This East African Scuba Diver Makes Beautiful Handcrafted Jewelry in Partnership With Local Kenya Artisans
Kaleidoscope Beauty is a UK-based statement jewelry brand, taking its roots and inspiration in African culture and traditions. Founded by a creative entrepreneur Umutoni Thuku-Benzinge, who, given her East African roots, made it the brand’s purpose to drive societal change in sub-saharan Africa starting with Kenya. Having spent multiple summers in Kenya, this vanguard wanted to find a way to pay a tribute to her home continent
Recently featured in Forbes, Umutoni shares “I wanted to showcase the beauty of Africa through contemporary, hand-crafted, statement jewelry, that’s ethically sourced and empowers the disenfranchised".
Check out this interview:
When and why did you start Kaleidoscope Beauty? And what inspired the name?
I used to sell Kenyan jewelry when I was 15 years old to friends, family members, and at various events after some of my most memorable summer holidays in Kenya. It was successful and I remember making £100 profit from sales in one day which was very exciting. At the time however, my teen priorities had me put my social life ahead of any business development. Part of the reason for launching Kaleidoscope Beauty in December 2018, was due to the realization that not much has changed since then and a majority of the market is still fairly untapped.
As a woman I know the power we have to turn heads, however I want to build a brand that does more than just that, I want the Kaleidoscope Beauty to influence hearts too. With philanthropy at the heart of everything we do, all our pieces are ethically sourced in Kenya on the fringes of Nairobi, hand made by talented artisans who are able to build skills that enable them to earn an income.
Our jewelry is bold, edgy and quite daring, yet it’s still important to me that all our pieces are feminine and compliment the multi-faceted layers of women. Our strength, our power, our femininity is uniquely represented in each and every piece that we design.
The brand’s strapline is ‘showcasing the beauty of Africa’. To me that means culture, people, talent, scenery and so much more, hence the word Kaleidoscope.
How do you define sustainability?
Sustainability means you win, I win. By that I mean the environment, the artisans, the customer and Kaleidoscope Beauty the brand. We aim to steer clear of the use of plastic in our jewelry and in the odd occasion that we do, it’s both minimal and has been upcycled adding to the sustainability model. All of our jewllery is hand-crafted by our young and talented artisans from disadvantaged backgrounds, therefore it’s ethically sourced and there is no wasteful mass production model in place.
As a scuba diver, I love the ocean which makes up upward of 70% of the planet. It’s very important to me that Kaleidoscope Beauty supports the environment and contributes to an eco-friendly planet.
Tell us a bit more about the artisans making your collection (role they play in your brand and how they inspire your work and how you work to positively impact their lives)!
Our artisans are young men and women located in a slum in Kenya hoping to turn their lives around. The positive social outcome created by the Kaleidoscope Beauty enterprise is job creation and an opportunity for young men and women to develop skills that enable them to earn a legitimate income and escape the life of crime and drugs that typically awaits someone in their shoes.
Having spoken to and interviewed some of the artisans myself, there has been able to see a tangible impact. One example being Dennis, the young man featured in the company mission video. Since working, Dennis has been left a life of crime behind to create an income that in turn has enabled him to start a business of his own and contribute to him pursuing his dreams of a career in acting.
Mission video here: https://youtu.be/NAdB5_E4ItA
Our artisans play a big and crucial role in our brand, not just for their skills but for their contagious spirit and positive energy that is nothing short of inspirational.
What's your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration for the jewelry are opportunities and solutions connected to the African continent.
Vibrant colors, various textures, many cultures all contribute to the depth of artistic expression as all of our pieces are bold, edgy and make a statement with a contemporary twist.
What can we look forward to in the near future?
The plan for Kaleidoscope Beauty is to change the African narrative and to shift the focus onto the thriving levels of creativity amongst the youth. I’d love to open a foundation that encourages young girls and boys to develop their creative skills in a way that is exciting yet lucrative. To see these young men and women of Africa embody their greatness and know that it can be appreciated on a global scale.