In Conversation With the Founders of South African Jewelry Brand Sadie + Jean

In Conversation With the Founders of South African Jewelry Brand Sadie + Jean

Founded in 2019 by the dynamic duo of Ilana Jossel and Nikki van der Westhuizen, South African-based jewelry brand Sadie + Jean stands as a testament to the celebration of strong, brave women who have shaped their lives. The brand takes its name from the fusion of Jossel’s daughter, Sadie, and van der Westhuizen’s grandmother, Jean, seamlessly blending the “old” and the “new.”

The co-founders of Sadie + Jean, share a vision for creating well-made products that embody a relaxed lifestyle and reflect their minimal aesthetic. Their journey began when they worked together at a content creation company, where a strong connection, similar aesthetics, and shared values laid the foundation for a beautiful partnership. An idea by van der Westhuizen sparked the inception of Sadie + Jean, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“There was no hesitation that we were going to take on this brand together,” the designers say. “It’s been a very natural, organic fit and we are so fortunate to have one another in this crazy, beautiful entrepreneurial journey that has been Sadie + Jean.”

The brand’s jewelry pieces are not just accessories; they are an ode to treasured heirlooms within the founders’ families. By infusing contemporary elements into timeless jewels, Sadie + Jean captures the essence of classic design that resonates across generations. The influence of strong, brave women in their families reflects in every piece, creating a brand identity rooted in familial connections and enduring elegance.

Sadie + Jean places a premium on quality, attention to detail, and sustainability. All pieces are meticulously designed and handmade in South Africa, with materials and gemstones sourced ethically and sustainably. The commitment to a zero-waste policy ensures that each jewelry piece is crafted to last, steering clear of the fast-fashion cycle.

In a significant milestone, the brand recently expanded into wholesale with The Folklore Connect, with the platform’s international reach providing an opportunity for Sadie + Jean to introduce their brand to a broader audience. As they embark on this new chapter, the founders emphasize the importance of maintaining the unique identity of their brand, ensuring that the essence of Sadie + Jean is effectively conveyed to all. 

The Folklore Edit speaks to Sadie + Jean’s Ilana Jossel and Nikki van der Westhuizen about the timeless appeal of their designs, venturing into wholesale and maintaining the unique identity of their brand.


Ilana and Nikki, founders of Sadie + Jean


How would you describe yourselves and what you do?

We are the co-founders of Sadie + Jean, an online-based fine jewelry brand from South Africa, which incorporates timeless modern classics to celebrate the everyday. 

What was the inspiration behind starting a jewellery brand? Did you always want to work in the fashion and design space?

We noticed a gap in the jewellery market in South Africa where there was very little fine or demi-fine jewelry being sold. Most brands were either offering costume jewellery or were very expensive boutique stores, so there was nothing in between. We wanted to bridge the gap here with Sadie + Jean and offer timeless, minimal pieces at fair prices.

We both have backgrounds in fashion, PR and content creation along with a natural passion for jewellery. Nikki used to do jewelry classes, but on a very part-time basis, so we really have taught ourselves everything within this industry from manufacturing, to learning about the processes of different metals and launching an online brand – and we just can’t get enough!

Sadie + Jean is all about embracing a minimal and timeless aesthetic. How did this vision come about, and how does it translate into your jewelry designs?

As individuals, we’ve both always been drawn to timeless, considered and minimal design, which translates greatly into our everyday lives. So we set out to create a brand with well-made products where simplicity and effortless living was key.

Sadie + Jean jewelry


Your brand’s name, Sadie + Jean, holds a special meaning. Could you tell us more about the significance of these names and how they influence the brand’s identity?

Having both been born into families surrounded by strong and brave women, we wanted the brand to mirror and celebrate this. The name is a combination of Sadie, Ilana’s daughter, and Jean, Nikki’s grandmother, so bringing in the old and the new.

What do you think makes Sadie + Jean stand out from other contemporary jewelry brands in the market?

We believe that we have a very strong brand identity and an aesthetic that shines through in everything that we do. All of our jewelry pieces have been influenced by much loved, treasured heirlooms and vintage designs within our families that carry deep meaning and, of course, in true Sadie + Jean style, always adding a modern reinterpretation to them allowing them to be passed down to future generations with love.

