Meet one of our favorite new design stars: Yelena Noah. This model turned artist turned designer recently launched her eponymous collection of jewels, inspired by her own multi-cultural heritage and love of travel. This Swedish, French, and Cameroonian designer handcrafts every piece of this eclectic collection in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn studio. With inspiration coming from West African symbols and Aztec motifs, the collection is filled with bohemian stunners like the blue vida pendant necklace and the third eye head chain. We recently caught up with Yelena to hear more about her inspirations and process.
How does travel inspire your collection?
I was born in New York city but my mother is Swedish and father is French and Cameroonian. I had the luxury of traveling a lot in my youth. I believe travel is so important for keeping an open mind. I think that you learn a lot about yourself and what it means to be human by being out of your comfort zone and being confronted by cultures and languages that are not your own. My jewelry is definitely a product of my cultural heritage and my travels.
Describe the Yelena Noah brand.
Transcultural, Symbolic, Unique.
Your collection of keeps growing. What creative endeavors are on the horizon?
I?ve been working on a project in Suriname with the Maroon women?s network. The project is a celebration of Maroon women and their powerful culture. I was recently invited to speak at the Neue house, along with Pamela Love and Anndra Neen to join the discussion on ?Suriname: The Land of El Dorado.? This project is still in the works.
I am also currently trying to create a collaborative project with women in Cameroon. I want my jewelry line to have significance beyond being just jewelry.
Tell us about your favorite piece (or one of them) and where you were inspired to create it.
My Heritage ring. My grandfather asked me to design a piece of jewelry before I graduated high school. I designed a ring and he used the gold from my great-grandparents' wedding bands to create it as well as a green amethyst stone from Brazil that he had found when he was traveling there in the 1940?s. My grandfather, who passed not long after, was the person who commissioned my first piece of jewelry. This was before I even thought of the idea of becoming a designer! I love him.
What do you love most about New York?
I love New York. The electrifying energy, multi-cultural melting pot and the feeling that anything can happen and anything is possible is intoxicating.
What are your upcoming travel plans?
I am hoping to visit the island of Maui, where my mother and uncle live. This is the place where I?m able to finally ?unplug and reconnect.? The nature there is so powerful and the fact that its so far away from everything really enables me to disconnect and feel like im in the present moment.
Souk or Department Store?
DIY or Concierge Service?
Buy Everything or Buy Nothing?
Camping or 5-Star Hotel?
Tough one! I think depends on the context and my mood. Camping trip with friends followed by a 5-Star hotel?!
Drive or be Driven?
Room service or Street Food?
I would personally choose street food, but will not say no to the occasional pampering of room service!