NYCJW Broadens Support of BIPOC Designers With Here We Are



New York City Jewelry Week kicked off this morning with a hefty schedule of exciting panels and talks being broadcast exclusively on the COVID-friendly platform Zoom.

And in its third year, the organization is expanding its spotlight on BIPOC jewelry designers with its second annual Here We Are (HWA) initiative. 

NYCJW launched the initiative in 2019, led by its director of cultural diversity and inclusion, Elliot Carlyle. In its first year, HWA hosted community-driven events including panels, webinars, and exhibitions.

This year, NYCJW has broadened the initiative’s scope. Carlyle partnered with photographer Alain Simić to create a series of photos celebrating several New York City–based Black designers. Jewelers represented in this project include Lorraine West Jewelry, Aziza Handcrafted, Johnny Nelson, L’Enchanteur, and Aur Jewelry, among others (see one from the series below). 

The photo series is one part of the larger HWA 2020 program, which includes three funding awards for Black jewelers: one for a jeweler within New York ($1,500), one for a jeweler outside of New York ($1,500), and one for a jeweler to present a solo exhibition ($5,000) during NYCJW, sponsored by New York City jewelry retailer Greenwich St. Jewelers.

Jewelry designer Lorraine West won the $5,000 award, and this morning she debuted a magazine-style virtual exhibition, entitled Glimpse. West, who’s been designing her Lorraine West Jewelry (LWJ) collection for two decades, says the virtual exhibition includes “highlights from my 20-year career—you’ll see original editorial, some never seen before, muses and notables wearing LWJ jewelry. Since my career consists of so many pieces and experiences…Glimpse helped my team and me curate pieces that best tell the LWJ brand story.”

West will chat live about Glimpse with Karen Davidov, founder of the Jewelry Library, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

The recipients of the two $1,500 prizes are designer Dominique Renée (who won for designers outside of New York) and Lisette Scott, founder of New York’s Jam + Rico.

In addition to the funding awards, NYCJW has collaborated with 1stDibs to create a marketplace for HWA participants on the popular luxury e-commerce site. The Here We Are Marketplace, which features a selection of exclusives only available through the platform, went live Nov. 12 and will run through February 2021. 1stDibs will also erect and host a free storefront for the three funding award winners for one year, beginning February 2021. Finally, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee has offered the winners a free year-long membership.

NYCJW Alain Simic photo
Top and above: Images celebrating New York–based Black jewelry designers produced for NYCJW’s Here We Are initiative (photos by Alain Simić)

Carlyle will also host a HWA panel composed of Cristina Miller, CMO at 1stDibs; Morgan Miller, senior account executive at Couture; and Shahila Perumalpillai Principal, who heads up social impact for De Beers Group, on Nov. 19 at 10:45 a.m.

Here We Are 2020 has over 50 participant designers. They are: Metaalia Jewelry; HolyStone; Diaboli Kill; Embirikos; Mon Pilar; Madre Hija Design; Carolina Gomes Art; Tin Haus; Niña Zabal LLC; GBGH Jewelry; Dominique Renée; Jam + Rico; Lorraine West Jewelry; Sanct Desiderata; White/Space; Third Crown; Latasha Lamar; Lauren Newton Jewelry; Made by Malyia; Mando Bee; María Blondet; Shape + Form; Pieces NewYorkCity; Robin Erfe; Rima Jewels; Sadé; Heavy Metals NYC; Sidney Cherie Studio; Harlin Jones; Andrea Rosales-Balcarcel; Vella Mode; Johnny Nelson; Octave Jewelry; Aur Jewelry; Mckenzie Liautaud; L’Enchanteur; Zuri Perle; Height & Light; Líeu; and Bond Hardware.

J.B. Jones, cofounder of NYCJW, says the organization opened up the participation in HWA to the entire U.S., not just the Greater New York City area, and notes that NYCJW plans to roll out a new mentorship and networking component to the initiative in December.

“All of this is a reaction to how 2020 played out for us and for this country,” Jones explains. “We found ourselves working in a virtual space that allowed us to expand the roster—double it, actually. And increased awareness on racial equity within the industry really made us realize HWA should offer more to its participants. The platform was founded as one focused on visibility, but [cofounder] Bella Neyman and I felt a responsibility to use the connections we have as an organization to really put the full force of NYCJW behind the jewelers involved.”

Follow me on Instagram—@emilivesilind—and consider RSVPing for my NYCJW chat with a quartet of pace-setting indie NYC retailers Nov. 22 at 3:30 p.m.

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JCK Magazine Editor