Kerry Washington is one of Hollywood’s more daring and experimental style stars today, but she’s also a strong believer in classic, timeless jewelry. And that is what makes her new partnership with jewelry brand Aurate such an organic business match.
For Washington, who is not just the face of the new Aurate campaign but is also as an investor, teaming up with the jewelry brand and its two founders, Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, was a no-brainer. She was instantly drawn to the brand’s transparency on the types of pieces made, how they were being made, and who they were being made for.
“When I met Sophie and Bouchra, I just pretty much became obsessed with them. They’re so smart and beautiful and tenacious. I loved them. I loved their jewelry, because, of course, they’re always wearing it, and I really loved what they were building,” Washington tells BAZAAR.com. “I love this idea of building a company that was really invested in cutting out the middleman so that you can avoid the insane markups for fine jewelry and making high-quality, beautiful fine jewelry accessible to more women.”
Of her decision to join the Aurate team, Washington says, “I love their sustainability practices, their commitments to diversity, the fact that they were a female-driven company. The fact that they’ve always given back. Giving back is embedded in their DNA from the very beginning. I just thought, ‘I love them, I love what they are building, and I want to be a part of this side.'”
In addition to starring in the ethereally photographed campaign, Washington had a hand in co-designing the new Lioness Collection, which features a mixed-texture necklace, a corresponding bracelet, link huggie earrings, and the Lion Coin Pendant. All the pieces are meant to symbolize the power, strength, and resilience that lives within women. Twenty percent of proceeds from sales of the new collection’s Lion Coin Pendant will benefit Supermajority, a women’s activist organization working to transform the country and build an intergenerational, multiracial movement for women’s equity.
“This is a company by women for women. And I wanted to make sure that our design was an organic growth out of those values and that commitment,” Washington explains. “We started talking about the lioness and what she symbolizes. Because lionesses, they hunt together and they raise their cubs together. They provide for the tribe by going out for the kill together, but they also come back and they raise each other’s cubs and there’s no hierarchy. There’s no one lioness who’s in charge of the other. They really are a collective of sisterhood.”
Applying the lioness symbolism to women, Washington says, “I just love that imagery for how it speaks to the power of women when women come together, how we are both fierce and loving. We also started working with the imagery of Sekhmet, who is a goddess from Egyptian mythology. Her name literally translates to, ‘She who is powerful,’ but she was a warrior, because she is a warrior goddess and also a goddess of healing.”
She continues, “Also using the idea of a coin to really speak to women’s value and our worth in the world. But another one of my favorite things about the collection is the two different chains that are bonded together as a symbol, really of what happens when women come together as one circle. So there’s a lot of really powerful imagery [within the collection] and I love that.”
Jewelry—unlike say, stilettos—has remained a style staple for Washington even while spending the majority of her time now working from home. Because major red-carpet opportunities for the actress to show off her bold, experimental style are paused for now, she’s relied on timeless accessories to spice up her at-home looks.
“What’s funny is I feel like jewelry has outlasted COVID. I’m not walking around in my five-inch heels. There are three moments in the last nine months that I’ve put real heels on and the Emmys was one of them,” says Washington. “The shoes are not fairing so well in COVID, but jewelry is, because you can still bring some sparkle and joy to a Zoom conference and feel like you’re bringing your best self when you are doing yourself from the waist up. I love to have a classic aesthetic with pops of something, whether it’s a pop of a ring or a shoe or a bag.”
Forging a decades-long relationship with fine jewelry, Washington says that accessorizing for fancy events provided her with the experience necessary to co-design a collection. “I’ve always been drawn to fine jewelry that has a real delicacy to it. I spent 20 years going through jewelry trays, whether I’m doing press or walking the red carpet or doing a junket or at a magazine cover shoot, looking at jewelry, figuring out what do I like, what don’t I like, what works, what doesn’t work,” she says. “And so it’s been fun to bring some of that experience now to the table, as an investor and designer.”
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