Jewellery designer and Artistic Director Alexandra Mor is going on a decade in business, and through those years, she’s remained committed not only to the craftsmanship and design she’s known for, but to leading her industry toward a more responsible, mindful and sustainable mindset. She collaborated with Gemfields on their ethical emeralds initiative in 2013. In 2016, she moved to Bali, discovered the tagua seed, collaborated with local craftsman to reflect their heritage, and came back with a sustainable capsule collection.
Three years ago, she became the creative director for Vogue Italia’s Protagonist haute couture jewellery event focusing on responsible fine jewellery. In 2018, Alexandra received the Innovator of the Year award from Town & Country Magazine for the Tagua Seed capsule collection. Alexandra is speaking at our first ever Positive Week panel in New York, and in advance of that, we chatted with her about her role at the Vogue Protagonist exhibit, her use of the tagua seed, and why she believes we all need to work together to ensure a better future.
I am fortunate that I can use my platform in a meaningful way and that I belong to an industry that cares to make a difference. Whether it’s designers, retailers or collectors, I am committed to bring awareness around sustainability. I believe there has to be something that is much more meaningful than just the transaction of selling or buying a piece of high jewellery.
As designers, I think we can bring change without force. I’ve been a part of the Vogue Italia Protagonist project since it started seven years ago, and for the past three years, I’ve been their creative director. My goal is to lead the conversation about mindful, responsible and sustainable fine jewellery. This year, we’re beginning a three-year collaboration with the Salon Art + Design Show at the Armory. There are 15 designers involved, and all are using sustainable materials, mindful practices and supporting the environment.
My journey into sustainability started from wanting to live a more connected life. In 2016, my family moved to Bali. I thought it would be a sabbatical. What started as a much needed break, ended up being a new way of being and discovering the next phase of what my role is on this planet. I would use my creative voice in returning to New York not only with a new collection but with a new way of being and of doing things.
Ivory is considered a fine material, but the tagua seed, which is the botanical alternative to ivory, was not considered fine. When I first began sharing tagua nuts with people, they looked at me and thought I was a nut. I had nuts in my bag all the time and would give one to anyone I met. With this project, I was not only able to create a capsule collection, but I was honoured to work with Balinese carvers and goldsmiths. The process enabled me to be mindful and respectful of other cultures and traditions, telling their stories from a non-egotistical or ‘we know better’ point of view. I have learned from their culture about respect and what it means to truly collaborate. In the core of this conversation is the asking of permission, not assuming it’s ours to take and takeover. The idea of ‘permission’ is integral to a sustainable way of thinking and is something I am planning to dive deeper into in the coming collections. It was humbling and an honouring experience that I still continue to take part in and learn from.
I think people don’t know enough about sustainability to understand it. Unfortunately, sustainability in the mainstream conversation is still about recycling. When I say ‘sustainable,’ I am asked what I mean. People talk about global warming but they are unaware of how to affect that besides recycling. Of course, recycling is important, but it is more multifaceted than that. To me, sustainability is the preservation of our environment, Indigenous cultures, and craftsmanship. It’s the respect and relationship we have toward each other, nature and our history and culture. Sustainability is by no means a trend, but rather it is a way of life, a way of being and is deeply crucial to the future of our planet.
Do your research. It won’t happen overnight, but the choices we all make on a daily basis will facilitate the change we want to see in the world. When I speak with my private clients, I start the conversation with what we can do that is more mindful. I have a client who bought a piece that was carved from tagua, and I didn’t know she was an elephant lover. When we started talking about it, she was so emotional. With that piece, I gave her the opportunity to give 15 percent of what she paid to Space For Giants, a not-for-profit organisation in Kenya that supports elephant habitats, nature and the communities around it. When a collector has that connection to a piece they become an extension of the work, and an ambassador that will continue the conversation with every time she wears it.
I think sustainability should be integrated into every business today. And it will be, I have no doubt about it. I think there is a great need for us in the luxury market to really work together and support each other. Sharing experiences and being transparent with each other is the only way. I believe the movement towards transparency and collaboration is also an integral part of the umbrella of sustainability and is essential to the success of our industry, to the survival of our planet and to the survival of all the living things that inhabit it.
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