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Fashion

Using apps to woo jewellery buyers

Kipato jewellery founders
Kipato jewellery founders. PHOTO | COURTESY  

When Diana Machoka, the founder of jewellery brand Uzzi by Dayo layered her handmade thread pieces on Instagram, she got lots of orders.

“When I post a picture on Instagram, I get surprised by the overwhelming number of orders. Other than Instagram, word-of-mouth has also helped my business. If I sell something to someone, her sister will be like ah! I want something like this,” says Diana.

A few years ago, Kenyans had few options and had to buy imported silver or gold jewellery or beaded necklaces from shops.

Now the jewellery industry is becoming innovative, thanks to new entrants into the market as well as better support systems for existing artisans.

Young designers are redefining the industry as they tweak old designs and materials to come up with stylish jewellery at a reasonable price. Some are bold, some are simple and yet they make a big statement.

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Diana uses threads to make the jewellery. She gets her inspiration from Pinterest app but tweaks the designs to come up with unique thread pieces.

“I started making earrings after I went to Maasai Market and found that everything looked the same. The jewellery was nice but I wanted something that felt like my style. I decided to look for beads and experiment,” she says.

She tried many materials before she fell in love with thread (uzi).

“Thread is easy to handle and manipulate because it is thin and you can wrap it around anything,” she adds.

The design processes are different for every jewellery maker. For Kipato Unbranded, a four-year-old firm which deals in jewellery made out of brass, recycled bone and beads, many people participate in the creative process.

“We have a collective design process which is different to most brands. We come together as Kipato Unbranded, it could be me, the other directors, sales team or the artistes and we organically create various products,” says Marta Krajnik.



PHOTO | COURTESY

PHOTO | COURTESY

Martha says, their Sunday collection, for instance, is lighthearted and fun. They were inspired by self love and desserts. Some of the jewellery have dessert names like toffee and cherry drop. Diana’s design process is also guided by collections that are unique and fast-moving.

“I have a ruracio {dowry payment ceremony} collection because I was getting a lot of clients who wanted earrings, necklaces to match their kitenge attire. The brides-to-be want it to look wedding-y and wear something that will make a statement like a headband,” says Diana.

However, Diana finds that outside of these ceremonies, people shy away from complex pieces, something she kept in mind for her Tussle and Choker collection.

“The trend I am seeing is that most people want minimalist things, something that they can just wear to work. For instance, a choker that is just one simple line or earrings that are straight,” she says.

Pricing jewellery

Jewellery can be challenging to price as people do not know what goes into their creation.

Martha says that it is easy for people to fight for a bargain without thinking of the artisans creating the work.

“I factor in the cost of the materials, the time that I have spent on the piece, if the labour was intensive I’ll factor in that and transport,” says Martha.

Kipato is a social enterprise whose artisans operate in Kibera, Kawangware and Ongata Rongai.

“The artisans give us a base price and then we see how much to add for overhead costs. We ensure that whatever they demand covers their costs plus they get profits,” says Martha.

Grow talent

Many designers running jewellery businesses draw from a mix of talent and academic background. Martha studied development studies and worked for the UN and Oxfam before becoming one of the founders for the women-led Kipato which relies on eco-friendly locally sourced materials.

“I could not directly see the impact of my work on the community. Then I started working with artistes from the slums,” she says.

For Diana, her architecture background influences her jewellery designs. Her advise to new designers?

“Just start. Do not be afraid to put your work out there especially in flea markets such as K1 flea market and Nairobi flea market. You can even share a table with someone if the vendor fee is too high. People will come and ask you 'where can I find your things if I am not buying right now? It will get you noticed,” she says.

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