Mr. Flawless: Time To Shine

Mr. Flawless: Time To Shine

There is a certain amount of je ne sais quoi one must have to operate within the entertainment industry. That unexplained X-factor is the human embodiment form of Greg “Mr. Flawless” Yuna. You wouldn’t know it by his creatively outlandish Instagram posts, but the 33-year-old is the newest rising high jeweler to the stars. His brash, flashy, yet fun demeanor rubs some a kind of way he can care less about. He has a client roster that could easily be the VIP list for the hottest A-List party of the year: Cee-lo Green, Victor Cruz of the NY Giants, Drake [when he’s not dancing], but the funniest and most fruitful is his relationship with undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. Yuna and Mayweather pretty much have an ongoing IG sitcom, where they playfully argue about any and everything under the sun that has to deal with jewelry. “A Rolex is like a Lamborghini,” says Yuna. “For starters, a Rolex watch is not a Lamborghini. It’s more like a Honda,” Mayweather retorts, eliciting laughs from Yuna’s cousins, who are partners in the jewelry business with him. “Well, for me it’s a Lamborgini… [Mayweather’s] house keepers have [a Rolex],” Yuna shoots back, gaining even more laughs. This type of banter goes down at Yuna’s 6th Avenue and 47th Street corner booth in the same famed location that formerly housed the bling gawd known as Jacob the Jeweler, who ruled the platinum and ice rap world era of the late '90s and early 2000s.

Yuna, though, has had his eyes on the prize of the bling king title for some time now. With about four years under his belt in the diamond game, he’s relatively new, but has been making up a lot of ground with over the top marketing of his personal brand, Mr. Flawless. A collab sneaker with the Fila brand, an abstract remix of the popular Jesus piece head with visual art super star Naturel and a recent art/jewelry Art Basel show in Miami has the Mr. Flawless brand looking right. All this doesn’t even count the many hoodies, tees, hats and actual jewelry pieces with his staple slogan “Your Jeweler Ain’t Sh*t” selling like hot cakes off his MrFlawless.com site.

The Queens-bred Russian American New Yorker is a true city kid hustler, through and through. So much so that he literally takes his good friends, clients and people of noted status into the middle of Sixth Avenue and comes up with awesomely staged settings, like getting tatted by VH1’s Black Ink crew, a true pillow fight with hot models, being interviewed by Hot 97’s radio host Laura Styles and gathering over 40 BMX street riders all in the center hash marks of the busy 47th Street intersection. These Instagram color concoctions of marketing genius—all shot in the time it takes for a traffic light to go from green to red—are getting more elaborate by the session. At one point, he got up at 6 a.m. to position two extremely expensive Lamborghinis diagonally so the stunting factor would be insanity for even him to top... yet, he presses on. And you ask, “What does this all have to do with selling jewelry?” Attention brings attention, which is always good for business.

VIBE: How long had Jacob the Jeweler been gone from that particular booth before you took over there?
Mr. Flawless: I’d say Jacob’s been gone from that particular booth for years. My cousin got [it] when Jacob left. The window was open. My cousin Eddie, at the time—who's now my partner—he jumped in on it. He was there like two, three years before me. And he was working with Jacob the Jeweler's nephew at the time. So he had a couple of clients that he was dealing with that dealt with Jacob that f**ked with him. My cousin, Eddie and Jacob the Jeweler’s nephew had a falling out. And they kind of needed… Basically, his dad hollered at my mom and was like listen, we need somebody to work for seasonal because we lost a dude and it’s just getting crazy in here.

So your cousin kept it. What were you in job wise before that?
I was getting my... I was doing my New York thing [smiles].

Yea, you were hustling...
I wasn’t really trying to go. I was like $70 a day? I don’t want to do it. Plus, I’m not a salesman and I don’t even like jewelry like that. I don’t even want to be in the jewelry game. I don’t know sh*t about watches. I don’t anything about jewelry. Like, ‘They’ll teach you, blah, blah, blah, blah. Just go.’ I was like listen, I’m gonna go for seasonal then I’m out of there. So I worked seven days a week from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I had no life. I was working from like 8 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night, 12-hour shifts every day.

