Browse Tag

luxury

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Yenaé, High End Jewelry Inspired by African Culture

Yenaé (pronounced as Ye.Nay) is a high fashion jewelry brand that offers culturally curated and African-inspired collections. Their exquisite jewelry designs fuse deeply rooted and diverse African culture with a twist of modern design appeal.

We caught up with co-founder Seble Alemayehu to find out more about the business.

Yenaé
Yenaé co-founders, Seble Alemayehu and Felekech (Fei) Biratu.

What inspired you to start your business?

Yenaé was born out of our shared experiences – two Ethiopian- Americans, jewelry lovers, and co-founders, Seble Alemayehu and Felekech (Fei) Biratu.

While living in different parts of the US, we saw the magnitude of the lack of awareness that existed about Africa, especially in a positive light.

We were both born and raised in Ethiopia and we had first-hand knowledge about the creativity, craftsmanship, and resources that exist in Africa.

Coming from entrepreneurial families and holding MBA degrees ourselves, we decided to pursue our interest for business and love for jewelry.

With that, we founded Yenaé – a high fashion jewelry brand that takes patrons on a journey inside Africa through exquisite jewelry designs that blend culture and storytelling with a twist of modern design appeal for a wide range of jewelry enthusiasts.

How did you raise the capital to start your business?

Yenaé is 100% self-funded and women-owned. We raised our initial funds from our immediate families while we worked on the side to raise our own capital. But most importantly, we learned how to kickstart with minimal investment.

We heavily utilized a lean startup model to build the brand, where our ideas started with customer interviews, building out the minimum viable jewelry, testing it, quickly iterating, or pivoting to get to the core of our offering and branding.

What makes your pieces unique?

What makes Yenaé stand out is its creative focus on offering customers multi-wear jewelry. Currently, 50% of our collection fits this category, whereby a single piece of jewelry can be worn in a minimum of 3 different styles.

All of our jewelry is made from recycled brass, plated with 14K gold or rhodium; responsibly and ethically sourced Ethiopian semi-precious gemstones, hand-crafted by artisans in Ethiopia, and hand-polished hypoallergenic jewelry made in California, USA.

Ranging from simple, everyday jewelry to one-of-a-kind, contemporary statement pieces, each piece of jewelry has a story behind its design, sourced from historians and storytellers.

What is one lesson you’ve learned as a business owner that you’d like to pass on to other entrepreneurs?

One of the most important lessons we learned is the power of taking action and having a “Start Today” mentality. Often, there are so many limiting reasons for why one may not pursue their ideas or take it to the next level.

There will never be perfect timing, working capital, network or resource. Whatever you want to explore as an aspiring entrepreneur, don’t limit yourself. Just start.

We both love to wear jewelry, but we didn’t have a single clue or background on how it’s made. We just made the bold decision to start, figure it all out, and learn as we go along our journey.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In 5 years, we see Yenaé playing a role to influence a consumption pattern that moves towards a more sustainable community, away from fast fashion.

We will be expanding the design of our jewelry collections to cover every corner of the African continent, showcasing the rich heritage and culture of each African country. Lastly, we see our collections available in major retail stores in the US.

Tony O. Lawson


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KoshieO: The Black Owned Luxury Brand Representing The Culture

The luxury fashion brand, KoshieO is the brainchild of  Nina Baksmaty. It all started while she was still in college in Missouri and wanted to make some extra money.

Because fashion came as second nature to her, she started a business trading in accessories and shoes that she bought from NYC.

Although Nina only did this to make ends meet, she eventually began to enjoy being involved in the business of fashion. That is when she had the “aha moment” that inspired the creation of KoshieO.

Nina Baksmaty

Tell us more about why You started your business.

As an African immigrant, I wanted to blend both cultures to come up with unique pieces that showcased my African heritage as well as the culture of my new home, America.

A lot of prominent brands have been inspired by the African continent. I believe it is time we rise and tell our own stories through our designs with the same quality of work, if not better.

All of this led to the inspiration of the brand 10 years ago and has also attracted some big names in the industry like the Late Franca Sozzani (editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia).

Can you describe your background in the fashion industry?

 I like to say that I was born into fashion. My mother was an outstanding fashion designer of her time and I remember always being fascinated while watching  her make clothes.

She always told me the story of how she had to go to work at a factory in London while she was pregnant with me so she could afford baby stuff.

As I was growing up I spent a lot of time around her sewing room and was exposed to all her work tools and sewing equipment. 

She eventually got me a hand machine which I used to practice sewing dresses for my dolls, and thus began my journey to fashion.

How would you describe your designs?

My designs can be described as vibrant fabrics put together to create a luxury brand that pays homage to the uniqueness and beauty of Africa.

Black Owned Luxury

Usually, when people think African-Inspired they think wax print, but these prints are a staple of African fabric, so we chose to make them look different by merging them on other quality fabrics like Egyptian cotton and silks to bring our designs to life.

We wanted to create something that could be on the same level as international standards and be in the same space as some high-end brands we grew up with.

I started at the time when this space was yet to be created in the Fashion Industry in America for African brands but I can proudly say that the high-end stores that we are distributing to puts KoshieO in the same space as some of these brands now. 

Black Owned Luxury  

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

We are currently in stores in areas like NYC, Washington. DC, Virginia, L.A., Detroit, Toronto, Chicago, Accra (Ghana) and still working to quickly expand distribution into many more stores both nationally and internationally.

We want our logo (which is the silhouette of a woman carrying goods on her head and a baby on her back) to be iconic and easily recognizable. This logo symbolizes “all women who deftly and successfully combines parenting, housekeeping, and breadwinning.”

I started a foundation (which we are still working on) with the ultimate goal to develop communities by investing in entrepreneurs. Our focus will be mainly here in the USA and Africa. Our motto is to “empower one entrepreneur and change entire communities.” Hoping to achieve all this in the next 5 years. 

What advice do you have for aspiring designers?

I know that innately people know what they want to be. Our creator made us that way but often times we are crippled by fear.

Fear to me is an enemy of progress. I am a black woman that had a dream to own a luxury fashion label that not only catered to female folks but also the male folks as well and I accomplished that. I did it without letting fear stop me.

So my advice to aspiring designers would be that, If you want to get into fashion start writing down goals on what you want to achieve. Fashion is not just about sketching garments and creating designs, there’s also a business and branding aspect to it.

Secondly, exposure to working with designers and brands also helps, this way you will be privy to the whole scope of what the industry entails. You have to also be passionate about what you are doing because while there will be ups and downs your passion for what you are doing will remind you to stick to it.

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Luxury Brands To Support Instead of GUCCI and Prada

Years after the Gucci and Prada debacle, apologies have been made as well as attempts to win back consumer trust. No matter the motive behind these gestures, the fact remains that there are too many Black owned luxury brands that offer great products for us to keep supporting the same brands religiously.

That being said, here is a list of Black owned luxury brands that you can use to replace the usual suspects.

#NEVERFORGET

Black Owned Luxury Brands

Wear Brims

Frances Grey

Tori Soudan

House of Takura

MIITRA

SWAV Eyewear

Linell Ellis

Undra Celeste

4th & Avery

 

Lemlem

COLD LAUNDRY

Fe Noel

Armando Cabral

Wales Bonner

ZAAF

Mifland

Andrea Iyamah

Tsemaye Binite

Ozwald Boateng

Made Leather Co.

Hanifa

Monrowe NYC

Christie Brown

Tony O. Lawson


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