Can you tell us a little about your history with the UN and being a diplomat?
Sure! For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a passion for fairness, justice and climate change. As soon as I learned about the United Nations, I knew that’s where I wanted to go and pursued university studies in International Relations and French and a Masters in Conflict Resolution. I started out working for an NGO and then moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office, where I was lucky enough to work in London, Ascension Island, New York and Warsaw. In New York, I worked on human rights issues at the UN Headquarters. It was an eye-opening experience and exposed me to the incredible potential for international cooperation, but also how slow and dated our thinking can be. I wrote a blog some of my work here.
How did you go from diplomat to designer entrepreneur?
I moved into different areas of Government a few years ago, but have been missing an outlet for advocacy and campaigning since leaving New York. Right now, climate change feels like the most important issue we face as a global society and has deep roots in societal inequality and human rights. I also started feeling increasingly frustrated by the lack of leadership from the fashion industry, and as young woman, I felt alienated from the brands I’d always loved as I found out about the damaging and exploitative practices in fast fashion. I set up Ithika Jewellery last year to show that every business can show climate leadership and women can feel modern and stylish without having to compromise their values.
What led you to create Ithika?
Ithika is a jewellery brand that is doing things differently. We curate vintage jewellery to help socially conscious jewellery lovers find beautiful, sustainable and long-lasting pieces that keep them feeling on trend and part of a movement of people who want style to do good. We’ve committed to donating 20% of our profits to climate action charities and we fund our own platform called Ithika Advocacy where we feature guest blogs by sustainability champions, climate advocates and slow fashion heroes. So far we’ve worked with four incredible women leading the way on sustainable living and we share their advice and expertise on our website and social media accounts to everyone for free.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am always inspired by incredible people at the forefront of movements for positive and inclusive change. In particular, incredible women like Jameela Jamil, Greta Thunberg and Alexdria Ocasia-Cortez give me confidence to try something new and trust my own instincts, values and experience as qualities to drive change. These women, plus many more people out there, have helped me to realise that social good and climate action is absolutely everyone’s business and we cannot afford to wait for others to lead the way for us. So do away with the imposter syndrome, when you see a problem that needs solving…solve it!
How does sustainability play a role in your design and production processes?
Ithika begins and ends with sustainability. As curators of vintage jewellery, we’re disrupting the concept that you have to continue to mine materials out of the ground to feel on trend. Styles circle round, and commercial fashion has found it more profitable to charge you for a new product every time, often with cheaper materials, worse production practices and more exploitative working conditions. It just doesn’t make sense. The earth and our fellow human beings cannot endure this level of exploitation. It’s also needless when we know that there are beautiful quality vintage pieces out there that can look as on trend as anything on the high street, we just need to revisit them and fall back in love with what we already have.
What problems have you come across when creating Ithika and how have you solved them?
Like any business that cares about their impact on the planet, packaging was big challenge. We wanted our jewellery boxes to reflect the love we invested into Ithika, but also to have the least environmental impact possible. That’s a high bar and it took us hours of searching. We were so demanding that we even resorted to fulfilling our first orders by hand-printing our logo on card jewellery boxes (huge thanks to our early customers for bearing with us!). Then we found Tiny Box, a true partner in environmentally conscious packaging. We’re not all the way there yet with our packaging, but I’m certain we’ll have it cracked by the end of the year.
Since creating Ithika what has been your proudest moment?
A few months after our launch we were approach by British Vogue, Stylist, GQ and Tatler to be featured in their jewellery collections. That was pretty amazing and we went on to be featured in three issues of Tatler in 2021. As fantastic as it is to be approached by such powerhouses in British publishing, we’re wanting to change the status quo, so we find huge joy in collaborating with sustainable businesses and influencers online, sharing ideas and supporting each other’s work. It’s been amazing to be part of small, and often female-led business communities striving to make a change. It’s certainly made me more hopeful for the future.
What plans have you got for Ithika’s future?
Slow, values-based and sustainable growth. I’m not interested in racing to the bottom-line and I try to check myself when I try to move too quickly. It’s always an entrepreneur’s dream to see their business succeed, but I’m trying to measure that in a different way. Profit isn’t the absolute aim, instead I’d love Ithika to be the centre of a movement, to be a brand that people feel is trustworthy and drives the change they want to see in the world. If I get that right, the sales will come. It takes time to found a jewellery brand that is prepared to stand up for the planet, challenge fast fashion giants and grow with integrity, and I work hard to remind myself that our journey may be slower than profit-obsessed business models.