystals are placed and glued one at a time, a process that takes an enormous amount of time and concentration.”
Wilson, 45 years old, has been making metal jewellery for about four years. His focus was making jewellery with an unusual twist that includes earrings, bracelets, necklaces, belts and clip on jewellery belts until an incident that helped him expand his line. “I started making the tops around three years ago after Liza, my wife, turned one of my belts upside down, held it to her chest and said “oh look, a bra,” explains Wilson. It was obviously meant as a joke but it triggered the artistic instinct in Wilson; and ultimately a birth of bustiers made out of metals and Swarovski crystals. “The [bustiers] have evolved . [I] added the crystals just over two years ago to give a “bling” effect to a classic look.”
The artist purchases his crystals from the local SA market. The crystals are genuine Swarovski crystals which are originally manufactured in Austria by Swarovski. Indeed, the uniqueness of Michael’s work caught Leonard Klocker’s attention, the regional director for Swarovski for Africa and the Middle East. Klocker saw one of Wilson’s top and insisted that Wilson get preferential treatment from the local agents for his orders. “This was fantastic for me! There is normally a minimum order that would be way out of my capacity as a single artist,” says Wilson. “Normally only the large wholesalers can afford to stock them. The metal pieces are antique brass and are bought from our local bead wholesaler.”
Ladybrille of course wanted to know why anyone would spend 280 hours creating a bustier! “I have considered getting help, but that would be the same as a painter artist asking someone to color in his paintings after he did the outline,” explains Wilson. “My work is actually art that can be worn and falls in the intersection between art, jewellery and fashion, which is what makes it unique.”
To purchase, learn or see more of Wilson’s work, contact him at:
10 Bow Bend,
7441 Cape Town
Telephone details:27 21 554 5189 studio
27 83 708 2085 mobile
27 86 610 2558 facsimile
All photos provided courtesy of MWD.