In Conversation With…Dirty French Girl

We speak to the Kitten behind Dirty French Girl jewellery, Chloe Mellen.

Here at Killing Kittens, we are always overjoyed and excited when we find a product that we feel is KK purrfect. Dirty French Girl jewellery is exactly that. So we decided to find out more about the company and Chloe Mellen, the Kitten behind it.

Chloe has very kindly provided a discount code for KK members. Use code DFG10 and receive 10% discount on all orders over £50!

Hi Chloe, could you give us an insight into Dirty French Girl? How would you define your company, and how did you come up with the name?

DFG is a high-end, erotic-inspired, jewellery and lifestyle brand. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it is the best definition I have come up with so far. I would like Dirty French Girl to stand for diversity and acceptance and encourage individualism.

The way I came about the name Dirty French Girl always makes me giggle.

I train in Brazilian Jujitsu, which is a close contact wrestling sport. It can sometimes look a little, well, sexual, shall we say. When you train predominantly with big burly men, I was either the only one who saw the positions we were getting into as slightly compromising or the only one who admitted to it.

I would try not to giggle, and fail, and then my instructor would ask, loudly, in front of everyone so they could all hear, “What are you laughing about, you Dirty French Girl? I know! Haha.”

I liked the sound of it and decided to use it. So I guess I am the original Dirty French Girl.

What led you to create jewellery? Where do your inspirations for Dirty French Girl designs come from? And, how do you choose your materials?

I always knew I wanted to design and create. For a long time, I thought it would be fashion and garments, but when it came to my foundation year, and I did my fashion rotation, the outcome was a little disastrous. I spent so long decorating the collar of a top that I forgot to make the top. I had a beautiful collar on what looked like a bin bag… I had an orientation talk with my tutors, and together we decided that jewellery just made so much more sense.

Inspirations for my designs come from the fetish communities (BDSM, to some extent LGBTQIA+, etc.). I love how cheeky and imbued with eroticism these communities are.

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I aim to create jewellery that is idiosyncratically sexual. Sexuality and dealing with sexual desires can be difficult things to process, especially when you live in a world where society judges anything that doesn’t conform to what it considers normal.

The fetish scene does not judge, and this is what has always attracted me to it on a personal and professional level. So I decided to combine two things I loved: jewellery and sexy stuff!

I choose materials that I enjoy wearing. If I like them, my hope is that other people will too! Pearls come in so many beautiful colours, and they look so fantastic paired with gold or silver that they are my favourite combination.

Pearls also hold sexual and romantic connotations whilst exuding mystique, beauty, and glamour. Historically, they have been a symbol of purity, a gift from a father to a daughter as she turns into a woman, the necklace symbolising that she is now ‘suitable’ and may find a husband. I can’t help myself; I like distorting such antiquated symbols.

Maybe my pearl necklace could symbolise something else: a woman ready to take control.

The first sign of metal jewellery appeared around seven thousand years ago. As they say, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, so metal was an obvious choice. A precious metal is used to make jewellery because of the attractiveness of its lustre and its rarity. It also doesn’t tarnish.

The individuals wearing my jewellery shine because of their uniqueness, and nothing can tarnish their individualism. The symbolism was perfect.

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Your website has an edgy/fetish element—why fetish jewellery? And what or who are your inspirations?

Before Dirty French Girl, there was CJM.

I created CJM straight out of Central Saint Martins, fresh from graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Jewellery Design. My designs have always been big and bold, and CJM already had a few fetishistic undertones.

I was still finding myself as a designer, and for a long time, I was very preoccupied with my jewellery having a deeper meaning and symbolising something. The more I wanted my jewellery to mean something, the less able I was to design. When I finally decided to stop thinking that way and simply design objects that I thought were cool, I could create again. At this point, I organically fell into the fetish scene.

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At first, the idea was to produce precious metal body piercings and some of my own designs. Gradually the body piercings concept fell into the background as I found my identity as a designer and fully embraced it. I have found that DFG is like marmite, you either love the idea of erotic, tongue-in-cheek jewellery, or you hate it.

On a business level, my mother is my inspiration. Today, she is an amazing hairdresser, she travels the world to do shows, judges TV hair competitions, collaborates with famous designers and photographers, but she started with nothing! She didn’t even want to be a hairdresser, to begin with, but her unforgiving work ethic and drive propelled her to the top!

