Elton John's collaboration with jewelry company Thief and Heist will feature rainbow bracelets to benefit the LGBTQ+ community through his AIDS foundation
Elton John‘s latest project has a powerful mission behind it.
The “Tiny Dancer” singer, 72, teamed up with jewelry brand Thief and Heist for the newest iteration of its signature tag bracelet.
The collaboration features the company’s classic nylon band and sterling silver clasp, now offered in a rainbow of different colors in honor of Pride Month and the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. As an effort to give back to the LGBTQ+ community, 20 percent of all sales made from the $125 bracelets will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which John established in 1992.
The singer, who has been involved in the fight against AIDS for more than 25 years, exclusively tells PEOPLE that the issue is as pressing as ever, which is why the partnership with Thief and Heist is so meaningful to him.
“New HIV infections are on the increase amongst marginalized and disenfranchised gay men and trans people, particularly in the Southern U.S.,” he says.
John continues, “We have much work to do; breaking down stigma and making sure that everyone has access to HIV testing and affordable treatment.”
The Elton John AIDS Foundation operates on the belief that AIDS can be beaten and has raised over $400 million over the past 25 years. The organization uses its funds to provide preventative services, instigate policy changes, and of course, offer treatment to those suffering from the disease.
Elton tells PEOPLE that he and husband of four years David Furnish had a personal relationship with Thief and Heist founder Francesca Amfitheatrof, which initially sparked the idea of their collaboration. They had all been in the same social circle of the London art world for years and admired each other’s personal styles and creative endeavors.
“In allegiance to the LGBTQ+ community and fluidity, the Tag is an outward representation of freedom. We believe AIDS can be beaten and hope people will join us in celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and supporting EJAF’s efforts,” Amfitheatrof said in a press release.
From his embellished jackets to his arsenal of over-the-top sunglasses, John’s one-of-a-kind, world-renowned style has been admired for decades. His personal approach to dressing? John says he likes to look “exuberant and eclectic.” But with a clothing collection so large some things eventually must go, which the singer admits can be a challenge.
“I have a very difficult time letting go of items that I have an emotional attachment to,” he says. But John realized that by purging pieces from his closet, he could actually do good, too. “Over the years, I’ve found the most motivating way to get rid of pieces is to sell them to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation,” he adds.
He does, however, save archive clothing and eyewear pieces from his stage wardrobe for his kids. His favorite of which, he said, is the Donald Duck outfit he wore onstage in Central Park in 1980.
The icon is especially known for his incredible collection of sunglasses, which he says has grown so large, he can hardly keep track of how many he owns in total anymore. “They are all stored in their original cases with my handwriting on each case, indicating the color and style of each piece,” John says.
“I’m thrilled and humbled by the positive response to my Farewell Tour and the film Rocketman,” John says. “I’m grateful that Francesca approached David and me to work with Thief and Heist.”
In the film, fans see how the star has gotten to where he is today — and that the journey was not always smooth sailing.
Well into his singing days, John was engaged to a woman. The thought of marrying her, however, put him in a state of depression and led him to attempt suicide (which he later admitted was more of a cry for help than a serious endeavor). His dear friend and ex-bandmate encouraged John to come out as gay and break off his engagement.
John attributed his hit song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” to this friend, and told PEOPLE that it’s about “how friendship can save you in a fleeting moment.”
Even after this seemingly positive turn in his life, John still suffered from drug addiction, alcohol abuse and bulimia. Then, in 1990, his close friend, Ryan White, the young boy who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion and captured America’s heart with this story, died. Faced with this dark reality, John realized that he had to make a change.
“I was going to get sober or I was going to die,” he said in a 1999 interview on 60 Minutes.
After 29 years of sobriety, John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1993. Since then, he has married his longtime partner, brought two sons into their family and continued to make waves in music, fashion, cinema and philanthropy.