You may have recently noticed some new additions to the ELSA AND ME accessories section. The LIZ and the SHAM necklaces are both elegantly crafted beaded designs, which you can customize with your choice of color combinations.
These are both exquisite pieces that will perfectly compliment nearly any ELSA AND ME dress. And you deserve to meet the person behind them.
Aliya Nanji is a jewelry designer, born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya (which is where ELSA AND ME dresses are produced) and she has a pretty straightforward philosophy on how fashion and style should coordinate with jewelry.
“Every garment requires a piece of jewelry to complete it,” she explains.
One of the first jewelry pieces Aliya ever made was for ELSA AND ME and it was after that she began designing and producing jewelry on a large scale.
“I love every bit of designing,” she says, “from the research to the thought process and finally the execution. It's my ‘me time’…my therapy.”
Like a lot of other women who’ve been featured on this blog, Aliya was inspired by an older woman in her family -- her mother, a woman who, because of the conflict in Uganda, spent her childhood moving from country to country -- including Pakistan, India, and the United Kingdom -- before settling down in Kenya.
“She started a small business from home in her early 30’s and spent her years working very hard to raise her children,” say Aliya. “Despite the obstacles she faced, she now runs a successful fashion business. Her determination, creativity and cultural influences are an inspiration for me to embark upon my own journey in the magical world of design.”
Aliya’s mother encouraged her creativity from an early age. And eventually, Aliya began helping with her mother’s fashion business, lending hand in creating product, and taking her first steps into the design industry. That initial foray would ultimately lead to spending four years in the United Kingdom and returning to Nairobi with a B.A. degree in textile design.
“I aspire to follow in her footsteps,” Aliya says about her mother. “Should I become half the woman she is, I will consider myself truly blessed.”
And while her mother has been an important influence on her life. Aliya also admits to gaining inspiration from her home country. “Kenya is a very tribal country, each with their own culture,” she explains. “I have always been drawn towards their bold, colorful and patterned textile and jewelry. Their clothing and fashion sense leaves me amazed; patterns are never the same on any shirt. It’s full of beauty and strength.”
And as for the city of Nairobi, with its food vendors serving you grilled chilly corn on the street, stand selling freshly-picked tropical fruits, breath taking sceneries of trees, and air filled with the scent of fresh flowers? According to Aliya, it’s home. “It’s everything that surrounds me that warms my heart,” she says. “Everyday is a new adventure, it may not be the best walk at times but it is definitely a walk worthwhile.”