From meeting with Barneys New York to being featured in Paper magazine and fashion blog Man Repeller, College junior Jameel Mohammed is taking his company KHIRY to new heights.
KHIRY, founded in 2014, is a luxury jewelry line inspired by the African diaspora. KHIRY launched a Kickstarter last Monday which aims to fund production at a higher scale, as well as launch an e-commerce site.
Through his designs, Mohammed seeks to introduce a new definition of beauty into the world of luxury brands, which he described as European-dominated.
“That’s such a limited scope on what beauty and luxury can be. For me, it’s about finding a new possibility outside of that,” Mohammed said. “There’s a constant lineage between a historical tradition and the modern equivalent of it. What I want to do with KHIRY is to find those traditional cultural elements that existed a long time ago and figure out what their contemporary equivalents would be.”
KHIRY’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection does just this, drawing on both traditional and contemporary elements of African culture. Mohammed cites a wide range of influences, from the Senegalese film "Touki bouki" to the African-inspired jazz musician Fela Kuti. The horns on cattle herded by the Dinka people in Sudan inspired the tapered silhouettes of many pieces, including the Khartoum Bracelet. Mohammed was also inspired by West African masks and the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi, combining their aesthetics to create something simultaneously luxurious, modern and African.
“The brand embodies feminism, romance, power and luxury,” Temple University senior and Director of Public Relations and Marketing Taylor Madigan said.
Mohammed first began designing jewelry while interning at Barneys New York during the summer after his freshman year. Throughout the summer, he brought in necklaces and bracelets to be critiqued by the fashion office there. The next summer, he began to conceptualize the jewelry line that would become KHIRY.
As with any startup, KHIRY faces the challenges of limited resources. When Mohammed first began producing his jewelry, it was a process that was largely self-taught. From the initial sketch to ordering a 3-D print mold to adding hand embellishments, Mohammed worked painstakingly to create each sample from start to finish. Director of Finance and Compliance Briana Johnson emphasized the necessity of the Kickstarter in the company’s future success.
Mohammed also recognizes the benefits of his education at Penn. Wharton classes like Marketing 101 taught him about the nuts and bolts of running a business. He also credits his political science major with challenging him to think critically.
“As I’ve been working on this project, I’ve been thinking very critically about what I am putting out into the world … That thought process, that rigor in intellectual thought, has definitely guided the way that I’ve sought to think about every step of the way in making this company,” he said.
Mohammed has no plans of stopping here.
“This is my passion — this is why I came to this school,” he said.
In the future, he dreams of producing a full collection of products, including women’s wear, bags, shoes and more.
“This is an unapologetically African-inspired collection, but you can’t say it’s not luxurious in its imagery and its communication. That’s ultimately my goal — to continue to have a platform to do that.”
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