For designer, model, and stylist Lani Lees, handmade jewelry might just be one of the most personal forms of expression there is. With designing and crafting her own pieces under her eponymous label Lani Lees Jewelry, the Berlin-based creative is looking to not only curate and present a true reflection of her own story, but also engage others in that sense of honesty. With everything being handmade and carefully created, Lani Lees’ jewelry is proving itself against mindless consumerism, as well as ignorant thinking. With a strong sense for equality and unity as an under layer of her work, Lani is seeing her unisex pieces as advocates for togetherness rather than differences – we asked her all about her story with the craft of making jewelry as well as using it as a tool for her messages.
Let’s start right from the beginning. How did the idea of founding your own jewelry label come about?
At the end of the day it was quite a long process. I was doing a lot of different projects for some time, but jewelry was always somewhere in my mind. That goes right back to my mother and me roaming through countless jewelry stores in Thailand. Still, really setting up a label took some time and ultimately originated from my passion for the craft of creating these pieces. So overall, the process of me rediscovering it was really natural.
Was there any particular moment you rediscovered that love for jewelry?
It was immediately once I sat back down at my working table. I just started with thinking about a few designs and experimenting with a few different techniques, and everything came right back. I actually started to wonder how I was able to go without making jewelry for so long. That was the key moment I realized this is what I need to do.
Talking about the craft, all your products are handmade. Why is that approach especially important to you?
First and foremost, the craft just is my passion, and to me it is a lot of fun. Apart from that I just like that with jewelry you really see and sense if the pieces are handmade, which is something really special. This sustainable path definitely is the only possible way for me. One of the nice things about working with such materials also is that you can always melt them and then totally reuse them. I am working a lot with recycled materials, and you can actually feel that when you touch the pieces.
Do you feel like this development towards a more sustainable and personal approach is a general trend in jewelry at the moment?
Yes, I also think this is one of the biggest differences between fashion and jewelry right now. With jewelry, you often have a really personal story related to the product or object, you choose to buy that exact piece. So the mind-set of the customers is totally different, they buy something for themselves because they want to, not because they necessarily need it. That also greatly reflects in the people that buy my jewelry, they often consciously look for something a bit more special. I really enjoy this personal contact because you really get to know your customers, you build something like a relationship with them and often I even get to be there when they receive what they ordered. I wouldn’t want to miss that.
On that note, do you feel like you also put a lot of yourself and your character into your jewelry?
My label is something that is completely connected to my personality. It’s a mix of elegance and roughness, with sporty elements, and definitely not only female, more unisex. Although I sometimes notice that because these products are a reflection of me, of me as a woman, they do tend to be a bit more female oriented than male.
When designing your pieces now and pouring so much of yourself into them, is the creation process equally as natural as your rediscovery of it?
Mostly it’s really natural, yes. I have a few topics I try to especially incorporate into my designs, two of the most important of them being music and dance. With dance and music, there just is this sense of coming together of different people, no matter if they are men or women. Things like that don’t matter with music, we just all become one. That’s also why I want to focus on unisex jewelry, especially in the sense of equality.
How do you connect that strive for equality with your jewelry?
Equality is an important topic to me because I grew up as a woman, and experienced what it is like to grow up as a woman in different countries. That’s why I was always quite interested in the disparities that still largely exist between men and women in different cultures, as well as between people of different sexual orientations. I always knew that if I would do my own products they should be able to reflect these topics, because they are so important to me. Of course a piece of jewelry isn’t going to be the one thing that overcomes these issues, but I nonetheless think that jewelry is a good way to bring across a message. That’s also how the idea of doing unisex jewelry came about in the first place, and how this relates to my other passions music and dance. When we listen to music and are moved by it, both physically and emotionally, where we come from, who we love, what background we have becomes irrelevant. I am currently planning the launch event of Lani Lees Jewelry in September and want to further develop my brand, working with possible collaboration partners that especially fit with my key themes: dance, music, and unisex.
By Trisha Balster, Images by Hannah Cassens Marshall