After the holiday season, somehow [my mom] talked me into going back there. The day I come back, Fab[olous] walks in. Fab’s not my client. He’s [longtime jeweler to the stars] David Bling’s client. But the fact that he walked in, I was so excited because I’m from the culture. I’m like, “Oh sh*t, Fab’s here.” So I hung out. Two days later, 50 Cent walks in. Not my client. This is Dave Bling’s client. They go straight upstairs and I’m like, yo, this might be a place for me because these guys are starting to walk in now and I’m starting to feel like something could happen. Next thing you know, 50 walks in one day when Dave’s not there. He comes over straight to me. Me and him start talking… Now [people are coming in,] they’re not his clients, they’re just coming.

But those conversations helped sway you.
I was at an exchange where everyone was in a suit and tie and everyone’s all you know, and I was kind of the only one dressed up like just me, regular. And I think they were kind of drawn to that and I spoke the language.

I remember Floyd came in one day and he was like, ‘Yo, where’s my man?’ And I’m like, I’ve been working here for like a month. I don’t even know what’s going on. I was so happy to give him a pound. He gave me one of these [fist bump], he doesn't shake people’s hands. I was so upset. I’m like I’m not f**king with him no more. And I didn’t know Floyd at the time. He gets into his bad moods and he has his good moods. He came in when he was in a bad mood. He’s like, “Where’s the other guy?” I’m like he’s not here. And I didn’t know what to do. It’s the first time they leave me alone in the booth and Floyd comes in. I’m like f**k. So I’m showing him sh*t, and he’s looking at me like I’m crazy and I remember him leaving that day and I’m like I’m never f**king with him again. I’m not ordering no more Pay-Per-Views. Because I used to have [fight] parties at my house. I would charge motherf**kers at the door like $5. And I’m like I’m never having another Pay-Per-View party. F**k this sh*t. I was a fan. So fast-forward to a couple of months later, I started making my own pieces. I was like, you know what, I’m going to make myself a pendant. And I made a pendant.

What kind?
It was a Converse [logo].

It was like the star with the arrow?
Yea, just the Converse pendant. I just thought that it was a classic piece. I don’t even wear Converse, but it was just a nice… Whatever. I made it, it ended up selling a lot of money.

Then my cousin gave me kind of flexibility to play with certain stuff, because they were doing the watches and the jewelry, but I didn’t have the eye for jewelry then. I just did what I thought was hot for me. Then I made rosaries. Growing up I liked rosaries, but I couldn’t wear them because I was Jewish. So I was like, yo what the f**k. Can I switch it up? Can I take the mother Mary out and put a Jewish star there and drop it down to a hand or something? So I did that.

Floyd comes in a couple months down the line. I’m pissed off. I’m not talking to him. I got my rosaries on, I’m feeling good. Then he starts looking over at me. I see him looking so I try to wave a little. He’s like, "Yo what you got on your neck?" It’s my new rosary that I just made. And he bought three of them, right then and there. And me and him, little by little, started getting back into a cool place. Then it just moved to him coming for me. And I wasn’t scared to argue with him. I feel like that’s why he liked me.

It’s been a few years now.
Yea, I blame him for me having the “Mr.” name, because he was like, "Yo dude, I like your jewelry and nobody knows about you. You gotta make a name.” Mr. Flawless 1, ding! He tweeted me [and] I got like 700 followers that day. I go to Queens Center Mall in Queens. I get it printed on a sweater, $25 with the sweater. I had Instagram for like maybe two months and I posted it on Instagram, then people were like yo, I want a sweater.

How did those photo shoots on Sixth Avenue start?
I hated the way my booth looked and when people come and are like, hey can I get a picture? The management there, won’t let me change the way my booth is set up. That’s the same booth Jacob the Jeweler was in. Biggie was there, Jay was there. So it’s a historical place. I didn’t like the lighting in there. So I started bringing my stuff outside. A lot of the pictures of the jewelry is outside. And then I started going from the sidewalk a little bit to the street. Then just playing…

Then next thing you know, you’re in the middle of Sixth Ave.
And I was like how many seconds we got on this thing? So I would count it down. We got 48 seconds for the light to turn green again. And I would do whatever I could. 48 seconds. I think it’s a good way to cross brand with people too. You get a dude, let’s just say Puff comes through and I take a picture with him, now I’m posting it, he’s posting it, people talking about it.

