Fluid forms and fine craftsmanship make an irresistible combination at AGMES.
There must have been jewellery threaded into the DNA of AGMES founder Morgan Lang’s family. Her late grandmother, who grew up in Mexico, would take her granddaughters—Morgan, as well as her sister, Jaclyn, who would go on to collaborate on AGMES—to markets teeming with silver in her home city after she had immigrated to the US. It spurred Lang’s interest in the aesthetic world as a child. “I remember finding rings in the silver markets with movement and developed an early association between jewellery and play,” she says. “To this day, I lean more towards silver pieces in my everyday life because it brings me back to the markets, old adventures, and just has tremendous meaning for me.”
Lang then began designing and fashioning her own little necklaces and trinkets at just seven years old, at summer camp. “As long as I can remember, I would sketch pieces wishing I could create them for or I’d collect little things during my travels to make into jewellery,” she says.
Now, she is the creative force behind the eight-year-old jewellery label AGMES, which designs and manufactures all of its pieces in New York City. Its forms are fluid and sculptural, taking inspiration from disparate (at first glance) forces. Nature, in all its divine and unusual forms, leads the way for Lang, but even more so when contrasted with the warped forms of modernism. “I’m particularly drawn to movement, contours, angles, slight variations, and imperfections,” she says. She cites the work of surrealist sculptors, from Alberto Giacometti to Barbara Hepworth, Isamu Noguchi, and Jean Arp, as her inspirations. And, of course, her family.
“With my grandma’s influence, my mum began collecting stunning [jewellery] as a child and has continued throughout her life,” she explains. “Her collection is filled with so many memories and stories she’d share with me, including going to the silver markets herself as a child, and gifts she’d been given over the years.” Lang’s father also worked as a jewellery seller while he was in university, and he would design pieces for himself and Lang’s mother, some of which she’s “ been lucky to have passed down” to her.
Lang’s never really envisaged jewellery making as her career—just a hobby. While she was at university, she found evening courses in local jewellery stores and learned beading and metal techniques. In the summers, she took weekend courses at various art schools to get more of a sense for design. When she moved to New York City, she finally learned to carve her own pieces—a process she describes as “much more challenging than what [she]’d done to date.” But in the way challenges often do, it came with a bright spark at the end: “I got to finally make the kinds of pieces I’d only dreamed of so far.”
It was only with the encouragement of an old friend, though, that Lang decided that jewellery was more than a pastime. It had seeped into her life, taking over her free time until it became a natural move to create the brand; to transition her love of crafting special pieces from a hobby to a career. “I was happiest when my fingers were numb in a dark basement, unknowingly working towards a dream that felt almost childish before,” she muses.
It was this friend, Andrew, who AGMES is named after. When naming AGMES, Lang wanted to honour him, as well as her grandmother, Elvira, whose love of jewellery first started the fire inside Lang. “‘AGMES’ is a combination of Andrew’s initials, ‘AG’, and my maiden initials, ‘MES’, the ‘E’ being my shared name with my grandma.”
AGMES was inspired by Lang’s relationships, but its pieces speak to her eye for bold design. The idea for the Cliff Cuff, one of her earliest and simplest releases, came about while she was waiting for travel documentation to be approved in the same building as in New York’s National Museum of the American Indian. “I went in and was immediately mesmerised by the skills, craftsmanship, and the art. I got lost in the museum and I spent hours there.” The angles, unexpected edges and beadwork of the designs flicked something inside her, and Lang didn’t stop ruminating on them for days. Later, she developed the scalloped edge that would form the distinctive feature of the Cliff Cuff—the first of AGMES’s pieces to be picked up by a retailer, and one of the brand’s most popular. “I’m really happy to say that even today, nearly eight years later, many of our most-loved styles are from my first collections."
This timelessness underscores a key part of Lang’s vision for AGMES. “I like to think that each piece is going into someone’s life, to a home,” she explains. Lang chooses to work with recycled gold, silver and gold vermeil, with sustainable design and production at the core of the brand. Pieces are “made from high-quality materials without being flashy, and lightweight for a sense of ease every day.” As she was creating AGMES, she was deliberate about building her business slowly and staying close enough to the pieces that she wouldn’t overproduce.
But she knows that sustainability is about more than durable or repurposed materials. “I wanted to create something classic, without seasonality, and outside trends that typically have a short life cycle of a few months, and focus on pieces that could become modern heirlooms to be passed down for generations to come—styles that will last a lifetime both physically and aesthetically,” she says. “I’ve always felt that the jewellery I’d collected carried memories and that so much of its value came with the association to specific moments, people, and experiences, so I wanted my work to be able to hold that kind of magic too.”