We believe in an ode to the past while celebrating the present day with items that will last for years to come.  We want all of our pieces to bring up the feelings of sentimentality and nostalgia as we truly believe that jewelry should make you feel something!

Sadie + Jean jewelry  Sadie + Jean jewelry

Jewelry can be personal: initial letters and personalized engravings are recurring features in your designs, and many pieces are made to order. Why do you think jewellery is such a great tool for self-expression?

Jewelry has a wonderful way of sparking joy and bringing comfort to the wearer through its sentimentality. Most of our pieces have been designed with customisation and personalisation in mind allowing for the creation of meaningful, one of a kind keepsakes to be treasured for years to come. 

Every individual has their own story to tell and we love that they now have the option of making an item their own by adding their own personal stamp to a piece, whether it be with engraving, a significant date, letter or personal mantra to hold close to their heart. 

Jewelry allows individuals to showcase their personal style and preferences. Whether it’s bold and extravagant, or delicate and subtle, the choice of jewelry reflects an individual’s taste and aesthetic. It can also act as a way to connect with one’s roots or communicate important aspects of one’s identity.

Sustainability and ethical sourcing are important to Sadie + Jean. How do you ensure that these principles are integrated into your design and production processes?

All our pieces are designed and handmade in South Africa, with our materials and gem stones ethically and sustainably sourced, and our pieces being of the highest of standards, we know that they will last a lifetime, and not become a part of the fast-fashion cycle.

Sadie + Jean jewelry


The barrier to entry is high in jewelry design, and women designers are underrepresented. What do you think is the key to supporting designers and increasing the visibility of women-owned brands to a global audience?

We are aware that the jewelry industry has traditionally been a man’s world, but we are trying to break that cycle by adding a softer, more nurturing touch to our approach. Sadie + Jean is a proudly South African female-founded business with a strong female generational influence. From our grandmothers, mothers, and now to our own daughters, who guide and drive everything that we do. We pride ourselves on uplifting the community around us by emphasising and working with all-women teams. This is of utmost importance to us and we have gone the extra mile to make sure that our manufacturers, suppliers, photographers and content creators are female-run teams as well as by giving back to those who need it most where we can.

We think that leveraging online and e-commerce platforms helps greatly to reach a global audience. Establishing a strong online presence can help women-owned brands overcome geographical limitations and connect with consumers worldwide. The Folklore Connect has also been pivotal in bringing female-owned businesses to the forefront.

Expanding into wholesale can be a significant milestone for a brand. What led you to consider wholesale, and how do you plan to maintain the unique identity and brand essence of Sadie + Jean while reaching a broader market?

This is indeed a significant milestone for us! We can see great opportunities for our brand overseas and by chance were approached by The Folklore to join their platform which came at the perfect time for our envisioned expansion.

If we find ourselves in big retailers, it will be of utmost importance for us to upskill and educate store staff to become ambassadors of the brand so that they are able to properly communicate our brand identity to customers. This would extend to merchandising of our products, too, of course. 

We do feel that our brand story is a relatable concept across the globe in terms of being made to last as well as creating a feeling of nostalgia and meaning with our jewellery pieces.

Sadie + Jean jewelry  Sadie + Jean jewelry

Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals for Sadie + Jean? Are there any specific milestones that you hope to achieve in the near future?

Long term, we hope to continue to create a brand with pieces of the highest quality to last a lifetime that are ethically and sustainably sourced and where females in business are always highlighted. We would also like to continue to give back to our community. Short term, we would like to expand our reach internationally through wholesale and get stocked by retailers in the US and beyond.

You’re one of the newest jewelry brands on The Folklore Connect. What would you say is the main reason for signing up to join the platform? How does The Folklore Connect meet the needs of your brand’s wholesale business?

We wanted to get visibility of the brand out to those who might not have heard of us. So far this is coming to fruition as we have been given the opportunity to present at The Folklore x NYFW showroom in February, which will allow us to meet buyers and physically introduce our brand to the US, which will be incredible for us. The Folklre has also provided us with the guidance of how to expand into wholesale, which has proven to be invaluable support.


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