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South African jewellery entrepreneur Clare Wiese-Wentzel shines bright

We love to honour ambitious SA women, and Clare Wiese-Wentzel is one such success story. An entrepreneur and the founder of Paka Paka, a luxury jewellery house known for its magnificent use of diamonds, Clare’s gorgeous creations have graced the editorial pages of international glossies like  WHarper’s Bazaar and US GLAMOUR — and has been worn by the likes of Uma Thurman, Kerry Washington and Amy Adams.

GLAMOUR caught up with Clare to find out more about Paka Paka, what she has learnt in business and where she sees the brand heading next.

How did you come up with the name Paka Paka?

We wanted to create a brand name that conveys our African origins, but that also has a contemporary and luxurious edge to it. Paka Paka (from the Swahili word “paka”, meaning “cat”) takes its design influences from the majestic lion, who is strong, elegant, free-spirited and fierce.

As an entrepreneur and businesswoman, what’s the best business advice someone has given you?

My father has taught me a few valuable lessons:

1. There is no such thing as an overnight success or a quick buck. Truly successful businesses are built over time, brick by brick.

2. Owning and making any business work is not easy, regardless of the industry you’re in.

3. The “secret to success” is a four-letter word: work.

What sets Paka Paka apart from other jewellery houses?

Although many jewellery houses are and have marketed themselves as African-inspired, Paka Paka strikes a very careful balance between exuding a subtle yet distinctive African influence while retaining a global design aesthetic. The international market is ready to embrace Africa in a new way: gone are the days of curio-shop trinkets and an over-usage of tanzanite and animal horn. There is a demand for a brand that gives people the finest materials that our continent has to offer (gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and African trade beads) as well as world-class, original design that captures the romance and dreaminess of Africa.

Paka Paka is especially known for its use of diamonds. What do they mean to you?

They signify luxury, rarity and timelessness: hand selecting the finest and most beautiful gemstones for our collections forms a big part of our brand identity.

Not only is your brand receiving major press from publications, but your jewellery has been worn by numerous celebrities. How difficult is it to get such public figures to trust and embrace your collection?

I did not anticipate that our jewellery would be worn by the likes of Amy Adams, Chrissy Teigen, Kate Walsh and Rebecca Romijn so soon after our launch. We have been fortunate that some fabulous celebrities and their stylists have really warmed to our brand. However, a constant effort has to be made to keep your collections front of mind during awards seasons, press junkets and other red-carpet events. You need to stay on top of your game.

What advice would you give to young women hoping to follow in your footsteps?

It’s important to have a clear vision of where you see your brand fitting into whatever market you are targeting. There are so many fashion and jewellery brands out there today. To stand out from the crowd, you need to be original.

What can we expect next from Paka Paka?

We are currently in the process of getting our collections into some very large fine-jewellery boutiques and department stores in the US, which is our main target market. If all goes to plan, we will expand to the UK and Middle East soon thereafter. We are continuing to sell online and are opening a stand-alone boutique on my family’s game farm in the Kalahari Desert before the end of the year.

See more of Clare’s jewellery collections on her website,  here .

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