Images of this designers work have been floating across the internet with breathtaking images of models wearing bold jewelry made from metals and materials like polished brass plated in 18k gold, leather, silk and semi-precious stones, which have captivated the general public into asking, who made this? This, is the work of 21-year old Political Science student and now designer Jameel Mohammed who started his jewelry line KHIRY from his dorm room.
The designer who launched a Kickstarter campaign to help get KHIRY off the ground (the kickstarter raised $20,000 in the first 48 hours!), credits ‘networking’ as attributing to his initial success. Having first dreamt up the concept for KHIRY at the age of 16, Mohammed later worked as an intern at both Nicole Miller and Narciso Rodriquez who offered him his first design jobs while in high school. « Both were the result of reaching out, sending a portfolio of early work, and being really honest and sincere about my passion. »
Citing the female figures in his life as his biggest inspiration (his mother, grandmother and Auntie Sharon), the designer who is inspired by the African diaspora, views luxury fashion as a means to explore different cultures — though he is very careful in drawing distinctions between celebration and appropriation when paying homage.
In an interview with WMagazine, the designer said, “I try to be really respectful of the cultures I draw inspiration from, so I do a lot of research into the cultural practices and their significance within the community to make sure I depict things in a way that’s consistent with their origins.”
Drawing inspiration from the likes of greats such as Fela Kuti and from the Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan, Mohammed’s line isn’t just about being trendy but revolves around a bigger story.
Speaking on why he chose the African diaspora as his inspiration, the designer explains, « The diaspora encompasses descendants of the African continent all over the world, including Latin America, the Caribbean, the US and Africa itself. As a designer, I’m interested in the cultural traditions, objects and practices that are unique to individual places. But even more, I want to find the links that tie these cultures together and figure out what the most powerful, chic and romantic version of that culture would look like. »
He continues, « What arises then — and why deep research is important to KHIRY — is a tension between cultural appropriation and cultural celebration. I think what distinguishes the latter is the degree to which you’re willing to do the research, to be accurate and specific in paying homage to a culture. That doesn’t mean you can’t view things through your own lens, but it’s about first grounding yourself in the reality of that place and people in order to create something that, while new, is based in something authentic. We might take Afro-Cuban traditions, or Haitian art, or the North African Tuareg people as an inspiration for a collection or a photo shoot, and each requires careful study before we feel like we can respectfully depict that culture. »
On his website , the designer speaks of his inspiration for his Spring ’17 line which comes from Fela Kuti and the spirit of his music which brought about this collection and editorial ‘The Kalakuta Show’, as an alternative to Western focus. « As Fela’s Republic before stood as a space for the open and free reinterpretation of established codes, an opportunity to reexamine history and draw new conclusions, we hope that KHIRY will also present an opportunity for reconsideration. KHIRY is an exercise in reinterpreting diasporic history, and perhaps most importantly we hope that it will serve as an opportunity to envision a new future. Our intention is to challenge the idea of luxury, to expand it, to subvert it, to reimagine what it can mean, what it can look like, and what it can say. KHIRY posits a new perspective, a new vision and set of codes, not separate, but distinct, drawing on an as yet unexplored legacy, the depth of which cannot be overstated. »
So if you’re looking to start your own label and try your hand at becoming a designer, Mohammed had this advice to give via Manrepeller: « Be prepared to work a LOT and to be passionate about what you’re doing. Be very clear on what distinguishes your work from what others are doing. Know your story and tell it well to EVERYONE you meet; the world is a small place and I’ve made tons of valuable connections in the oddest places.
Also, this may be a bit difficult to believe (and perhaps a bit contradictory to everything I’ve said), but “doing it” is easier than your fear will have you believe. Sometimes things just work out if you’re prepared to be creative about finding ways to work past constraints of resources or time, and to go for it with everything you have. »
Get your hands on Jameel’s beautiful pieces at either Moda Opernadi or at his e-commerce site KHIRY.com which will both be the first points of sale.
The future is extremely bright for this talented designer and we can’t wait to see what else he comes up with. Buy and/or pre-order his latest collection via his website here.