When I find a brand that I like, I like to share it with you! I’ve met quite a few small business owners over the past few years, but one who really struck me is Jameela from Alora Boutique. Her jewelry pieces are beautiful, sustainable and affordable – all while Alora gives back to the community in a big way!
I was fortunate enough to speak with Jameela about what inspires her and about the organizations to which she gives back. I’m sure you will find her impactful work to be as interesting and moving as I do! Check out my interview with her below!
S2S: Jameela, I’m curious – when did you start Alora Boutique and what was the inspiration?
Jameela: Alora began in 2013 with the coincidental idea of my mother and I. We wanted to fulfill our desire for creativity, and enrich the lives of people around us. My mother and I took a jewelry class together and after realizing that other people resonated with the pieces we were making, Alora was created. Alora jewelry was partly inspired by two things: my journeys in Ghana and breathing new life into old objects. In each of our jewelry pieces, we embroidered the brightness, colors, and power of the daylight and landscape of Ghana. We also use recycled brass and glass that would otherwise be thrown away. It is an amazing feeling to make something destined for the landfill new and beautiful again.
S2S: ‘Alora’ is a unique name. What is the inspiration for it?
Jameela: The name of the brand ‘Alora’ was chosen by my mother, Emilyn, Peter, my husband, and I when we launched the business. Alora originates from the Central African Bantu language, and means ‘my dream’. However, I recently discovered that Alora is also Italian! The word, ‘Alora’ in Italian means ‘now’ and ‘then’. It is a very interesting fluke for us because Alora wants to represent today’s woman as someone who is doing everything with significance and purpose. She lives fully in the present all while considering and carrying everything with her that she has acquired in the past to create a better future for herself. I think our business is a perfect combination of the meaning of the word in both languages: Alora is a kind of energy, a tradition, something that helps people and does not go with the wind.
Alora wants to represent today’s woman as someone who is doing everything with significance and purpose. She lives fully in the present all while considering and carrying everything with her that she has acquired in the past to create a better future for herself.
S2S: For those who don’t know, what exactly is “sustainable style”?
Jameela: Sustainable style can be multifaceted, but in general, it’s a style that is maintained and built on eco-friendly materials and recycled materials. As a consumer, sustainable style is all about choosing pieces that are high quality, have a positive impact on people, and reduce the impact on the environment. I usually classify a sustainable fashion brand as a brand that regards the people, planet, and profit equally.
S2S: What are the easiest ways for someone to make their style sustainable?
Jameela: First, get to know yourself: know what you like and what you feel comfortable in. Once you have a true understanding of your personal style, it makes shopping and curating your closet easier. Once you do that I have a few tips:
- Buy Quality! Quality clothes can last longer for the money you spend. Not only that, but they are more comfortable and fit better. When you look better you feel better! You should spend more money on the things you will wear the most: coats, shoes, bags, office clothing. You are better off buying less mediocre stuff and using that money to purchase more quality items that last forever.
- Buy Consignment! Consignment falls under sustainable fashion because even though you may be purchasing fast fashion, you are rescuing it from the landfill OR saving it from ruining a developing nation’s textile industry. Some of my favourite consignment stores in the city are SalvEdge Clothing, Velour Clothing Exchange, Danielle’s Consignment, and Joyce’s Closet.
- Make your clothes last longer! You can do super simple things to make you clothing last longer, and therefore, buy less of what you don’t need. Some easy things you can do today are: wash in cold water, stuff your shoes and bags to help keep their shape, use vinegar instead of bleach to keep clothing bright, air dry, use wooden hangers, and fold your knitwear!
S2S: You use a lot of up-cycled and salvaged materials in your pieces. What are your most common materials and what is your favorite material to use?
Jameela: Yes! Handcrafting meaningful jewelry from recycled brass is my favourite! It has a lovely texture and it is an easy material to work with. So far we have diverted over 200kg of waste from the landfill with the recycled components of our jewelry.
S2S: How often do you release new pieces? What is your biggest inspiration for your pieces?
Jameela: We release two major collections a year, but because jewelry is so personal, we do not have a time frame for how often we release mini collections.
Most of the inspiration for our pieces is found in my daughters, in the interaction I have between people and with nature. I also find that my biggest inspiration comes from our charity partners. We run free-jewelry making workshops for women who use charities like the YWCA and The Mustard Seed and their strength and perseverance inspires me. I like to share their stories with my customers through the jewelry we make. We want to remind them of their inner self and their strength so that they can overcome every obstacle.
S2S: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve made?
Jameela: One of my favourite pieces is the Statement Fringe Necklace. It symbolizes being unabashedly bold, unique, and comfortable letting your inner self shine! That being said, every piece of jewelry we make carries with it a beautiful story and the energy we carry while we are making it. I like each piece in its own way.
S2S: Your company gives a lot back to the community. Which organizations do you support and what made you choose them?
Jameela: We work with The Mustard Seed during Christmas because my mother has always been a supporter of this charity. They do excellent work in poverty reduction in Calgary and help people gain the skills they need to be self-sufficient. I find that the staff at The Mustard Seed are dedicated to the cause and are caring individuals that care about their guests. The Mustard Seed has a housing first strategy to reduce poverty and we 100% agree with that plan.
For Mother’s Day, we work with Unlocking Potential (Louise Dean School). we chose them as a charity because they supported us when we had our first baby and moved into our first home. We had no idea what we were doing and they had programs that helped us to become better parents and better partners. The service was free to us, and now that we are in a position to give back, we choose to help other parents become better!
During the Summer, our charity of choice is Homefront. This wonderful organization helps women of domestic violence escape their situation. Not only that, but they help all survivors of abuse. When I came forward with my childhood sexual abuse to the Calgary Police Service Homefront was one of the organizations that was part of the process. I am grateful that they are there to help many other women like me and I want to make sure they stick around for a while.
Finally, we support Women in Need Society during International Women’s Day. I have to be honest, I picked this charity because I love shopping at their consignment stores! They also do good work with helping women get back on their feet in Calgary. It is really a win-win all around :).
S2S: What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
Jameela: Being an entrepreneur enables me to realize myself through my work and present myself to the world as I wish. It gives me the power to make life better for the people around me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than making beautiful jewelry, adding meaning to people’s lives, and making the world a little bit better every day.
How can our followers shop Alora?
What are your social media handles:
Facebook: Alora Boutique