Among the many satisfying rites of passage that come with adulthood is graduating from fashion jewellery to the serious stuff. As pockets grow deeper and appreciation increases, high-street accessories are traded in for bolder or timeless treasures in the form of costume, fine or, if your credit card is the right colour, high jewellery.
The first tends to comprise flamboyant ornaments that use cheaper, clever alternatives (glass, crystals and brass) to the precious materials found in fine jewellery. High jewellery is the altar of craftsmanship, where rare, one-off pieces are too superlative to have their price tags on display.
Making that leap from fashion jewellery to costume is no mean feat, given the extra zeroes that can trail behind the latter. The demi-fine category recently emerged as an answer, leveraging the right amount of precious or semi-precious materials to bridge the two.
‘Kin is one such label to hit that sweet spot. Founders Athiya Hamid and Zaireen Iskandar had struggled to find affordable and durable hoop earrings. Off-the-rack purchases tarnished or discoloured quickly while costume jewellery cost a pretty penny. Frustrated, they created their own brand of demi-fine hoops in rhodium and gold vermeil. Instead of the flash-plating employed in fashion jewellery, their 925 sterling silver hoops are plated in 10 times more (2.5 microns thick) with 18 or 14-carat gold for additional resilience and lustre.
Available in various expressions that range from RM370 to RM890, hoops were a deliberate choice for the debut collection. Athiya and Zaireen were new mothers who found themselves with exponentially less time to dedicate to dressing up. What they did have faith in were humble hoop earrings: slip on a pair and that unironed shirt and jeans instantly get a chic update.
“Since we started researching this over two years ago, we’ve had four children between us and numerous setbacks, but we are finally launching our second collection,” laughs Athiya.
Hoops will always remain the core of the business, with three new designs as well as limited options in rose gold, but ‘Kin’s latest line introduces the edgy Rolo chain and a selection of charms. These span geometric shapes and lockets that can be engraved to ornate pill capsules and sleek wands decorated with semi-precious stones. The charms can even be slipped over some of the slimmer hoops for trendy asymmetry or a dash of extra glam.
“We were inspired by long, layered looks and stacked charms,” says Zaireen. “The semi-precious stones include white topaz, black onyx, red garnets, green tourmalines and blue iolites. The stones are natural, so there are imperfections, but we embrace, rather than hide, these. They are understated yet eye-catching; the wands, for example, glimmer from a distance but you would have to come close to really see the semi-precious stones. The idea is to mix, match and have fun with them.”
The versatility of the jewellery was highlighted at KL Fashion Week 2019 when ‘Kin was incorporated into Alia Bastamam’s ensembles. “It showcased the wide range possible, from classy and contemporary to statement-making, over-the-top looks,” says Zaireen. The same spirit informs the visual campaign for the sophomore series, featuring androgynous and feminine models rocking these accents.
Getting here involved a steep learning curve and expensive mistakes. The second collection was slated for launch in August, but manufacturing defects resulted in unavoidable delays. ‘Kin works with specialised suppliers in Bangkok for the charms and hoops while the Rolo chains hail from Italy. Liaising with the international manufacturers is time-consuming and some issues are only noticed when the product reaches their hands.
“It almost feels like every time we put our heart and money into something, something goes wrong,” says Athiya. “But we refuse to compromise on quality because the jewellery isn’t cheap and people should get the value they pay for. They have to be things we ourselves would wear, so we are exacting in our standards.”
Prices start at a similar entry point as the hoops but the gold vermeil wand charm with tourmalines and fully pavéd white topaz locket nudge the RM1,200 mark. ‘Kin operates as an online store but customers can also pick up its jewellery at Shoes Shoes Shoes in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, and Mandarin Gallery in Singapore’s Orchard Road. Suede dust bags and care instructions ensure you get the best shine for your dime while sleek gift boxes hint at the urban designs packaged within.
“We started ‘Kin because we love jewellery and wanted to celebrate our loved ones through it, so this is a dream come true,” says Zaireen. The label was so named to honour the family-like bond between the long time-friends-turned-business-partners as well as their loved ones. In fact, the earrings — bearing names like Asha, Ava, Linny and Zara — are named after their children and family members. These demi-fine luxuries are quite a legacy to bequeath, and how fitting that hoops, like the eternal loop of love that binds a family, should be the foundation stone of ‘Kin.
This article first appeared on Dec 16, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.