Meet the designer making fine jewelry out of cow horn and brass.
By Madeline Brik.
Artisanally crafted in Bujumbura, Burundi, Margaux Rusita’s jewelry tells a story that goes deeper than the necklace chain. The culturally-inspired, custom pieces of wearable art for her brand, titled Margaux Wong, reflect Rusita’s journey with creative expression in the fashion business. Honoring African opulence, the organic pieces don a contemporary design ripened by tradition.
Margaux Wong emerged as part of the selected talent invited to join the Designer Accelerator Programme from the Ethical Fashion Initiative, an organization that connects local artisans to the global market. Through the initiative’s mentorship program, Margaux Wong was able to access guidance with business logistics and brand aesthetics. “We are currently in our second season, as we have been able to successfully produce a collection, now being presented at a tremendously high standard at Pitti, based in Italy,” explained Rusita in an email to Mission.
Through the mentorship program, the brand was able to offer the marginalized community of Burundi a stage for promoting ethical craftsmanship, which contributes to the growth of the local area. “Margaux Wong is now committed to observing, honoring, and implementing strategies which would play a part in successfully accomplishing United Nations Sustainable Goals in a real and personal way, making a huge impact in our community, country, and region,” Rusita said. To this end, the jewelry brand’s culturally inspired pieces advocate for diversification within the global fashion market.
Ethically produced, Rusita’s collection is sourced from local materials such as cow horn and brass. Through strategic decision making, the designer is able to execute sustainability in a multitude of ways. “Being a byproduct of the meat industry, cow horn is always available and is rarely used to add value. I saw an opportunity as an artist and entrepreneur to transform this material into beautiful wearable art which would also present an opportunity to provide jobs to my community,” said Rusita. While her brand plays an active role for the local area, her art exemplifies African aesthetics with tribal properties. “Brass was selected as a means of embellishing the already beautiful finished cow horn because I wanted to create something extraordinary which could not be easily copied or reproduced,” explained Rusita.
Historically, African jewelry has been composed of local materials. “My culture is the source of all my work. I was brought up in a family where the concept of zero waste was an innate way of life. We utilized everything our environment provided for our day to day life,” Rusita noted. Beyond the materials used, the pieces’ design construction reflects ritual practices that have been passed from generation to generation. “Traditional motifs and interesting historical stories also inspire my work. Burundi and my land of birth, Guyana, both have rich cultural histories, which provide an unlimited amount of inspiration.”
After hours of hand carving the horn and hammering the brass, what’s left are exquisite, symmetrical crowns, abstract chest armour, and marbled disc rings. Magaux Wong is continuing to expand through its EFI partnership. “The EFI has provided the support I have been longing for and I see how much has been accomplished by being in the right place surrounded by the right people. I am thankful,” says Rusita.