Eye-catching fits complete with dazzling diamonds are pretty much a requirement on the red carpet—but at a few recent Tinseltown events, there was even more to a pair of standout ensembles than met the eye.
The diamond producer De Beers recently launched a campaign in partnership with Red Carpet Advocacy (RAD), an organization that’s all about leveraging red carpet moments to be less about fleeting fashion and flashbulbs and more about raising enduring awareness for worthy causes related to social justice and philanthropy.
De Beers and RAD have joined forces and launched an initiative called #BlackIsBrilliant, which spotlights preeminent Black jewelry designers. As part of the campaign, each participating designer creates pieces featuring ethically and sustainably sourced diamonds from Botswana, and teams up with a celebrity to debut their fine jewelry look at a red carpet event. In turn, the celebrity will use the moment to raise awareness of—and generate donations for—a select cause.
One of the world’s leading diamond purveyors, De Beers has committed to using gems that are ethically produced and 100 percent conflict-free. Long-term commitments from De Beers include carbon neutrality across all operations, reduction of their water footprint by 50 percent, and the support of 10,000 female entrepreneurs in countries where the company operates, including Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana—the source of the diamonds used in the #BlackIsBrilliant initiative—by 2030.
For the first iterations of the campaign, De Beers collaborated with two designers: Jameel Mohammed and Mateo. Mohammed, who runs the brand Khiry, was born and raised in Chicago, and founded his line as an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Five years later, the Brooklyn-based Mohammed is a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist who can count Michelle Obama and Amanda Gorman among the fans of his striking, Afrofuturistic jewelry. For #BlackIsBrilliant, Mohammed decked out If Beale Street Could Talk star Kiki Layne for September’s Met Gala in a suite of diamond-studded pieces called “Black Power International,” featuring a pair of globe-shaped dangling earrings, a set of stacking rings, and silhouettes including the Black Power fist and the outline of Khartoum (a signature shape for Khiry’s pieces).
“The name Black Power International came from my recognition that it was a legacy of contribution from Black folks worldwide, including me, [stylists] Wayman and Micah, Kiki Layne, and the [Batswana] who produced these fabulous diamonds, that undergirded the possibility for this collection,” said Mohammed. “It’s a beacon to the broader diaspora and world—there is power in our shared histories and huge possibilities in our future collaborations.” Kiki Layne is giving shine to two organizations with the collaboration: Guiding Light Mentoring, which provides support to youth in Layne’s hometown of Cincinnati, and Definition Theatre, a Chicago-based outfit which is dedicated to producing language-driven, relationship-oriented, and socially relevant stories created by and about underrepresented communities in the city.
Another creator making head-turning work for the #BlackIsBrilliant initiative is Mateo, whose eponymous jewelry line has earned him features in fashion’s top publications and accolades from the Smithsonian’s African American Museum of Art and Culture, the Hirshorn Museum of Contemporary Art, and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, among others. The Jamaican-born, New York City-based designer, who moved to the US at 16, is self-taught and launched his first collection in 2009, racking up a who’s who of celebrity fans including Meghan Markle, Simone Biles, Gabrielle Union, Alicia Keys, and more, since.
This year, he designed a pair of earrings for Emmy fixture Sarah Paulson at this year’s edition of the awards fête. The sculptural diamond hoops, featuring oval and round Botswana diamonds set in 18 karat gold, were an homage to modern art, says Mateo: “The statement earrings were inspired by the works of Wassily Kandisnky...particularly the piece ‘Floating,’ with the diamonds…appearing to be floating on one’s ear.”
Paulson and her stylist, Karla Welch, chose to raise awareness and funds for One Girl Can, an organization dedicated to achieving gender equality and empowering girls in Kenya through scholarships, and African Women Rising, an organization focused on providing technical skills and support related to education, agriculture, and microfinance for women recovering after living in war-torn areas.
Red carpet trends might be fickle, but style statements like these, that celebrate Black talent and ingenuity while contributing to a more ethical approach to jewelry-making? Now that’s always a good look.