Alora was founded in 2013 in the beautiful city of Calgary, Alberta. Co-founders and mother-daughter duo of Emilyn and Jameela, began handcrafting jewelry on their kitchen table with the belief that jewelry should be beautiful, personal and meaningful
Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
My name is Jameela and I was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. My father, who passed away when I was 7, was from Ghana, and my mother is from Jamaica. I went to school in Canada and did two years of schooling in Ghana. I went to Mount Royal University and accomplished two things: obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration and met my husband! After graduating I travelled throughout West Africa where I learned a lot about my heritage and embraced the rich, and colourful culture of that region.
Upon coming home, I got a job in insurance, and not even a year later, my husband and I were expecting our first child. After having my first child I decided that I wouldn’t be going back to work. My mother and I had been making jewelry as a hobby, so the only logical course of action was to turn my hobby into a business!
I now have two children, am living in Canada, and pursuing my dream of owning an ethical and sustainable business.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
When I went to Ghana I was intrigued by the way that people reused what, to the untrained eye, looked like rubbish. I immediately fell in love with the recycled glass beads that are vibrant and meaningful. Turning waste into something beautiful resonated with me. It seemed like a renewal to me.
This translated into my jewelry design because I grew frustrated with “handmade” jewelry just being various made in China items put together in the West. There was total disregard for the people who made the items, and it undermined the true nature of handmade items. I didn’t think that buying and selling cheap items was good for the environment or the economy in the short or long term.
How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?
That is a great question! My mother and I have taken two jewelry making classes (one in wirework and one in silversmithing) and our skills have enabled us to create various new designs. We mostly make the things that we like, but we are influenced by our professional relationships with our retail customers. They inform us about the kind of styles that their customers are looking for. We try to balance our sustainable values with current trends. At the end of the day, we balance what we like and what our customers like.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
The importance of sustainable fashion designers at this point and time is two things: 1) to help educate customers about the importance of sustainable and ethical fashion and 2) to care about people and the environment when other companies turn a blind eye.
Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?
I am currently looking up to Stella Jean as a fashion icon. She believes that fashion can “become a vehicle for…economic, social and ethical growth and enfranchisement.” She has a global platform for change and she uses it well.
What is Alora Boutique?
Alora Boutique is a meaningful jewelry brand that gives back. We create jewelry from recycled brass and recycled glass beads that are fair trade from Ghana. In addition to creating beautiful jewelry from sustainable materials we give back to two local charities in our community via special collections. Alora creates special collections twice a year and $10 from the sale of each piece goes towards poverty reduction strategies. We also host networking events and skills workshops for disadvantaged women in our city, so that they can have opportunities that are not readily available to them normally.
What are some of its feature products?
Alora Boutique’s feature products are our recycled brass pendant necklaces specifically our feather necklaces, antler necklace and key necklaces (where $10 from the sale goes towards poverty reduction in Calgary). These are all available online at www.alora.ca.
What is your customer base – the demographics?
Our customer base are women who truly care about giving back and making their community a better place. They are between 28 -45, volunteer in their community, have typically started a family and belief is that we can change the world through our lifestyle and purchase decisions.
There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). What are the importance of human rights and worker rights in this new movement, and to the garment industry?
Worker’s rights are everyone’s rights. I think the people forget that when there are standards in labour it has a positive effect for all workers, even those that sit behind a desk. As the rights of the marginalized progress, the rights and expectations of all others is also increased.
For example, because of unions and their wage bargaining power, there is a certain expectation of wages for everyone. The simple fact that unionized workers are paid more than the average person has an effect of the labour market that creates a floor for certain professions and sectors.
In the garment industry, I think that with better worker rights we will all benefit. As consumers, we will likely get better product. When it comes to the workers, we can probably see a decrease in the need for aid and charity to certain countries since the people will be able to take care of themselves. As long as people are paid a fair and living wage in their countries they become self-sufficient. We forget that people don’t need charity, they need proper laws and systems in place to protect them from greedy and unscrupulous people in addition to systems that give them the freedom to create their own destiny.
Continued in part two here.