“My designs are like armor,” says Joshua David Reno, creator of glove and handwear brand Majesty Black. Oh, but what armor it is! Supple, luxurious, embellished with gems and flashes of metal, Majesty Black gloves are worn by women and men with a powerful presence who want to make a provocative statement, people like Madonna, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Kat Von D, Leafar Seyer, Ghost's new leader Papa Nil and more.
Founded in 2012, Majesty Black is comprised of designer Joshua David Reno, his associate and fellow stylist Vee Cruz, and illustrator/graphics artist Paressi Labitan (aka Pres One, whose murals and paintings decorate the walls of Majesty Black’s DTLA live/work space and showroom). Reno was born in Hemet and raised in Bishop, beginning his career in his late teens, working as a piercer. Seeking wider horizons, he moved to San Francisco, where he met Cruz; he credits the dancer/performance artist as his muse. The two skimped and saved to put themselves through school. Cruz graduated from the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics & Cosmetology, focusing on hair and makeup, while Reno attended Apparel Arts, considered to be the Bay Area’s toughest fashion school, where he studied French patterns. The precise system lent itself perfectly to glovemaking, as did his work piercing flesh.
“My experience as a piercer helped me to understand skin and how to properly implant the metal fingernails and other embellishments on our gloves,” Reno says. “Hands are the most complicated part of the body to fit correctly, and our gloves are meticulously handcrafted to insure they fit and move like a second skin.”
Madonna was one of their first adopters, wearing Majesty Black on the cover of the deluxe edition of Rebel Heart. Her stylist tapped the brand to create costumes for the superstar’s 2015 performances at the Grammys and Brit Awards as well as for a series of music videos including “Ghosttown.” More recently, Madonna used Majesty Black gloves in ads for her newly released MDNA skin care line.
Beyoncé, Ruby Rose, Jaden Smith, Paris Jackson, Erykah Badu, Daphne Guinness, Selena Gomez, Shakira and Demi Lovato are among the celebrities who wear Majesty Black gloves and accessories. Rihanna even wore the company’s Black Sarah nail gloves to the first Women’s March.
Numerous editorial spreads, including the cover of Vogue Italia, and runway commissions have kept the company busy, too. Their gloves accessorize cutting-edge fashion lines such as The Blonds, who featured Majesty Black in their runway show during New York Fashion Week. On the streets, their hand harnesses and fingerless gloves appear on the dance floors at local clubs like Lil Death, Sex Cells and Cloak & Dagger.
When artist and beauty innovator Kat Von D started planning the campaign for her beauty line’s 10th anniversary, she approached the designer with a list of muses she wanted featured in a promotional video. He studied the subjects and sketched out looks for each, styling each of them in head-to-toe custom pieces in collaboration with Von D. The results have been teased on Instagram for several months and will be revealed fully on Saturday, May 5, when Kat Von D Beauty’s 10th-anniversary collection is launched.
Reno says that, inspired by Von D, he's been sourcing luxury animal-free products to create designs for vegan clientele. He made pieces for Prayers singer Leafar Seyer (now Von D's husband) before the pair met. This week on Instagram, she announced that Majesty Black was designing the gown for their official June wedding celebration and ceremony.
Majesty Black also created the costume for His Unholiness, Papa Nil, the (new) central character in the mythos of the dark metal band Ghost. The Swedish group have won an international legion of fans through their videos and live shows, and won the 2016 Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance. For the band's most recent video, “Rats,” Pres One painted the original design for the dueling devil insignia on gold thread–trimmed white satin papal regalia adorned with a hand-embroidered Typhonian cross, made by Reno. An elaborate hand-beaded and embroidered mitre completes the look. Majesty Black gloves and other pieces will be seen on Ghost’s upcoming tour, which begins Saturday, May 5. [Editor's note: These looks are sure to pop up at the band's intimate Grammy Museum show tonight and maybe a rumored secret gig somewhere in L.A. later this week!]
With Majesty Black established as a premier gantier, Reno is focusing more on costuming for films and music videos, while Cruz’s skills as a stylist for fashion, as well as hair and makeup, are in demand. Pres One executes graphics and paintings, making Majesty Black a one-stop shop for cognoscenti.
As for the gloves that started it all, some pairs are elbow-length, with fins; others are fingerless and can be customized with metal letters. One version, in either vegan or nappa leather, features a palmistry guide Reno carefully compiled using guides dating back to chiromancy’s earliest history. Sets of finger tips with metal stiletto nails, hand wraps that resemble postmodern tefillin (leather prayer straps used in Orthodox Jewish prayers), and wide finger bands adorned with gem-spiked metal rings are favorites. Majesty Black recently introduced a small line of hats in vegan and leather, and they have a soon-to-be-released new line of gloves in stretch velvet with their signature implanted metal stiletto nails on the fingertips.
In order to manufacture gloves and hats to his standards, Reno traveled to Bali and opened his own atelier there, paying above-average wages to his 10-person team, who also get paid health insurance. The company also takes into consideration both Hindu and Muslim holidays. The company’s work practices and policies are an important component of its success.
“I wanted our team to have the benefits Vee and I would have liked when we worked retail jobs, and to meet or exceed the workplace standards set in California,” Reno explains. “What we do can’t be mass-produced. Each glove is handmade and sized traditionally. There is no small, medium, large. Our metal embellishments are hand-forged. We can and do custom-make gloves for any size hands. Everything we do is an expression of ourselves, and we want our team to be happy working for us, in the same way we want our clients to be happy with the finished product.”
He adds, “Everything we make, we do with intention. I’ve always worked to enhance and draw forth the inner qualities of others and help them manifest how they see themselves. The hand — in this case gloved — does the work of the mind. Beauty is individual, and our adornments, how we as humans choose to decorate ourselves, helps to project our self into the world.”
More about Majesty Black here.