Photos: Terrence Matlin

In a world where everyone wants to fit in, CINDY HULEJ truly stands out. Owner of Cindy Guitars in New York City, Hulej is a one-woman show who handcrafts electric guitars and basses out of old wood from famous New York City buildings such as the Chelsea Hotel, Chumley’s speakeasy, Jim Jarmusch’s loft and Trinity Church. Describing her personal style as “somewhere between an exquisite Civil War reenactment widow and Morticia Addams Chic,” she follows her heart with what draws her in visually and interest wise, and of course uses her clothing and accessories for self-expression.

Ten years ago, Hulej started working out of the Greenwich Village staple music store Carmine Street Guitars with Rick Kelly, who has been building and repairing instruments for over 50 years. She walked into his store for an apprenticeship and never left. They both build their guitar’s body and neck from scratch and don’t use any CNCs. Hulej uses old school machinery and hand tooling from making the templates to finishing the wood. She then customizes her guitars with wood burning, leather, inlay, feather and anything else she feels like experimenting with.

When STATE OPTICAL began its search for brand ambassadors who embody their “New Original” mantra of someone who creates their own space, Hulej was an easy fit. “Knowing State’s story, I have a lot of respect for them because they are people that put their all into their passion. Really there is no other way to do it if you’re serious about making your vision a reality,” she says. “It’s nice to be paired up with a company that seems to understand sacrifice, design, hard work, passion, and appreciates uniqueness and creativity.”

Every guitar Hulej has made over the last 10 years has been one of a kind. Just like her designs, Hulej’s personal style with its punk rock undercurrent is originality at its best. When asked what she looks for when choosing her eyewear? Simply, something that doesn’t look like everything else.

–Jillian Urcelay