You may know Kerry Washington as an award-winning actress and producer. But she’s also an investor in companies like Byte, the Wing, and Community. Most recently, she’s backed the women-owned jewelry startup Aurate and has taken an active role in the product development process by helping design a new collection for the brand.
Washington worked closely with co-founders Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui on the Lioness Collection, which is meant to evoke the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet who often took the form of a lion. The aesthetic is slightly different from the rest of Aurate’s line, which tends to be understated and minimalist. The pieces in this collection are designed to make a statement. They feature two of the brand’s bestselling gold chains bonded together, connected by a pendant with the lion motif on it. “I love the symbolism of the two chains coming together, the way women come together to form a tribe,” Washington explains. “The collection is all about women’s power, which is only stronger when we work together.”
This partnership has been a long time in the making. While many startups receive funding from celebrity investors, Kahn and Ezzahraoui wanted to find a collaborator who really understood the brand and wanted to be involved with the core of the business. They reached out to the actress two years ago, and she was immediately taken by the brand’s values. Aurate is committed to democratizing jewelry made from precious metals like gold, thanks to its direct-to-consumer approach that cuts down on markups. The average price point of the jewelry is $300. It is also focused on sustainability, using only recycled gold, which is far less damaging to the planet than mining new metals.
But Washington says the most impressive thing about the brand is that it creates jewelry for women to buy for themselves, which goes against traditional marketing in the industry, in which women must wait to receive jewelry as gifts, usually from a man. “The pieces are carefully designed to go with everything, so you can wear them everyday,” she says. “I love the idea that they can buy pieces from the Lioness collection for themselves, or for a friend, or for a mentor.”
Part of the reason Washington was attracted to the design process is because she’s spent a lot of time looking at and thinking about jewelry from all her years on the red carpet. She says she’s had to think about how the jewels fit into different looks and what aesthetic sensibility she favors. She’s poured all of this into the design process. And the plan is for Washington to stay involved with the product development in the future. “We see her as more than just an investor, but as a partner,” says Ezzahraoui.
The collection consists of pendant, earrings, bracelet, and necklace that range from $150 to $380. And in keeping with the message of women’s power, 20% of proceeds go to Supermajority, which is devoted to women’s activism. The timing of this launch after the 2020 election is meaningful, Washington says. “It’s important for us to be fighting for women’s representation in politics all the time,” she says. “Not just before an election. We need to be nurturing the next group of women leaders now.”
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