The Vendeur Asks: Francesca Kippax
Image: Anuka Jewellery
Francesca Kippax is shaking up the jewellery industry with her ethical brand Anuka. She spoke to us about why transparency is the only way forward in an industry that famously prides itself on its discretion.
In a world where ‘sustainability’ is a buzz word and green washing abounds, how can you be sure that what you are buying is truly ethical? Enter Francesca Kippax of Anuka Jewellery and her exciting work with Provenance. Using innovative blockchain technology, Provenance allows brands like Anuka to properly document and certify every stage of production. This means that you can be sure of the origin of the materials, the people who made the product and the distances it travels to get to you. Francesca is one of the first in the fashion industry to work with Provenance. She explains to us why transparency is so important.
The Vendeur: Why did you decide to start your own jewellery brand?
Francesca Kippax: My love for jewellery started at a young age. I was forever playing dress up with my Grandma’s jewellery collection. I think that creating friendship bracelets with my sister and my mother’s creative input as an artist was enough to ignite a lifelong passion for jewellery. I trained at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham. On completing my degree in Jewellery & Silversmithing in 2010 I started designing pieces for galleries and bespoke commissions. In 2014 after living in South Vietnam for 3 years I founded ANUKA. I completed my first full collection (KOTI) there. There is nothing that gives you a better feeling than seeing your designs being worn and loved by someone.
“Living in Vietnam, I witnessed first hand the harm our lifestyles were causing the environment.” – Francesca Kippax
TV: Was sustainability important from the outset of the brand?
FK: It is definitely something that has always been important to me – but has grown into all aspects of the business over time. While living in Vietnam, I witnessed first hand the harm our lifestyles were causing the environment. Seeing plastic pollution lining their beautiful coast line really awakened me to thinking how I can create a brand that cause’s as little impact on the environment as possible. It began with making sure all my packaging and marketing material was made using sustainable sources and recycled materials.
It is crazy to think that 10 years ago when I started studying, the ethical issues surrounding the jewellery industry weren’t widely spoken about. When I returned to England after founding ANUKA, I started looking into the processes involved in the mining industry. It’s so destructive to the environment along with the frightening conditions many miners can face on a daily basis. Once that light had been switched on, it didn’t feel good to continue using precious metal when I had no idea of its origin. The first step was to start using recycled precious metal. Working with Fairmined metals followed quickly after.
TV: You are very transparent about where your materials come from and what your production methods are, why is this so important to you?
FK: I feel there is a growing trend to be an ethical business, which is great; there are so many brands out there doing incredible things and its very inspiring. However, there is also a lot of ‘greenwashing’ and claims being made that simply aren’t true. There are many businesses and organisations that I work with throughout my production process and they deserve recognition. I strongly feel my customers should have access to that information. It’s not enough anymore to claim you are an ‘ethical brand’- prove it.
TV: How do you go about choosing mines to work with?
FK: I am a Fairmined licencee holder. Therfore I only work with mines and manufacturers that source traceable new gold & silver. The Fairmined initiative acts as an assurance label, they only support small scale artisanal mines. They ensure safe working conditions, fair pay, gender equality, reduced environmental impact, clean water supplies and the abolishment of child labour to name just a few. Most of these mines are situated in rural, isolated areas. Therefore supporting the communities and bringing fair pay to these areas is so important. Our fairmined metal is mainly sourced via our manufacturer in the UK from the Iquira mine in Columbia and the Aurelsa mine in Peru.
TV: You work with both recycled and fairmined metals, why not just one?
FK: I enjoy the balance of working with both. Incorporating Fairmined precious metal into my designs means supporting small scale artisanal mining communities. Recycled precious metals enables us to preserve natural resources and requires less energy than the mining of new metal. Recycled silver and gold means refining e-waste along with old jewellery and scrap. It doesn’t matter how many times you refine and recycle precious metal it will never alter its quality. Ours is sourced via our manufacturers who work with suppliers that are certified members of the Responsible Jewellery Council and therefore assure the metal is produced in an ethically and environmentally sound manner.
“Using Provenance awakens, educates and reassures my customers on the way in which each item is made and its origin.” – Francesca Kippax
TV: You’ve worked with Provenance in a unique way that is a first in the industry, can you tell us a bit more about this?
FK: I was looking for a way in which I could verify my claims that it was easy and user friendly. I was listening to an interview with Provenance and they were discussing their work within the food sector. I got in touch last year and they have been great in developing technology that is more accessible on an ecommerce site.
The technology means my customers can go onto a product page, click a link and our process will pop up. All stages have been verified by the companies I work with. I can submit evidence to support those verifications such as a certificates, invoices and receipts. It is incredible and I feel really excited to be the first jeweller to incorporate this kind of technology. I also have a personal QR code which is printed onto gift tags and marketing material that goes out with all orders.
TV: Where do you get your inspiration from for your minimal feeling pieces?
FK: I have always been attracted to clean uncomplicated form, whether that’s in architecture through the urban environment or the natural landscape that surrounds us. I like the idea that a design can last and become a timeless heirloom. It also represents the process and materials that have been used to create them; clean designs with a clean ethos.
TV: What jewellery do you wear yourself?
FK: My everyday staple that never gets taken off is a delicate 18ct gold necklace on a 15” chain that incorporates an inherited diamond of my Grandmother’s. I layer on top of this with other longer necklaces and I can’t stop wearing our hoops from the LOKA collection!
‘It’s not enough anymore to claim you are an ‘ethical brand’- prove it.’ – Francesca Kippax
TV: You only use a few stones in your pieces, was this an ethical decision or does it just suit your aesthetic more?
FK: Until this year diamonds and precious stones have mainly featured through my bespoke commissions. They haven’t been in collections before as it has been more about my own personal development as a designer/maker along with developing ANUKA’s distinct aesthetic. It now feels right. So my next step is to start introducing ethically sourced diamonds. I want to give my customers the choice of conflict free natural diamonds or Lab grown. There are definitely a lot of ethical issues surrounding the mining process of precious gemstones, therefore I will only offer diamonds that come from certified sustainable sources.
All of our diamonds used are either recycled or sourced through conflict free, responsibly mined initiatives such as CanadaMark. We have also used lab grown diamonds within our bespoke commission work and this is something we would like to explore more within our next collection.
“Recycled precious metals enable us to preserve natural resources and requires less energy than the mining of new metal.” – Francesca Kippax
TV: Are there any other jewellery designers you admire or like to wear?
FK: Of course! I hugely admire Ute Decker. I remember seeing her work for the first time when I was a student. I was mesmerised by the sculptural form her pieces take, along with her strong ethical practices and teaching.
TV: Do you have any exciting news coming up for this year that you can tell us about?
FK: We will be launching our first eco-fairmined gold wedding collection later this year. Featuring a choice of Lab grown and CanadaMark diamonds. All with a clean contemporary aesthetic. I am really excited to get this special collection launched, watch this space!