One-on-One with Erika Freund of Mikuti

More than just jewelry!

So you want to be a jewelry designer but not sure where to start? Check out this exclusive interview with Erika Freend from Mikuti Jewelry Designs. Unlike most jewelry companies out there, Erika makes sure that at Mikuti, there is a social message behind the company. Through fair trade practices, Mikuti Designs works as a company to ensure that workers abroad actually get paid for their services.

Love Twenty: When did you know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?

Erika: Well, I didn’t actually set out to be a jewelry designer. It was something that grew from my love of fashion, traveling, and experiencing other cultures. So for me, it was an opportunity to merge the things I love. Ironically, I don’t think it was until recently that I realized how much I love the creative process. Seeing a piece the entire way through can be really challenging, especially because the mediums I work with aren’t the easiest and I don’t always have all the resources I need. I like the challenge of believing that the end result is possible, even if it means giving it that extra day to work on.”

Love Twenty: How did your love of jewelry come about?

Erika: I’m someone who is very visually stimulated; it’s probably why I love environments that are new and different to what I know. Jewelry always has the potential to make someone look very different. Different colors can bring out shades in someone face, or eyes and statement pieces can completely change the look of an outfit. Or a simple piece can create an elegance that wasn’t there before. Plus, jewelry is expressive and I like seeing how people express themselves.

Love Twenty: What does it mean to be a socially active company?

Erika: I’m so glad you asked me because I’ve always wondered how people interpret this. For me, being socially active is being involved in the community you live in; learning about it, being enriched from it, giving back to it, and being because of it. For example, I’ve put forth a lot of effort to learn about the creative scene in East Africa, whether it is fashion, film, or music. I want to be involved and well informed about the areas I do my work. I’ve also put the same amount of effort towards learning about the needs of the region. It’s important for my company to cognizant and have a positive impact.

Love Twenty: What inspires your designs?

Erika: It’s difficult to not be inspired by East Africa; the natural landscapes, the coastline, the vibrant colors, and the sounds of Swahili play a huge part in all my pieces. I’m particularly inspired by the traditional jewelry of the Maasai Culture. Their color patterns and the importance of jewelry to them astound me. I love the boldness and the way the women drape themselves in necklaces. Plus, they’re semi-nomadic. They move freely throughout the world and that’s something I’m personally drawn to. It’s something I want my designs to be able to do as well. I want each of my pieces to standout and be able to look great in different environments.

Love Twenty: How did the business start?

Erika: The business started after living in Tanzania doing volunteer work. I saw an opportunity to try to merge the things I love and wanted to give it a shot. That was 2 years, and I finally feel like it’s starting to walk on its own.

Love Twenty: Any advice for aspiring jewelry designers/designers fresh out of college?

Erika: Explore the creative scene on a global level. There are so many designers out there doing such impressive things. Reach out to them, intern for them, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to standout.

Love Twenty: Any jewelry trends that you’ve noticed that we fashionistas should be following?

Erika: I see a lot of boldness everywhere, whether it be chains, metals, colors. I feel like designers are just pushing boundaries, and mixing and matching everything. I love it.

Love Twenty: Greatest moment of your career so far?

Erika: When I accessorized Mara Hoffman’s Swim Show in Mercedes Benz Miami Fashion Week. She’s an incredible designer, and to be a part of it was surreal.

Love Twenty: What’s coming up next in the World of Mikuti!

Erika: I’m headed back to Tanzania in September to work on the 2012 Spring/Summer line, and to explore more workshops. I’m very excited for the trip!

For more information check out or follow Mikuti on Twitter!

And keep your eyes open because we’ll be giving away some fabulous pieces of Mikuti’s jewelry next month!


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