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Kirsten Goss chats to Glamour on one of the great shifts within the fashion industry

Throughout the ages, jewellery has played a significant role in society, worn and used for various reasons, whether as a symbol for a specific tribe or culture, a status or an investment. Jewellery pieces aren’t simply accessories to adorn yourself and complement an ensemble, but are an extension of your personality. Often, we attach sentimental value to our pieces, whether an heirloom piece passed down from generation to generation or a memento to commemorate an occasion. Each piece tells a story.

We’ve had to navigate many challenges over the last few years as consumers, and have become more discerning when purchasing pieces, especially things deemed ‘non- essential’. Our awareness of the global impact impulse buying has on the planet is now at the forefront of any purchase we might consider making. Economically, we have to consider if an item might be worthy of investment.

One of the great shifts within the fashion industry is the desire for unique and creative pieces, which has led the eyes of the world to our continent. African luxury is no longer a catch phrase but a reality of what we’re able to provide to an industry saturated with carbon-copy replicas.

Kirsten Goss is one such designer whose brand showcases our continent’s immense talent and creativity. This year, she celebrates 20 years of crafting pieces that are personal to her. She’s blended her vastly different influences from her European and African heritage to create something fresh and exciting, allowing her longevity in this industry. Her love affair started at the University of Stellenbosch, where she fell in love with the Jewellery Design studio in the Fine Art department whilst studying for another degree.

Here, she shares her journey and thoughts on the industry.

Describe the start of the Kirsten Goss brand.

Kirsten Goss: Naive, passionate and uncharted. I was a young woman doing everything myself at a single desk in a creative studio in London. I made, marketed and sold everything myself. It was a very humble start.

How has your style evolved from when you started your jewellery business?

KG: It has become truer to who I am. The early years are filled with influences and trends, but cash flow and financial resources ultimately dictated what was possible. Now,[my business is more established] I feel more or less free to design and manufacture jewellery that resonates with me and that I design from deep within.

What does the future of jewellery design in Africa look like?

KG: I think the nature of globalisation and media accessibility means that there’s more understanding in previously lesser-known markets about what’s happening internationally. And first-world international markets are, in turn, hunting for fresh ideas and artisans. So, I think it's been a trend to champion African jewellery and design for a while now. There’ll continue to be a growing demand for African adornments in all their iterations, from rural to international.

As the world has finally embraced the concept of African luxury, have you found an increasing demand for your pieces?

KG: We have. I think the notion of handmade, artisanal pieces with African provenance has a rather exotic and interesting flavour. Africa is quite a bold continent, and texture and colour are most definitely friends of ours.The world seems fascinated, and we’re definitely enjoying the attention and encouragement.

You’re considered a veteran in the industry. To what do you attribute your continued success?

KG: Keeping focused in and amongst the noise. Continued determination, hard work, consistency and calm even during tough times. Surrounding myself with excellent staff and a very strong Managing Director. We complement each other and respect or trust each other's strengths or judgement. There’s so much smoke-and-mirror action out there – you have to remain sane and stick to your knitting.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

KG: Understand that sometimes people will be so unreasonable and rude despite every attempt to appease them.

You have a very distinct style, which makes you instantly recognisable in your jewellery pieces and personal sense of style. Have you always embraced being unique, or has this evolved with confidence?

KG: Thank you. I hadn’t thought about that. I think it's a case of being true to yourself. I’ve always been drawn to anything unique or unusual, from shoes to handbags and brooches.Not necessarily fashion, but more interesting things in general. Something that makes me laugh or smile. I don't take style too seriously, apart from quality and some attempts at ethics. Apart from that, it's just about finding your own groove and comfort. Most of all, have fun.

Who or what inspires your jewellery designs?

KG: Everything around me and what I grew up with. My mother’s Scandinavian, so very clean Nordic vibes mixed with a deeply rustic African upbringing.

How often do you release a new collection?

KG: Usually twice a year, but sometimes I just go by feeling, if I’m having fun with some amazing gemstones I’ve discovered, and the notion overcomes me. But we always think about big seasons such as our 20th anniversary this year and Christmas, of course.

Who are your favourite jewellery designers in Africa?

KG: Chantal Mayer and Errico Cassar were my lecturers.

Any European fashion house with whom you’d love to collaborate?

KG: Not really. I think collaborations are tedious. I prefer to do my own thing.

What do you do to unwind?

KG: I take French lessons on my phone daily. And I read when I can. My partner is a filmmaker, so we watch a lot of wonderful cinema. I also love to walk outdoors or go to the gym with my daughter.

Three things you can’t live without?

KG: WhatsApp video call, sparkling water and Muji pens.

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