R: Why did you feel it was important to create a jewelry line based around the African diaspora?
J: I founded KHIRY because I wanted to inject a new perspective into fashion and luxury. I think we've accepted, without question, that what makes something truly luxurious is some sort of ineffable quality, and only the most storied European houses can possess that extra special thing. But as I started to study more seriously, and to understand more about the world's history and especially the history of the diaspora, I understood that there was a depth and a richness, a uniqueness of aesthetic and philosophy, that's at the core of everything we think of as luxurious. But no one was putting out work that championed that perspective, and that history, and so I thought it should be me.
R: Uniqueness of aesthetic and philosophy at the core. Can you elaborate on what you found that to be and the ways you display such sentiments in your jewelry?
J: KHIRY, essentially, aims to define the luxurious black aesthetic and the principles that underlie the practice of cultural production. It’s about identifying the key factors that direct the understanding of a “black” image or how a work of art immediately evokes the history of black people on the continent and in the diaspora. KHIRY is my way of exploring that aesthetic philosophy. It is the product of my reflection on these many different cultural symbols and an attempt to understand the similarities and differences between them, and how they might work together to produce something new.
R: The bullet points of what can dictate something as being both black and luxurious, aside from standard set by hierarchical Europe. `
J: Exactly! Much of fashion history is concentrated on the Western perspective. Don’t get me wrong, that history is important, but for KHIRY I wanted to take a different path.
Like, what would it look like if we discussed postcolonial Nigeria in the context of luxury, and reinterpreted that image and all these other things that have cultural symbolism and relevance across the diaspora and around the world? If we looked at those as sources of inspiration, what would that kind of luxury look like?
R: Wow. So as the for the jewelry itself, what are the base materials used in your most recent collection?
J: The collection is made entirely of sterling silver, coated in either gold or silver rhodium. From there, we include embellishments of semi-precious stones (rose quartz and tiger eye) on some styles, and other styles are knotted with leather cord.
R: And is there anything especially complicated about designing jewelry for women, as a man?
J: I think jewelry can be such an intimate thing, and it's very personal for a lot of people. So as I seek to create pieces, I temper my own instincts with feedback from the women who inspired me to launch KHIRY in the first place.
They have a much more immediate understanding of what they turn to jewelry for in their lives, and so hearing their thoughts is a learning process that I take seriously, and I enjoy it also.
R: So back to the brand’s mission, there are also other people of color pushing up against those same boundaries and asking those questions. Publications like Nii Journal and designers like Grace Wales Bonner make it their mission to unearth the cultures of African and black identity. Don’t you find it encouraging that, as a person of color making products for other people of color, there are so many outlets to showcase your work?
J: Yeah, I think I’m very fortunate to be creating in this age, because I really don’t know how much traction I’d be able to build for myself at a different time. You can really build your own following on social media and cater to the audience you hope to reach. Its a really democratic ear in fashion and technology really has helped open things up. I’ve reached out to editors on Instagram for example. As consumers become more diverse and the market becomes a little more saturated, consumer desire becomes more selective. All of these things combined make creating, producing, and selling goods independently a more realistic endeavor. KHIRY’s E-commerce launch in November will (hopefully) be a testament to that.