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NAJO’s Jo Tory talks jewellery, self-expression and gender equality

Najo Jewellery Jo Tory

Words by Fashion Journal

Silver linings.

The jewellery you choose to wear tells the world a lot about you. No one knows this better than Jo Tory. She’s been at the helm of jewellery label NAJO for the past 30 years, promoting self-expression through her silver designs.

This year, Jo’s proving that jewellery can also make a difference, teaming up with the White Ribbon campaign for a second year running. The designer is donating 100 per cent of profits from her new Time For Change necklace to the organisation in a bid to help combat domestic violence.

We sat down with Jo to talk gender equality, design and three decades of female-led business.

NAJO was originally inspired by the spirit of Mexico. Can this influence still be seen in the brand today?
Living in Mexico, I experienced the extraordinary work of the silversmiths there. This work is what originally inspired me to start NAJO and that craftsmanship has defined the NAJO brand ethos. Solid, well-crafted silver designs, clean, contemporary lines, oxidised patterning and trims – all of these elements are embraced in NAJO collections.

How has NAJO stayed relevant over the years?
Over the years NAJO has experimented with different design genres, influenced by our bi-annual collection themes and by fashion. However, one element remains the same: our designs always fit into a fairly strict aesthetic standard that is the NAJO hallmark. This is our relevance and our message. Fashions come and go, the price of silver rises and falls, exchange rates change. We always need to work with these variables but our criteria is that the jewellery must always be sophisticated, contemporary and fashionable.

Tell us about your background. Did you have any experience with jewellery design before beginning the label?
I come from an art school background, and from a creative family. My mother made silver jewellery, so design was with me from an early age. It was when I lived in Mexico and experienced the superb craftsmanship of the silversmiths there that I knew jewellery was my direction.

NAJO has worked with White Ribbon for two years now. Why is this relationship so important to the brand?
It’s an important issue for me. I’ve always been conscious of the need for gender equality, as well as the need for women to be independent and strong. I believe that education is the most important way to achieve this. White Ribbon’s approach is to educate youth so that no entrenched attitudes of gender inequality are carried through generations. It also seeks to engage men to start conversations with other men about the issue. This seems to be such a logical method of stamping out domestic violence.

Can you talk us through NAJO’s jewellery making process?
First of all, we start with a theme and search through broad references – architecture, objects, graphic design – for inspiration. We then decide on the shapes, material and whether a piece will have a high polish, hammered, oxidised or gold plate finish. When all is ready we take the designs to our suppliers and start sampling.

NAJO is described as “a story of women, by women.” What does that mean to you?
Human beings have always decorated their bodies in one way or another. It’s a personal expression and tells the story of who you are. It means that I am influenced by what women wear, by what they want, and I strive to provide that.

Any advice for women wanting to run their own businesses?
I would always say to make sure your business is harmonious with your lifestyle. Put aside time to pursue interests outside of business and family, but make sure family time is sacred. This ensures a healthy mix of life’s pleasures and leads to balance.

What’s next for NAJO?
There is a lot on the horizon, but the most immediate is the development of a bespoke jewellery collection.

You can shop NAJO’s Time For Change necklace at whiteribbon.org.au

najo.com.au

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 177. You can read it here.

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