Do you remember the first one you did in the middle of the street?
Actually me and Dave Bling did the first one. Me and Dave Bling did the first one on 47th Street. So I’m going to tell you what happened, this is the best. So we were outside, me and Dave were just talking sh*t, and our security guard was a photographer on the side. So they were throwing out chairs and all the sh*t from the building next door to us, and they put it on Sixth Avenue for it to be picked up by the garbage men. So we’re taking pictures on these chairs in front of my store, and I’m like, yo Dave, grab these two. Let’s go on 47th Street and just take a picture in the street. He’s like alright. So we grab these two chairs, we’re waiting for the light. We’re both looking at the light to change. We’re on 47th Street and 6th waiting for the light to change, and as soon as we pull the chairs into the middle of the street, we sit down, we look back, there’s a Phantom coming. The Phantom, we were not expecting nothing. It looked like we propped it, paid the guy. He was in a suit. I was in my bullsh*t clothes, and we just took the picture. And it was a million-dollar picture.

But then they started becoming super creative. You had a bed out there on one joint. Then you got a joint with the Lambos out there.
I was able to do things without spending money. It looks like a million-dollar production.

What was your biggest challenge, jewelry piece-wise, to make for some one?
There’s so many. There’s a lot. Some dude came in one time and was like, “I wanna make… You ever seen the Smooth Magazine with Coco in it?” Somebody wanted that as a piece.

Wanted her?
Yea, wanted her a** all that, leaning over. It was supposedly for [Ice-T]. And I had to get a dude who knew how to sculpt and all that. It was just a fucking headache. We had to do it in different color gold so it would pop. I have photos of it somewhere, but it was cool.

Now how much would be doing a piece like that cost?
It was like $8,500 probably. I would sell it for like $15,000.

You’ve been doing some ill collabos, like the jewelry game has stepped up for you where you can do something with [visual artist] Naturel and stepping into fashion linking up with Fila.
Well, the Naturel thing is I first saw his stuff when Swizz Beatz put it up, and his artwork was kind of cool because I had never seen anything like that. So I remember liking one of his photos like, “Yo this is dope.” He wrote back thanks, and we started going back and forth. So he pulled up on me one day like, “let’s do a jewelry piece.” A jewelry piece? I didn’t understand that. He sent me a Jesus piece. And as soon as that sh*t came in my phone and I opened up that text message, I was like “Yes, I f**ked with it.” And from that, we changed the game with a Jesus piece. I think that’s what put me on the map as far as being a different type of jeweler. The Fila thing, they had reached out and were like, we wanted to know if you wanted to do a collab. You can pick out your sneakers and what it is. And I always liked Fila. I remember having a pair growing up when I went into the office, saw a couple of shoes, picked out a couple and I was like this could work. I knew Fab was doing one. A couple of other people were doing one. Let me see what’s going on. I don’t like to jump on sh*t when it’s hot already. I like it when it’s either nothing or luke warm. I like to get on before it’s hot. And I don’t know, we just came up with putting the gold and that together.

But what makes a brand hot? When you look at something, what make it hot? Is it design, exclusivity...?
Exclusivity, man. Design, too.

But you can take something that’s not necessarily hot and add something to it to make it…
I think marketing is key. I think if you take sh*t, and you market it right, it’ll sell. But then you can have a really hot product and if you don’t market it right, it won’t sell. So it’s all about marketing.

What are some of your other plans on the horizon?
I got other sh*t that I’m working on. I’m trying to get this sh*t on walls now. I don’t want people wearing pieces anymore. I saw what they were doing last year out there at Art Basel. You see a kid take paint, throw it on the wall, $3,500. And I was like come on man. For what? Canvas is $100, some paint...I’m not taking away from any artist. Some of the sh*t is dope, and some of the sh*t is like, “why is this $17,000?” And why can’t I do this sh*t? Take a f**king can of paint and throw it on the wall. But what I could do is take my jewelry and put it on the wall and frame it. So what we did. I had my man draw Biggie. You seen my Pico Jesus? I put a tiny Cuban link and I wrapped it around Biggie’s neck and we framed that.

And how much does that run?
The piece actually didn’t cost me too much, but what I’m saying is I’m offering somebody gold. And I’m offering somebody art. I could say 100 grand if I want to. And I don’t even have to sell it. It’s $100,000. I don’t care if you buy it. It’s going in my house.

I’m the Picasso of the jewelry world. That’s it. That’s next. That’s what I’m working on.

Photography: Karl Ferguson Jr.
Stylist: Carlton Yaito
Model: Elizabeth Zayas
Video: Charlie Summers, Azzie Scott for Dream Dept. Media 
Location: Studios LIC

Main Image Credit: VIBE/ Karl Ferguson Jr.