These ‘Luminaries’ Are Set to Light Up Couture

CollectionsMay 07, 2024

These ‘Luminaries’ Are Set to Light Up Couture

The six designers, all participants in the show’s Diversity Action Council mentorship program, will exhibit in Salon 634.

The six Couture Luminaries designers 2024
The six BIPOC designers who comprise Couture’s 2024 class of “Luminaries” are, top row left to right, Alexia Connellan, Sasha Flynn, Hiba Husayni, and, bottom row left to right, Bliss Lau, Ama McKinley, and Casey Perez.
Las Vegas—Six of the seven jewelry designers who comprise the second class of Couture Diversity Action Council mentees will be bringing new light to the show later this month.

The designers—Alexia Connellan, Sasha Flynn, Hiba Husayni, Bliss Lau, Ama McKinley, and Casey Perez—will exhibit at Couture Salon 634, debuting as the “Luminaries by Couture.”

(The seventh DAC mentee, Ope Omojola of Octave Jewelry, continues to be part of the program but will not be participating in Couture this year.)

The designers have been involved in the mentorship program spearheaded by Couture’s DAC since April 2023 and attended the show last year to observe.

They each have a mentor and, in addition, have attended biweekly, expert-led education sessions on subjects ranging from finance to merchandising.

Eric Ford, precious jewelry buyer at Neiman Marcus and leader of the Couture DAC, said it’s been “absolutely delightful” to witness their evolution.

“While I’m impressed with the wealth of knowledge and talent they already possessed when they joined the program, I am even more impressed with the knowledge they have sought throughout; sometimes knowing what you don’t know is the biggest challenge,” he said. 

“It is also heartening to see how close they have grown on a personal level; they truly love one another and extend themselves to support one another’s success. That is a rare thing in this world, and it is beautiful.”

Learn more about all six “Luminaries” below.

Alexia Connellan, Alexia Connellan
Alexia Connellan and her Royal earrings
Designer Alexia Connellan and her “Royal” earrings featuring amethyst, Welo opal, and sphene

Alexia Connellan was a pre-law student at Columbia University in New York when she realized her creative side was not being fed so, halfway through school, she switched her major to art history and visual arts.

After college, she continued studying sculpture at the School of Visual Arts in New York, supporting herself as a commercial photographer and, later, a website designer, all the while collecting gemstones as a hobby.

It wasn’t until learning that she had inherited a rare heart condition that Connellan decided to direct all her energies to a discipline that combined her passions for sculpture and art with her childhood love of shiny things—jewelry design.

Read more about Connellan’s journey on the Couture website.

Sasha Flynn, Adore Adorn
Sasha Flynn and her jewelry
Adore Adorn designer Sasha Flynn designs jewelry that allows the wearer to tell their own story.

As a person of African and Lebanese descent, a teenage Sasha Flynn struggled to fit in when her family relocated to Kansas City from Chicago. But she found her people in another big city, New York, where she studied at Parsons School of Design and gained confidence in her artistic talents.

Flynn initially embarked on a career in fashion but quickly discovered that jewelry was the best form of adornment for healing, and for telling the story of one’s experiences.

The collection she will debut at Couture 2024 encourages wearers to tell their own stories through 14-karat gold and gemstones pieces that are buildable and stackable.

Learn more about Flynn and her designs on the Couture website.

Hiba Husayni, Zahn-Z Jewelry
Hiba Husayni and a Zaha ring
Designer Hiba Husayni’s new “Zaha” collection is an ode to the curvy lines that were the hallmark of the late architect Zaha Hadid.

Growing up in Homs, Syria, Hiba Husayni was more daring than her siblings. She loved sneaking peeks into her mother’s jewelry box, admiring the beauty and construction of each piece.

In college, she studied architecture but never forgot her fascination with jewelry. She turned to sketching pieces as a refuge during the ongoing civil war in Syria, eventually leaving the country to pursue the medium full time.

Husayni will present two collections at Couture, one of which, “Zaha,” pays homage to the late Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid with its sleek, supple curves.

The second, “Sadaf,” is intended to evoke the feeling of seeing the world without being seen.

Learn more about Husayni and her collections on the Couture website.

Bliss Lau, Bliss Lau
Bliss Lau and her Mirage + Reflection ring
Designer Bliss Lau and her “Mirage + Reflection” ring

Bliss Lau grew up in paradise (Honolulu, Hawaii, to be exact) with an art teacher mother who always taught her to see the beauty in the world and a family that made art for fun.

She studied fashion at Parsons School of Design and, since then, has always had a model form in her studio, using the human body to inform the direction of her jewelry designs.

Lau has been creating jewelry since 2007 but the pieces she will show at Couture are the culmination of work done over the last five years. Using three shades of jade, the collection explores dichotomies in the designer’s life, including the stark contrast between the calm of where she grew up—Hawaii—and the manic energy of where she lives now, New York.

Learn more about Lau’s journey on the Couture website.

Ama McKinley, Ilium Wing
Ama McKinley and two of her beaded necklaces
Designer Ama McKinley and her beaded necklaces, which are created so the wearer feels in touch with their body

McKinley is originally from Chicago but grew up in rural Georgia and was multifaceted from the start. She enjoyed playing in the dirt with her boy cousins just as much as she liked dressing up on Sundays to go to church.

Later in her life, the ambitious McKinley was working toward her MBA when she was introduced to the Lucumi/Ifa African spiritual traditions, which led her to make waist beads. The beads made her more aware of her body and reminded her to slow down and to treat herself.

Later, she began taking classes on jewelry making and metalsmithing, but it wasn’t until 2020, when the pandemic shut down the world, that her brand Ilium Wing took flight.

Read more about McKinley’s work on the Couture website.

Casey Perez, Casey Perez Jewelry
Casey Perez and her diamond Arc stud earrings
Designer Casey Perez and her diamond “Arc” stud earrings

Growing up in Dallas, Casey Perez always had a hidden creative side, one that came out her senior year of college, where she was studying psychology, when she sat a jewelry bench for the first time.

She had found her craft and began taking jewelry-making courses and applying for internships to develop her fabrication skills.

Perez loves the tactile process of making a piece of jewelry, and the way each piece is small yet mighty, carrying so much meaning and emotion for the wearer.

At Couture, Perez will be expanding up on her “Acros” collection, inspired by iconic arches in architecture and art.

Learn more about Perez’s journey on the Couture website.

 Related stories will be right here … 

De Beers Group sponsored the build-out of the salon where these six designers will exhibit, ensuring they have a space “befitting the quality and creativity of their work,” the show said.
In addition, Platinum Guild International extended its Platinum Spotlight program to them. The three designers who opted in—Husayni, Lau, and McKinley—were provided platinum to craft pieces for their Couture debut.

Couture’s Diversity Action Council was formed in the summer of 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the nationwide calls for racial justice, and more diversity and equity in all fields.

Comprised of retailers, designers, press, and other industry insiders, DAC focuses on addressing the issues of systemic and institutionalized racism that have contributed to the lack of diversity in the fine jewelry industry.

Its mission is to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable industry through programs that support BIPOC individuals throughout the jewelry supply chain.

A complete list of DAC members is available here

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