In our first ever blog post, we sit down with the original KASHKA girl, Creative Director and founder of our company, Naqiyah Sultan. We get up close and personal with the lady herself and find out what her hopes and dreams for the future are.
How old were you when you set up KASHKA?
I was 29 years old.
What did the early days of KASHKA look like?
Ha! I think you could say that the early days were messy, unsure and naive – but brimming full of optimism and enthusiasm.
How has KASHKA progressed from when you started it?
The brand has progressed in so many ways from when I first started it. Initially, I was guided by my warrior cry of justice when it came to many aspects, but then I realised that, if I wanted to ensure KASHKA got the best chance, something would have to give.
Another element that has massively changed over time is the branding. By changing the overall image, it has impacted the way I feel about the business.
What is the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
Every business owner will say something different, but for me there are two answers; people and collaboration.
I get to meet a variety of people from all walks of life, as well as exchange ideas and collaborate with them. To those on the receiving end, it may seem like any other conversation, but for me, they have indirectly helped KASHKA grow and I couldn’t be more thankful.
If you had to describe KASHKA in a sentence, how would you do that?
Beautiful jewellery for the ambitious and independently conscious souls out there.
When designing jewellery, who – or what – is in your mind when designing?
I am designing and thinking about the everyday woman. She wants to look good, but not at the expense of her busy lifestyle. She doesn’t have time to concern herself with every detail of her daily outfit as she has bigger things happening, but she still likes to be fashionable and well dressed.
Where do you get your inspiration from for a collection?
First and foremost, it is the everyday women who do everyday things that inspire me. They are always in the back of my mind. I combine this with my art history background and love/semi-obsession for symbolism. I believe that everything we do at KASHKA should have meaning – be it within the stone, motif or collection name. Everything we do matters, which is why the meaning matters to me too.
Talk me through your process of creating a new collection, from start to finish.
Creating a new collection is a relatively lengthy process. At the moment, our collections are predominantly metal based, so it always starts with the idea which gets sketched out before the final dimensions and metal finishes are applied. Depending on the complications of the designs, this can take up to two weeks. Once the designs have been finalised, these are then created into a mould and then cast. Once the cast is created, the jewellery will be hand finished and sent off to another workshop to be plated if necessary. It can take up to 4 weeks to go from the design to having a finished product.
Tell us more about the fairmined element of the jewellery. What does it mean to be fairmined and why is it important to you?
Fairmined means that the miners are paid a fair wage and a premium on the material they mine. The premium is paid towards their community which, in turn, provides them access to better facilities such as a community clinic and school. In the Western world, these are the basic necessities we take for granted. Surely, if we can justify spending large amounts of money on products we want, we can ensure that the individuals who have done the hardest of work can be paid fairly.
I know practicing as an ethical business is important to you, so tell us what you consider and why it is important.
I would say that “ethical” is just a term that we apply to things, but there should be no differentiation between being – or not being – ethical. In my personal opinion, and within my personal values, it is important to ensure that no human being or animal was hurt or abused within the process of producing our jewellery and that the environment isn’t harmed either. It is vitally important to me that we limit the damage as much as possible, if avoiding it to begin with is not an option. This also extends to waste management; we have considered how we can reduce waste management within our workshops, right down to the materials we use in our packaging.
As KASHKA grows, I would love for our business accounts to be processed through something like Triodos, the ethical bank, have a green website server and use a courier company that is considered to be carbon neutral.
Ultimately, when trying to run a business, the aim is to limit the damage to our surroundings and turn the negatives into positives. For me it’s about people and the planet.
OK Naqiyah, now we’re going to get personal. The one burning question on my mind is do you feel naked when you’re not wearing jewellery?
No. Guilty as charged. Funnily enough, aside from a pair of earrings my father gave me when I turned 16 – which I will never leave the house without – and a watch given to me by my father when I turned 18, I don’t really wear jewellery.
When are you your best self?
After 8 hours of sleep! Trust me, you wouldn’t want to meet me on any less.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
The chance to live and try again. Every day that I get on this earth is a chance to live better and fulfill my dreams and aspirations.
When or where do you feel most relaxed?
At home, which could be in the context of my actual home, or when my family are around me.
What has been your biggest lesson in life?
There have been many, but the one that sticks with me is that everyone’s journey is their own. No matter how hard I try, my path is unique to me and only I can walk it.
If you could say anything to your younger self knowing what you know now, having experienced what you’ve experienced, what would you say?
Listen to the council of elders, question things more and please don’t make irrational decisions which will always have an impact.
Is there a reason why you want to say that to your younger self?
Yes. My naivety has landed me in situations which were harmful, not only for myself, but my future too.
Who – or what – have been your main influences in life, and why?
As cliche as it is, my parents. If they hadn’t of given me the comfort in life and the wings to fly, go out there, seek and find, I would not be who I am or where I am today. Through their sacrifices, belief and pure, sweet love, I have been able to fly. Without them KASHKA would not exist, which is why it is all for them. When the business grows, I can look after them from the fruits of their? labour. I suppose this is my private hope for KASHKA as, through its success, I can look after my family.
What really important issue is currently going on right now that you don’t feel is being talked about enough?
Female periods. Period. It makes my blood boil that something as old as time is given almost no thought and regard on as to how it can have severe negative impact on a woman’s life.
Which collection are you most proud of and why?
The pearl collections. I wanted to reinvent the pearl, which I feel I have done. The results of the mixed collections are gorgeous and perfect for the KASHKA woman.
What do you want customers to remember whilst they are looking at, buying or wearing your product?
That a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this… I joke, only the sweat and tears apply! [Naqiyah laughs] But in all seriousness, I want customers to know that when they interact with the brand, they will not only be buying themselves beautiful products, but helping another person out there. I like to think that they are voting for a better world with their purse.
I know it may sound cliche, but a special message needs to go out to the people who buy and enjoy wearing KASHKA; and that is thank you. Every piece of our jewellery has been made with love and compassion, and we sincerely hope that this feeling resonates with you when you wear your KASHKA piece, use it or gift it to someone.
Having been in business for a couple of years, what have you learnt so far and how will/how has that helped you going forward?
I have learnt that hard work and consistency will be the only things to pay off, literally. You must begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began.
The other things that I have learnt are that you need to set clear goals, trust your instincts and know that you and only you are accountable for everything that does and does not happen.
What are your hopes and dreams for KASHKA?
I have many, many hopes and dreams for KASHKA. In fact, at an event yesterday, I was asked what legacy I want to leave behind and it was there, in that exact moment, that I realised what I want for the brand. I want to be a pioneer in the jewellery middle market and create beautiful jewellery that has an equally beautiful story, which will impact many lives along the way. All in all, the hope is that we grow sustainably and strongly to be able to help others achieve their dreams.
And to finish, what is the number one quote you live by?
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life” – Rumi