Founded in 2015, Nakibirango is your answer to culturally and historically inspired luxury jewellery. Looking at heritage and ancestral representation through her mythological designs, Nakibirango creative director Naki Kaddu, who studied at the prestigious Holts Academy, crafts jewellery like artwork. Inspired by architecture, fine sculpture, art and photography, Nakibirango designs are one of a kind; designing both bespoke and collection pieces, Kaddu uses her passion for Ancient Greece, Greek mythology, philosophers and the Renaissance to create otherworldly luxury jewellery.
With designs often made with the sparkle of semi-precious stones – like citrine, malachite and jade – the unique pieces (there are never more than 5 to 10 pieces of a Nakibirango design) are infused with a blend of cultural references that only Nakibirango can master. Inspired by anything and everything, from a walk on the beach to Greek goddesses, Naki infuses her designs with the emotional connection she feels with her muses and the art she admires, giving each design it’s own personality and spirit. With jewellery reflecting the brand’s authenticity, simplicity, sophistication and dedication to crafting the finest luxury jewellery, each piece is exquisitely unique and has it’s own personality, giving Nakibirango a spirit you can’t define.
We spoke to Nakibirango’s founder and creative director Naki about the brand, her cultural influences and symbolism in design.
What’s your first jewellery-related memory?
I think it has to be a ring my first boyfriend (of 10yrs old) gave me. I still have it; it’s so delicate and beautiful and it symbolises a time in my life that was both full of love and change.
Can you pinpoint a moment where you knew you wanted to go into jewellery design?
Probably around 2012: when I graduated from UAL & Holts Academy; I took the plunge and showcased my designs over a week at Craft Central, it was then, the 1st week in September 2012, the sun was shining I was opening up the gallery for the morning trade. The press event and customer feedback on opening night validated it all for me. I knew then, this is what I wanted to do!
You studied at both UAL and Holts Academy of Jewellery – how essential do you feel your training was in allowing you to become the designer you are today?
Essential; I had the desire and vision but I had to train to be able to work at the bench safely and efficiently. It’s given me credibility and confidence within the craft and the industry.
Your brand name Nakibirango translates into “Queen of the Leopard Forest” – how did you choose this name and how do you feel it reflects the spirit of the brand?
I wanted to rebrand Kizmet Designer Jewellery (my previous brand) and I was in the process of thinking through ideas and options when someone suggested let people know it’s you behind the designs and collections. Be open. Stop hiding! So I chose Nakibirango, which is my given name (a clan / tribe name). So the spirit of the brand is about being personal, authentic, keeping things simple but at the same time making a statement.
You find inspiration with an interesting mix of heritage and ancestral representation – are there any particular time periods/eras that you are particularly drawn to?
I am totally fascinated with Ancient Greece, Greek Mythology, philosophers and poets and The Renaissance period. I search out muses and art that resonates with me on an intellectual or emotional level. I can see an opportunity for a design in architecture, a poem or a painting. I’m quite fluid with my inspiration! Someone once described me as a muse (Mousa) and having a sense of Honour (Filotimo) in Greek. How inspiring is that?!
What themes do you like to explore in your work?
More often the theme is symbolic in one way or another; a season; a sunset over a horizon; a pebbled beach. Anything that touches and inspires me will eventually make its way to metal! You’ll see within my Metamorphosis and Goddesses collection the symbolism in most of the designs. Be it through the shape, the stones or the cause of the initial inspiration.
How do you go about designing a piece? Do you have one idea in mind always, or are you spontaneous with your designs?
Unless I am asked for a bespoke piece, all my designs come through spontaneously. I’m always inspired by things around me; it’s the process of working out how to translate that initial idea into a wearable piece of jewellery that takes time and elaboration. Some designs just come through once and they work. Some take time to sketch and refine and research.
You also take inspiration from semi-precious stones – how does this manifest itself in your work and are there any stones you are particularly drawn to?
Stones twined with mythology can open up inspiration which is symbolic in my designs. I love crystals and stones of the earth as I call them. I love that raw gems are now on trend; this is the best and ethical way to wear them, like Emerald. I am drawn to green or yellow stones; Citrine, Malachite or Jade. I also always go to Agates; a current favourite is Dragon Vein agate. I do a lot of research before I pair things together.
You’re based in London, and all your pieces are hand-made here – how does London affect your work and design process?
I think London is a haven for emerging brands and designers. There’s so much inspiration to hand. However, most of my suppliers and service providers are all based in or around London which aides in the end to end process where necessary. I’ve established good working relationships with my suppliers which is paramount in supporting the process.
Why is it important to the brand that the pieces are handcrafted?
It’s important for us to maintain the credibility and spirit of the brand, which is authenticity and simplicity. Not forgetting that the brand is about exclusivity and limited editions, we never make more than 5-10 pieces of an item. However, customers can personalise some items, which still maintains exclusivity.
What can we expect from your future collections?
In the future, we will bring forth more colours and marrying of other materials; Inlay and enamelling. Think rare birds and tropical adventures…