Ashley Pittman did not start her career as a jewelry designer. She started out in finance and in 2006 volunteered for the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative in Rowanda. She was so touched by what she saw in Africa she set out to utilize her background in the finance industry and law school to build a sustainable company to provide much needed employment and business training to local artisan groups.
Ashley said she always loved fashion and accessories, but together with the need for artisans to work and the beautiful materials of East Africa she turned into a jewelry designer! I was very impressed by her collection. Some of the pieces make quite a statement, like her pendants and cuffs, but many, like her pounded bronze chains or horn link necklaces, can be understated classics and can be worn with other pieces or simply on their own.
She told me she is aware of trends but doesn’t consciously follow them when she designs her pieces. I think that is a smart approach because when it comes to jewelry, women tend to wear what they love. I was overwhelmed with the selection at her trunk show at Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue last week. Combined with each other or on their own, her pieces are all unique, since that are hand crafted. She told me she loves seeing women at Neiman Marcus collecting and wearing her jewelry because she can picture the artisans actually making the pieces. Ten percent of all profits are donated to help fund the operation air a health center and school in rural Kenya. Everybody who buys her jewelry can feel good about that!
Today Ashley Pittman employs 100 people, with the opportunity for growth and expansion by instituting the concept of fair trade and not aid. Ashley Pittman Collection is entirely handcrafted in Kenya featuring recycled horn, fair trade semiprecious gemstones, bronze and materials indigenous to East Africa. The horn comes from Kenyan Ankole cows which a re a food source of the local communities and villages. The animals are not harmed in order to obtain their horn and the livestock farming is a sustainable pasture based system.
Shop Ashley Pittman at Neiman Marcus
– Carol Calacci
Photos: Second City Style