How Three African Accessories Brands Are Building Purpose Into Statement Jewelry
The word “statement” as a prefix to many fashion items – dress, shoe, accessory – may be overused these days, but it often serves an underrated and practical purpose. Making a statement with your clothes is not just about looking good and standing out in a room. Rather, your choice of outfit can be a way to telegraph your principles or affiliation with certain movements, for example. Wearing a T-shirt with a “we should all be feminists” slogan across the chest clearly says that you’re, well, a feminist. This also applies to accessories such as jewelry. Although they may not have the space for catchy phrases and pithy words, pieces of jewelry are still able to do the talking and make fashionable yet purpose-driven statements on your behalf.
African jewelry designers such as Gillian Anderson of Lorne and Katherine-Mary Pichulik have found a way to imbue their creations with those qualities that are usually, almost always attributed to citizens of the continent – loudness, color and vibrancy. African jewelry has always been a means to communicate status, position in society and other unspoken words, which is common in the Massai tribe. In the Igbo culture of Nigeria, brides wear strings of coral beads as necklaces or headpieces as part of their traditional wedding attire. Regarded as symbols of wealth, power, beauty and royalty, the accessories are also worn by kings and chiefs to denote their statuses.
By building purpose into the DNA of their brands, these three designers are using their creativity to express their values and social responsibility through earrings, bracelets and rings, passing it on to the wearer to share with the world.
Shop the Wild Flower Earrings by Lorne
South African jewelry brand Lorne began in 2016 as a suggestion by the founder Gillian Lawrence’s brother and from there, her love for jewelry-making was formed. Specializing in whimsical designs based on unique shapes and inspired by the human body, the brand fashions alloys of bronze, brass and copper into “mangled and mishappen” pieces. “Lorne recognises that all people are unique and believes the things that adorn our bodies should be too,” the brand says. “We believe that life and the world and the people that fill it are made beautiful by our imperfections and oddities.” This philosophy is embodied in the Free The Nips Earrings, which are molded from gold-plated brass into the female torso, a talisman for body positivity. Likewise, the Wild Flower Earrings represent the complexities of being a woman, a combination of delicate elegance and daring strength.
Shop the Uzi Cuff by SOKO
Social responsibility is purposely built into the foundation of Nairobi-based jewelry brand SOKO. A women-led company that puts people first, SOKO’s ethos is based on the premise of empowering the artisans that create its wares to embrace entrepreneurship. By connecting marginalized and local craftspeople to a global market via the production of its earrings, bracelets and rings, SOKO is directly leverages the power of business to create a positive and lasting impact on the ground in local communities. Concurrently, the brand is inspired by powerful women who challenge the status quo, crafting its exquisite designs with them in mind. The vintage-style Uzi Cuff bracelet is responsibly handcrafted from brass by artisans, with proceeds from each purchase going towards infrastructure renovation and innovation in artisanal manufacturing processes. SOKO has also teamed up with organizations such as United Nations Trust Fund (UNTF) to end violence against women, and Kazuri, a World Fair Trade Organization member, to support the Kenyan artisan community and their families while preserving their craft and heritage techniques.
Shop the Garland Hoop Earrings by Pichulik
Based in Cape Town, accessories brand Pichulik roots its designs and aesthetic in ancient African traditions and culture. The brainchild of designer Katherine-Mary Pichulik, the brand sees jewelry and ornamentation as a sacred conduit for healing, community and wisdom and seeks to empower women with all three through its pieces. Pichulik primarily utilizes rope to fashion its iterations of hoop earrings, taking what was once used as a means of bondage and reimagining it as a symbol of freedom and self-expression. Part of the SS21 Nascent collection, the Garland Hoop Earrings are inspired by new beginnings. Featuring pearl, sodalite or malachite stones, which amplify wisdom, self-trust and healing respectively, the earrings celebrate the regenerative forces of the cycles of rebirth and are intentioned to protect the wearer and ward off negative forces during transitional times, according to the brand.