If I could have the erotic jewellery business version of her career, I would be ecstatic!

Your jewellery is quoted as “blurring the lines between taboo and social acceptance”,  just as KK is doing. Do you feel the world is ready to start breaking down these barriers and wear symbols proudly as in your pieces?

Stigma, eroticism, and fetish are such grey areas. We are always so intrigued by the “darker” side of sex, we can’t help it. The popularity of Fitfy Shades Of Grey proved this to us. And yet, in public, people are ashamed to express a real interest, let alone admit they practice any form of BDSM. For some reason the idea that people into BDSM are somehow depraved, damaged or dangerous still persists, even though studies show that individuals who engage in BDSM score significantly lower on a scale of psychological distress than others.

But I am hoping that by developing jewellery that is erotically inspired, make it kinky enough so that some will recognise it for the little symbol of societal rebellion that it is can, and others just think it’s beautiful jewellery. Like with anything, time is key. As society goes forward and evolves, especially in today’s political and societal climate of acceptance, I think people will be increasingly comfortable and eager to wear their kink on their sleeve and show it off.

What is the strangest/your most favourite piece you have ever created?

Difficult to choose. I think I have two!

One of the oddest pieces I ever made, but that I had an absolute blast creating, was this large leather headpiece/mask/helmet thing I did at university. On my jewellery design course at Central Saint Martins, we had a leather project, and I decided to really let my inner weird out. I had a lot of fun creating the blocks to try and stretch the leather, I dyed the leather (and my hands), cut it all by hand, and then modeled it too. The whole project was so much fun and I really like how weird the piece was.

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A few years ago a friend of mine, Charli Cohen, who has an amazing sports fashion brand, asked me to make some superhero-inspired masks for her LFW catwalk. I am a self-professed nerd, I love going to comic on and cosplaying, so this was a literal dream come true! I still have the promotional postcard she had made for the show and some of the masks somewhere.

When you are creating a bespoke piece, what is your process and how much influence does the client have over design and materials?

I try to give the client as much influence as is possible. It is their piece and I want them to be fully in love with it! I like imagining that they might pass the item of jewellery down in their family, that it could become a family heirloom.

I like to have an initial first meeting, usually over coffee (my one true love) to make sure we get along and have them explain their idea, discuss the budget etc. Then I go home, I do some initial sketches, develop maybe three or four rough ideas, which I will send over to ensure I am on the right track. If I am, I develop the clients favourite two or three designs into finished beautiful sketches, have another meeting to decide which one they want, and start making.

Having these steps allow both the client and myself to create something we both love.

If you could create one piece of jewellery for one person, dead or alive, who and what would it be?

Dita Von Teese! I have found her utterly fantastic since I was about 12!

What advice would you give to other people wanting to start a business with a fetish edge?

Be confident! When I first came up with/fell into the idea of DFG, I would become a bit awkward and embarrassed talking about it, which made me seem unprofessional, and devalued it as a business. Just because we are dealing with fetish and sex does not make it any less valid as a business. If anything, it is more so, because everyone knows sex sells!

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Accept that not everyone is going to like it! Fetish is not for everyone, and some are more prudish that others, so some sort of backlash is to be expected. Most of my close friends love DFG, but one in particular hates it, and will regularly remind me of this fact. I have simply told her to unfollow the Instagram and Facebook, I am not forcing her to look at my work (a funny fact: I designed and made her wedding rings though).

Have fun but try not to mix business and pleasure… too much! We will spend most of our life working, so don’t forget to love what you do and do what you love, but working within the fetish industry I have had to catch myself a few times to make sure I stay professional. But sometimes I also have not had to, so it’s finding a good balance, because it is a very very fun industry to work in!😉

What are the next steps for Chloe Mellen?

Next step for me personally, keep exploring the fetish scene and myself, through nights out, my modeling, and really take advantage of living in London. This then provides me with the inspiration for Dirty French Girl.

Next step for DFG… I mean, my head is already spinning with new designs and collections, but I think I need to put those on hold and really promote the designs I currently have. I’d like to do a few pop-ups and markets, especially a Boutique Bazaar, and really focus on brand awareness worldwide. I’d like Dirty French Girl to be associated with the LGBT rights movements, gender equality, and become a go-to, must-have brand in every kinkster’s jewellery box.

Chloe, thank you so much for your time!

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