I was drawn to her jewelry because I felt the shape was distinctly African yet unique in its own right. I didn’t know it at the time, but the brand is influenced by the designer’s Greek and Cameroonian heritage. Valeri Christina is a self-named accessory brand by the designer who lives and produces her work in London. Growing up to a Greek father and a Cameroonian mother, Valeri had the opportunity to experience different cultures and inspirations.
It is not surprising that Valeri’s brand is strong and keeps growing, as she is well educated with a degree in International Business. Keep reading the interview below to find out about the amazing discount Valeri Christina is offering all Style Summit Africa readers!
Why accessory design?
I never thought that I would end up making jewelry. I originally wanted to create a website where I could sell affordable African designs with more style variety as I felt frustrated that most of the products on the market had limited options and were too expensive. When I was a little girl, I loved to design, draw and paint but as I grew up I put aside my passion for design and got a degree in International Business Management. Quite interestingly though, through the years I always felt that something was missing; my passion for creativity. And so, when I decided to start my business I had two options: I could contact African designers and sell their products through an online platform OR create my own products. I eventually decided to create my own brand and I started with jewelry. My collection includes necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.
How has the journey been so far? Any highs and lows?
It is an incredible journey to start a business. But you must remain passionate about your work and be willing to learn every day. Just recently, I found out that my work was featured in ELLE Magazine UK for their holiday gift guide and I’m so excited about that. I don’t have a background in jewelry design or in any part of the fashion industry and so I learned everything from scratch and followed my gut. If you want to be successful, you must take risks and dare to explore new paths. Not only will you learn something new, you will improve your skills in the process! It is a lot of work and sometimes you don’t see immediate results but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. I believe that when we have a dream and a clear vision we just have to stay focused and the hard work will pay off.
What is your goal for your business?
My first mission is to encourage people to dare to take risks and live their dreams. Everything is possible if we believe we can do it. If I can motivate and encourage people, my mission will be accomplished.
Is there anything that you wish you knew before you entered this business?
I embrace every single step of the journey and I’m improving my skills at each level. It’s a lot of work and it’s very difficult to single-handedly manage all aspects of the business but I keep learning new things. One thing I didn’t know in the beginning was that I could use software to improve my workflow and my ability to manage each task. Also, nowadays, there are powerful tools to help us create amazing content for social media and this has been very helpful to me.
Are you aware that there is a stereotype about African designers? How do you feel about that?
To be honest with you, I’m not very concerned about this stereotype. I want to touch women through my art, encourage them to accomplish their dreams and to have confidence. This is what fuels me.
However, as you can see in my collection, my inspiration comes from my African and European heritage, my travels and the amazing people that I have met along the way. I’m a woman of mixed race and sometimes I find it hard to find my place in society since in Africa, people will call me “White girl” but in Europe I am called “Black girl”. I consider myself a citizen of the world and I’m glad to be a mixture of two different cultures. I can’t dissociate myself from any of my roots. They make me who I am.
Unfortunately, stereotypes DO exist but I don’t focus on them. My naivete on this sensitive topic is probably what has helped me to avoid some challenges. I believe if we help and encourage each other, the true quality of our art will show and THEN we can break this stereotype.
How has your Cameroonian and Grecian heritage influenced your work?
I believe that I’m a citizen of the world and I find inspiration everywhere: traveling to new places, discovering new shops, trying new materials, and others.
However, as you can see in my collection, my products are inspired by both my African and my European heritage. For the Grecian inspiration, I was highly inspired by Ancient Greek goddesses and it reflects in my use of gold plated materials with a combination of white ropes and threads. The colours and the shape of my designs, however, remind me the nature, food, market, and different places in Africa. In addition to this, I always have some African masks in mind when deciding the shape of my designs. Cameroon and Greece are both great sources of inspiration.
Do you have any stories you can share about challenges in running your business? Any advice to others who may also be dealing with those struggles?
There are many challenges I have had to overcome. For example, it’s very difficult to find new suppliers, find the right materials and test new products. Another challenge is to be able to produce enough quantities and ship everything on time.
Because of these challenges, I work hard every day to ensure that I find solutions and meet all demands. My passion also helps me to keep moving forward and embrace the difficulties with a smile. It is incredibly rewarding to persevere till you overcome challenges. It makes you stronger in the end.
How would you describe your personal style?
Chic, elegant, and colourful.
How important is networking in this industry?
To be honest, I didn’t network enough and it was simply because I was not ready. I was focusing all my time and energy on building my brand and improving the quality of my products. However, I have been fortunate enough to be approached by bloggers, shops and magazines through social media and I developed strong relationships with all of them. But I believe networking is very important for a company that wants to develop and create new partnerships. I am hopeful that next year, will be my year of networking!
Do you only sell your jewellery in London? Have you expanded internationally?
I sell my jewellery WORLDWIDE through my Etsy website. However, depending on the country, I always recommend to my customers that they select the tracking number option so that they can track their orders. Next year, I plan to start private sales in London and Paris.
How would you describe your brand “Valeri Christina”? What type of woman is your target buyer?
“Valeri Christina” is a chic, modern and colourful jewellery line for modern, confident and audacious women. It is for strong and bold women that dare to take risks to achieve their dreams and help each other to succeed. I want to inspire women to live their dreams, take risks and discover their potential by exploring their own world and discovering who they are. When they wear Valeri Christina, they will feel empowered and confident. They will feel everything is possible and it will bring them joy and positivity.
Calling all accessory lovers! Valeri Christina is offering 10% OFF to all Style Summit Africa followers with the code SSA01 via her Etsy website: http://vchristinacollection.etsy.com/ so get to shopping! This promotion is valid till 31st December 2016.