I often get asked what inspired me to start my jewellery line, and what I can say now, looking back at my life, is that I was always destined to do something creative. I had a brilliant childhood, growing up in Trinidad & Tobago, surrounded by 3 close siblings and hardworking but extremely supportive parents. From a very young age, I was encouraged to explore my interests and engaged in many fulfilling and varied hobbies, including reading, playing the piano, drawing, sewing, stamp collecting, ballet, creative writing, and just generally making things. Random things. My earliest memory of something I made was a pair of slippers out of scraps of leftover carpet, aged 6. I was so proud of my creation. My siblings were somewhat less impressed.
I was a very academic child and excelled through my studies at school, eventually leaving secondary school, aged 18, with A-level distinctions in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. Great foundations for starting a jewellery business! But underpinning my academic achievements was this rogue creative streak (what TV serial killer Dexter would have called my 'dark passenger') that consumed much of my time and imagination when not at school. When I left Trinidad to go to university in Miami, I went in declaring a Biology major and came out 4 years later with a Fine Arts degree. My dark passenger would not be ignored.
In September 1999, I moved to London with the intention of exploring the world for a year before going back to the US to continue my studies in Art History. Within 2 weeks, I met my now hubby and was having way too much fun getting to know him and his great group of friends. The underground club scene in London was at its peak and I got into DJing, a common pursuit among our generation of recreational ravers, while slowing climbing the corporate ladder in my 9-5 career in the City. It was by chance when looking for a leaving present for a friend who was moving to Dubai that I came across a lovely bead shop that offered jewellery making courses. On a whim, I signed up for a one-day Introduction to Jewellery Making class. Little did I realise how much this one day would change the course of my life forever.
Making jewellery proved to be the perfect outlet to channel my abundance of creative energy, as it allowed me to create pieces that were 100% me. It was so liberating being able to make the kind of jewellery I wanted to wear but could never in a million years find in the shops, and I spent most of my free time making pieces to wear to work or when going out. I would often get complimented on my jewellery and actually sold my first piece straight off my neck to someone I just met at a seminar! However, it wasn't until I had my first career break in nearly 10 years, while on maternity leave with my first child, that I took the leap of faith and turned my jewellery from a hobby into a serious business. I was to finally fulfil my lifelong ambition of being my own boss.
8 years, 3 kids and a huge learning curve later, I am so thankful for the immense support I received every day from family, friends, colleagues, buyers, journalists, stylists, private customers, suppliers and fellow designers that has made AKONG what it became. I started AKONG because I was brought up to believe that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, no matter how impossible it may seem. My dream since I was 5 was to be my own person - to be free and in charge of my own destiny and to carve out just a little Akong-shaped niche in the world that I could share with others. And I believe there is no greater gift I can pass on than the confidence to go after your own dreams and be free.
In love and peace,