In September, jewelry designer Jameel Mohammed showcased his Spring / Summer 2017 collection at New York Fashion Week, when his afro-futuristic KHIRY line was taken over by Moda Operandi. It would have been a cause for celebration under any circumstance, but Mohammed is a 21-year-old at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies political science.
“It’s amazing to see this thing that I started to develop and extend to new platforms,” he says.
In fact, the transition from Poli-Sci major to jeweler is not as difficult as it seems. Inspired by the African diaspora, he sees luxury fashion as a way to explore different cultures, although he is careful to distinguish between celebration and appropriation when paying homage. “I try to be really respectful of the cultures I draw from, so I do a lot of research into cultural practices and their importance in the community to make sure I portray things in a way that is consistent with theirs. origins, ”explains Mohammed. .
His first play for KIHRY, which he released in March 2016, was called Khatroum Bangle, and was a replica of a sort of tapering horn of cattle raised by the Dinka people of Sudan. “The Dinka are nomads and the cattle play a really central role in the life of the tribe. The shape was so strong and alluring, and I wanted to honor that by creating a piece that would also be at the heart of KHIRY’s identity, ”he says.
Mohammed grew up in Chicago, with parents who encouraged him to understand and appreciate his ancestral African history through West African dance lessons, Black History Month and Juneteenth celebrations, and books. afro-centered. It was about ‘this is who you are and where you come from’, he recalls, and so he looked for a way to pay homage to his early childhood learnings, as well as articulate a vision of luxury. black.
“I think fashion needs an alternative to the narrow definition of luxury that has been presented to us for so long,” he says. “And personally, it’s a way to re-examine my own history and my own culture, and to find the beauty in me and in my people.” His credentials include the photography of Malick Sidibe, the awe-inspiring architecture of the Grand Mosque of Mecca and the dance choreography of Alvin Ailey. “I think it’s these shared cultural connections that inform this sense of kinship across the diaspora, and a big part of my own vision is to find out what those connections are and put them on a pedestal,” he says.
Mohammed first imagined the concept of KHIRY at the age of 16. He was already a talented designer and he learned fashion design on his own, further developing these skills during high school internships with fashion houses Nicole Miller and Narciso Rodriquez. “I started jewelry the same way; drawing extensively and learning the production process myself, ”he says. To get KHIRY off the ground, he launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising $ 20,000 in just 48 hours. After launching the first collection this spring, Moda Opernadi and the KHIRY.com e-commerce site will be the first points of sale.
The jewelry itself is bold and expressive. “I want pieces to be what someone turns to when they want to make a statement and be noticed, in a chic and classy way,” he says. It uses gold vermeil and sterling silver with a rhodium plating, which gives each piece that luxury aesthetic found in fine jewelry. So far, her Adisa Drop ($ 425- $ 495) and Khartoum Bangle Nude ($ 425) earrings have been better received by consumers.
“Jewelry is a manageable way to surpass myself as a designer while still in school,” he says, though he is considering expanding into clothing, shoes and maybe even furniture eventually. . As such, Mohammed turns to fashion designers such as Kerby Jean Raymond and Grace Wales Bonner for motivation. “Their ability to inject a slight political advantage into their clothes and presentations” is what he admires the most. This is also what encouraged him to imagine and produce concepts for KHIRY that others may consider controversial.
“I think the controversy really creates in me a need to do this kind of work. Now that I am faced with political turmoil in the news and on the streets, I can’t help but reflect this in my work, ”he says. “It’s my own way of participating in the contemporary political conversation around race in America today.”