Jewelry Success After Struggle ‘Feels Pretty Incredible’

Jameel Mohammed’s Cinderella second arrived within the nick of time.

In 2018 the designer had achieved a modicum of success along with his distinctive jewellery, which pays homage to the African diaspora. The fledgling line, referred to as Khiry, had been picked up by Barneys New York, however Mr. Mohammed was not making sufficient to outlive in New York City, or within the trade.

“I felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill,” Mr. Mohammed, 26, mentioned in a latest interview from his studio in Brooklyn.

So he was on a Greyhound bus — with a ticket equipped by his mother and father, and “knowing I had to get a job as a waiter when I got back to Chicago” — when he obtained an e-mail. Michelle Obama’s stylist was all for Khiry items for the previous first girl to put on throughout her “Becoming” guide tour.

Khiry was changing into sizzling.

“The pieces had a great balance of chic edge and femininity,” Meredith Koop, the stylist, wrote to elucidate why she purchased the Isha Rose Quartz Hoops with an identical ring for Mrs. Obama. Ms. Koop mentioned she had been struck by Mr. Mohammed’s “immense creativity and character.”

Many Khiry items have African inspiration, together with the Mask Pendant.Credit…Courtney Yates for The New York Times

She was not alone. The poet Amanda Gorman wore Khiry when she appeared on the February cowl of Time journal, as did Serena Williams for the December 2018 cowl of Teen Vogue. Issa Rae, Alicia Keys, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B have worn items from Mr. Mohammed’s two demi-fine collections, and he designed Garcelle Beauvais’s royal jewels within the latest Eddie Murphy movie “Coming 2 America,” too.

The success “feels pretty incredible, incredibly positive,” Mr. Mohammed mentioned. “A lot of things that I dreamt of and envisioned for a long time are taking place. Now I have a studio space I can go to and sing and dance and make art, and I’m interfacing with amazing people giving great advice.”

In February Net-a-Porter unveiled Khiry’s first high-quality jewellery assortment, 19 items that Mr. Mohammed created in gold, diamonds and emeralds with mentoring from Matthew Harris of Mateo New York.

“I have never seen or heard the jewelry story Jameel is trying to tell and show the world,” Mr. Harris mentioned. “A story of the African diaspora in this super luxe, refined, artistic and modern way. So I know there is a place for him in this industry. A blank space to fill, I like to say.”

Tiny Isha Hoops with Pearl Drop in Sterling Silver and Tiny Isha Hoops with Pearl Drop in 18-karat Gold Vermeil.Credit…Courtney Yates for The New York Times

Pieces within the Khiry Fine assortment, accessible on Net-a-Porter and on Khiry’s web site, promote for $2,500 to $25,000, whereas gadgets from the demi-fine assortment, in semiprecious stones and vermeil, can be found on Khiry’s web site and in shops, for $215 to $2,000.

Mr. Mohammed mentioned he knew from the beginning of his jewellery label in 2016 “that, without a ton of resources and deep pockets, I would need something specific to say.” He added: “In the process of developing the collection I tried to reflect on different themes. I watched documentaries on American, African and Caribbean history.”

What the world wanted, he mentioned he concluded, was “a luxury brand based on inspiration of what the future can and should look like.”

Mr. Mohammed’s trajectory has been all about preparing for a future in vogue. “When I was in the eighth grade, I started a custom sneakers business, painting sneakers,” he mentioned. Then connections he made with fellow college students and alumni at Phillips Exeter Academy and through his political science research on the University of Pennsylvania led to internships at Nicole Miller and Narciso Rodriguez, the place he mentioned he gained “an understanding of the workings of the business of fashion: how trends are marketed, how product is developed.”

Khartoum Torc Embellished necklace, high, and Khartoum Torc Nude, beneath.Credit…Courtney Yates for The New York Times

Khiry items instantly reveal their African inspiration. The motif of his Mask Pendant, worn as an earring in Ms. Gorman’s cowl photograph, displays “Brancusi’s recognized modernity within the context of West African design principles that preceded it,” Mr. Mohammed wrote in an e-mail.

And his Khartoum items, he wrote, had been “inspired by the shapes of big horned cattle kept as a store of wealth in Sudan. Both designs insist subtly that Black creativity and ultimately life be regarded on their own terms, and understood more broadly as central to what we regard as beautiful and worthwhile today, as much as in the future.” 

“The next collection is called Fights, Flights and Fantasies,” Mr. Mohammed mentioned. “I’m thinking about the different responses that we have to trauma, especially the ones that I see happening in day-to-day life and in history.” He mentioned he hopes to unveil the gathering within the fall or sooner, “maybe in August in commemoration of Nat Turner,” who led a slave rise up in Virginia in August 1831.

Mr. Mohammed is one among 10 finalists for the 2021 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award.Credit…Courtney Yates for The New York Times

Along with the brand new assortment, one other Cinderella second has been unfolding for Mr. Mohammed. He is one among 10 finalists for the 2021 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award; this yr, all of the finalists will obtain funding and mentoring from trade leaders.

“I’ve been planning to apply for this program since I was a junior in high school, with the knowledge that it has shaped the careers of some of American fashion’s most highly regarded designers and fashion businesses,” Mr. Mohammed wrote in an e-mail on April 27, the day the finalists had been introduced. “I think both the mentoring and funding in concert will be major to unlock and reach some of our goals, establishing key partnerships and scaling our audience to reach more people.” 

The award sounds tailored for Mr. Mohammed and his ambitions. After all, Khiry, his center title, means “wealth and fortune” in Swahili.