Get to know Karen Lasme, the creator of the African-inspired jewelry line, Iefo, as she dishes on her struggles, the best memories of being an entrepreneur, and the process of maintaining her jewelry line. She lets us know who she envisions as being the perfect woman to emulate her brand and how the love and passion she has for the African continent is a daily inspiration for her life. Although Iefo is a newcomer amongst the many jewelry brands on the market, Karen is rapidly making a name for herself by designing bespoke jewelry inspired by Akan ornaments.
The Co Report: Tell us about Iefo Jewellery and the inspiration that led you to create your line?
Karen Lasme: Iefo as a whole represents my love for Africa and its cultural diversity that makes up the richness and uniqueness of the continent. Looking at African societies, adornment is a central element. Angela Fisher wrote in one of her books –Africa Adorned – that “Throughout the continent, adornment is a pleasure, even a preoccupation”. This might seem vain, but one has to understand the motives underlying this act of adorning be it jewelry, attire, body painting or even scarification. So the whole idea behind Iefo is to draw attention to what I call the Art of Adornment À l’Africaine: Poetic, Artistic and Transcendental.
TCR: What inspires you about Akan traditional jewelry and their ornaments?
KL: My family is from the Akan group of Côte d’Ivoire and my grandmother used to make Akan jewelry for important celebrations. Traditional forms of adornment were omnipresent in my upbringing, but what inspires me particularly is the fact that the ornaments have symbolic meanings.
TCR: What is your creative process like when choosing the materials and when creating different jewelry pieces?
KL: Colors are the most important when choosing the beads for potential pieces. When making them, I try different combinations with the main elements of the jewelry and see which fits best.
TCR: How does having a Masters of Arts in African Studies inspire you with your jewelry brand?
KL: I believe that my MA gives me the chance to deepen my knowledge on the different areas that Iefo is involved in.
TCR: What kind of woman would best represent the Iefo brand?
KL: The Iefo Woman embraces cultural diversity and most importantly, she is beautiful inside and out because this is what IÉFO means: Beauty.
TCR: Outside of jewelry making what are your other interest?
KL: I love traveling, taking pictures and I enjoy African literature. I also spend my time drinking green tea; can that be an interest as well? (Laugh)
TCR: What has been the most rewarding outcome of starting your jewelry line?
KL: There’s so many rewarding outcomes: doing what you love, seeing people appreciating what you do, having people wearing your creation and getting encouragement and support from loved ones.
TCR: Did you have to overcome any obstacles before starting your line?
KL: Well, I guess the obstacles are the sacrifices that you make when starting a business, but on the long term, they are worthy.
TCR: Describe the personality of your brand in 3 words.
KL: Poetic, Artistic, Transcendental.
TCR: Where do you foresee your brand going within the next 3 – 5 years?
KL: I would like IEFO to be commissioned to create jewelry for any type of celebration and fashion events. Hopefully, it will start this year.
TCR: What has been the best advice you have ever received?
KL: It wasn’t easy for people who have succeeded today so keep working hard – Advice from my mom.