The KOKIYAJ Jewelry Collection Honors the Narratives That Inform Our Adornment


Adore Adorn/Amiraa Vee Jewelry

Sasha Flynn and Sandra “Amiraa Vee” Vainqueur started their capsule collection launch dinner yesterday evening with a connectivity exercise. Waiting on the place settings of every other of their guest was a scroll-written question interrogating the concept of womanhood. The icebreaker asked attendees to facilitate a dialogue on the core inspirations and cultural lineages that molded their identities. As responses spread from a couple of speakers to a roomful of personally-vesseled exchanges, the exercise revealed itself as a mirror to the co-creative directors’ collaboration, as well as a Women’s History Month tribute.

For two years, Flynn and Vainqueur ideated how best to merge their interior worlds into what is now Kokiyaj, Haitian Creole for “seashell,” the duo’s first design collaboration. Amiraa is a tenured fashion stylist and image consultant whose diversified platforms on red carpets, social media, and various other creative production spaces guide a wide-reaching aesthetic of aspiration. Her themes are not necessarily based on hegemonic notions of optimized life but instead, garner the visual materiality of heritage to create imagery that is both referential and tangibly present.

The KOKIYAJ Jewelry Collection Is A Rooted Celebration Of Heritage
Adore Adorn/Amiraa Vee Jewelry

Understandably, this approach to art, to life, aligned with that of Sasha, who combines her formal arts familiarity with a closely-held mission of legacy continuation. Her hand-crafted jewelry line, Adore Adorn, harnesses familial memory into wearable art produced at a methodical scale. The capsule collection launch coincides with the eighth anniversary of the brand, largely grown in creative partnership with Sasha’s mother, a lifelong costume jewelry designer. On her brand’s hosting site, she shares, “My mother is a natural creative, while my father is a natural educator. Their influence gave me a unique perspective to think differently with love, and to be diligent in all that I do.”

By keeping a modest inventory and staying mindful of environmental impact, Sasha allows herself the space to create original designs with precious metals that sacrifice neither fair cost nor longevity. It was only natural that the longtime mutual admirers combine their talents to create the physical manifestation of the stories they share. The full capsule collection, now available on Adore Adorn’s official site mold inspirations from organic space into 14 fine mixed-metal earrings, brooches, and pendants. “Adore Adorn as a brand very much ties into heritage and ancestry,” Amiraa lovingly said of her collaborator’s brand. “It is all very deliberate.”

The KOKIYAJ Jewelry Collection Is A Rooted Celebration Of Heritage
Adore Adorn/Amiraa Vee Jewelry

Early into the collection’s ideation phase, Amiraa visited Africa for the first time as an exercise in homegoing. Her goals were a combination of personal and professional, but as her self-discoveries grew so too did her commitment to the project.  

“I went to Ghana with six cornrows in my hair,” she tells ESSENCE.com, “and I adorned my hair in shells.” She shows a photo of what became the first reference image for the capsule collection. She poses in profile with a cascade of gold draping from the crown of her head to the traces of her clavicle. Delicate chain necklaces and statement earrings accompany at least a dozen gold and silver cowrie shells tracing row after row of her braids. It is a simple, functional look, holding hair away from the face and knotting it in a bun at the nape of the neck. But the mixed-toned ornamentation elevates the look to a grander connotation that immediately resonated with her mission of diasporic exchange.

“When I got there, people kept stopping me. They’d ask, ‘Do you know what these are? Did you know this was our money? Our currency up until only fifty years ago?” She was a walking effigy of success.

The significance of the cowrie shell in Ghana dates to its historical use as currency, and by extension, its connotation with wealth and abundance. Their ovate and glossy shape made for a multifunctional tool in spiritual and cultural practice, often by way of self-adornment. To this day, the shell is commemorated on Ghana’s 20-cedi coin, where an embossed outline memorializes the cowrie’s time-honored use.

The KOKIYAJ Jewelry Collection Is A Rooted Celebration Of Heritage
Adore Adorn/Amiraa Vee Jewelry

The subtextuality of Amiraa’s hairdo soon inspired her to interrogate how best to memorialize her ancestral homegoing, and though Sasha was not physically in attendance with her on the trip, the two were already aligned in dedication. “We knew that scale and statement was important. That was one thing that Amiraa and I knew we would not budge on.” The duo knew that they wanted to use precious metals and Sasha was able to guide many compositional decisions about what would hold best with the designs they ideated together. They decided every single piece would be hand-made. The wait would be worth it. 

“We saw the end result in the beginning,” Sasha says, describing her and Amiraa’s working relationship as “deeply immersive.” They spoke over Zoom once a week for a year, pitching designs and revisions over and over from name to materials to roll out. It is a small batch collection reflecting the time and personal connections they each share to their creative work.

“It was really cathartic for us to work together. We’re both creatives and it was important to us to merge each other’s vision. Ultimately, we brought that to life through the vision of the seashells,” Sasha adds.





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