By Susan Harte
By Susan Harte
Claire’s journey began as a jewellery designer with the prestigious house of Fabergé, helping them reposition themselves as the iconic luxury brand and creating couture jewellery collections.
Launched in 2014, Fouché jewels are now being worn by stars including Sienna Miller and Camilla Rutherford and have been featured in Vogue magazine.
In 2012, Claire co-founded the Maisha Foundation, which provides vocational training to adolescents from Kibera in Nairobi. It is a grass-roots charity based in the Kibera slum that is home to more than one million people. The Foundation provides support and mentoring to young and talented adolescents who have shown a commitment to their chosen vocation – ranging from engineering to fashion design.
I ask Claire what came first, the idea for her jewellery collection or creating the Foundation? “It was the Maisha Foundation that came first. We gradually built the foundation over the course of many years, working with the community to understand their needs and gain their support. At the time, I was still working as a designer for Fabergé but was very inspired by the capabilities of jewellery artisans I met in Kibera. I eventually decided to create a sample collection and launched Fouché jewellery last year.”
The Fouché collection incorporates tribal cow horn and ebony cuffs, finished in solid silver or brass, known as the Diana Cuff (named after Vogue‘s Diana Vreeland, who famously wore these cuffs on both arms) – a symbol of power, but also something very feminine and elegant too. The earrings, also of cow horn in both back and white, are beautifully finished with gold or silver and have been seen hanging from the ears of such beauty as Sienna Miller, amongst others.
Claire’s designs are also inspired by artists in the early 20th century, especially Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger, who were themselves influenced by African art in their experimentation with Cubism, “I’m also very influenced by the art déco architecture built by Italians in 1930’s Asmara, on the Horn of Africa.”
Claire is branching into semi-precious stones to adorn her pieces; again these stones are ethically mined in South Africa and Africa.
“I introduced a bespoke collection of eternity rings for Fouché this year that are invisibly set with precious emeralds and rubies from Gemfields’ ethical mines in Zambia and Mozambique. The new collection will feature larger African sourced gemstones set in cocktail rings.”
The UN-Ethical Fashion Institute, followed by the likes of Stella MCCartney and Vivienne Woodward, is admirable and certainly makes you think twice before buying – given the choice of buying and supporting a cause that odes not harm or exploit anyone or anything is certainly preferable option and a cause Claire firmly believes in.
“I consulted with the Ethical Fashion Initiative product development team, led by Jeremy Brown, before creating my first collection. The Initiative promotes a philosophy of “Not Charity, Just Work” that I identify with. I also really value the advice I received from Cristina Cisilino, who founded CREA Africa (that supports artisan communities with sustainable and fair employment in Kenya)”
In this day and age of small margins and cut-throat competition, the temptation to get everything made in China must be huge. So we admire and support the likes of Claire Fouche, who is not only supporting local artisans in Kenya but putting back into the community with the Maisha Foundation. It is a win-win arrangement if you ask me.
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