Marvin Douglas Is Shaking Up Fine Jewelry Through His Latin Roots

Marvin Douglas Is Shaking Up Fine Jewelry Through His Latin Roots

For someone who doesn't fit the traditional mold of fine jewelry person, Marvin Douglas Linares is finding success in embracing his El Salvador heritage and SoCal upbringing for his namesake label, Marvin Douglas Jewelry.

Bad Bunny is a regular wearer of his traditionally crafted jewels, sporting them everywhere from red carpets to performances. Linares is also among the six BIPOC participants of the National Diamond Council's new emerging designers initiative (in partnership with Lorraine Schwartz), which allowed him to sell his work on Moda Operandi.

After working in sales at Tiffany & Co. and as a jewelry specialist for Dover Street Market, Linares set off on his own despite numerous setbacks from gatekeepers and the industry at large. But with his designed already featured on Grammy red carpets and Super Bowl Half-time performances, at just 27, it's Linares who's having the final laugh.

PAPER caught up with the rising designer to learn more about his relationship with Bad Bunny, his humble origins and why he had to work twice as hard to gain industry knowledge and credibility.

Photo via Getty

How ddi you find your way into this industry?

The whole jewelry thing kind of derives from my grandmother. She bought and resold jewelry throughout my life. And with that, I always had a cool necklace or ring to look forward to every birthday and stuff like that. I would get a lot of feedback on the jewelry that I would wear, and that kind of resulted in having more of a business mindset for it. Even at my time at Tiffany's, that's when I got my training and knowledge on metals and diamonds and gemstones and the consistency of it and the science behind it. And that really created my love for jewelry. Then going over to Dover Street Market and being their jewelry specialist, I got more in tune with independent designers and how they work. I feel like every time a designer would come and present their collection, I would fall in love with that brand and their story of what they've been through and where they get their references. That really I feel like molded me into a designer, more so than just seeing it as a business.

Did you go to school for this?

I didn't. But I did receive some certificates from Tiffany's and then through the NDC. I was able to get certified for my diamond knowledge through DeBeers.

You left Dover Street Market in April. How were you able to go off and do your own thing?

It started off as customs. Just doing customs for clients I would get. Whether it would be like out in—I am a part time stylist. I guess you would say it's something I don't claim but it's something I kind of fell into. So with that, I met a lot of people within the industry. In the Latin industry. That's the way I've been able to branch out and get my collection out there and do a lot of custom orders for artists and people all over.

Courtesy of Marvin Douglas

How did the Bad Bunny relationship come about?

One of my friends has a multi-media company where he does brand merch, graphics and stage visuals. And he was working with Bad Bunny since 2018. He was the first introduction to him. I met him, told him I did jewelry. And it kind of formed a little relationship. Then my friend was styling him when he was looking for a stylist. And through there, I was invited to his biggest events like the VMA's, the Grammy's, things like that. And I would present him with whatever I was working on at the time. And on top of the piles of jewelry I was working on at the time, for some reason, he was always drawn to mine. And it kind of became a thing. His label reached out to me that he wanted to do a ring commemorating his first album. They gave me the opportunity to design it, so that was super exciting. It's the craziest thing being a Latino and having the top Latin artist support you is a dream.

How would you describe the aesthetic and ethos of your work and your designs for your jewelry?

What I take is things I grew up seeing like my uncles wearing signet rings or these gemstone rings, classic Cuban necklaces. Just taking like classic silhouettes and modernizing them in a way, adding my life experiences. So whether it's my Central American roots and taking things from Mayan ruins and using those textures on jewelry. Or things from my upbringing in Palmdale, California. People see Joshua Tree as that destination for influencers. But for me, that was my everyday life. And it wasn't as fun as it looks like on Instagram. It was more of a learning experience and a growing experience. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Because when you come from towns like that, all you have is time to focus on your craft and perfect it. And you also find the beauty in things that are not normally looked at as beautiful before. Like deserts or like that loneliness that comes with that.

How does your Latin heritage influence your work?

A lot of it is really trying to promote my culture and my roots. Because even working at Dover Street, you work around the most talented designers and you're around the most beautiful brands that have the best look and design. And I realized that there is a void in the industry and that void wasn't in the newest coolest thing, it was a designer like me. A designer with my background, I was the void in the industry. I know there are fine jewelers or jewelers in general that come out of Latin America, but Central America specifically, I feel like there's none. Especially in fine jewelry, it's something that is a very gate-kept industry and I've knocked on so many doors and gotten so many no's and so many "you need 10 years of references" or you need this or you need that. And luckily with the NDC's help, I'm starting to get in there. It's amazing.

What was it like to get involved with the NDC this season?

I feel like it really took my brand to the next level and actually made it a brand. Rather than just custom orders and just putting things out here and there. It really helped me develop my first collection and actual collection. And the resources—like I said, knocking on a lot of doors and getting a lot of no's and a lot of yes's come back when you get these references and things like that. They kind of spoke for me and really helped me get my foot in the door. I mean that's something I want to do for other people who look like me or come from my background. The resources, like getting these manufacturers with some of the biggest companies in the world. So the quality, the resources have been endless.