“I work with whatever I can work with to turn into something beautiful,” say Gomani.
“I want people to see my jewellery as fun, glamorous. But it also happens to be sustainable, and that’s the best part of it.”
Gomani moved to Sweden from Canada in 2007. One year later, she says she felt the need to channel her creativity into a project.
“I was sitting in my kitchen, thinking I had to do something or else I’d pack my bags and go back to Canada,” Gomani recalls. “I thought there had to be a way I could be creative, make money, use my industrial design training and make this work. So, I literally took a plastic Coke bottle and started cutting it and making shapes.”
She attached these shapes to earrings, and thus her jewellery business was born. Now one and a half years later, her creations are sold around the world and business is continuously growing, she says. But what differentiates her from other designers, she adds, is her desire to run a company that’s sustainable and has no harmful effects on the environment.
“I don’t see anybody else making jewellery from recycled plastics,” Gomani says. “The whole idea of creating this jewellery is that it’s sustainable. I want to change people’s settings. I don’t want them to think it’s something you can buy at any other store; I want someone to see this as not just plastic, but something that’s chic.”
Because she works by hand, there’s no energy use by machines. She also doesn’t re-melt materials or create toxins in her work.
It was June 2008 when she started the business, and in the fall that year, she went to Tokyo for an exhibition to showcase her creations. There, she was discovered by a buyer from the Parisian shop Colette’s (www.colette.fr) where her work is now sold; it’s also been picked up by the New York company Inhabitat (www.inhabitat.com).
“It’s happened really fast,” she says. “I get an excited jolt to think about it. What makes me happy is that I’m doing what I love to do and it feels good. It’s a fair concept and idea, and I’m not taking advantage of anybody.”
For her next project, she is partnering with the organization Ubuntu At Work, which seeks to teach women entrepreneurship skills to combat poverty. In July, Gomani will be travelling to India with the organization to teach women the skills of jewellery making.
“Ubuntu At Work matches designers with women in the slums to create jewellery to help them, because they don’t have the resources or the edge there to do it themselves,” explains Gomani.
“The women won’t get robbed for plastic, because you can pick it up from motels and stores. It’s easy to cut and they don’t need a lot of expensive supplies. I am going to volunteer to work with the women to make the jewellery, then we’ll bring it back to North America to sell it.
“If I’m successful, the women will be successful, and I have a real soft spot for that,” Gomani says. “It’s amazing how much of a difference $5 a day can make for these women.”
Gomani was born in Toronto, Canada, but at six months old her family moved to her father’s homeland of Malawi. She was raised there until the age of eight, when they moved back to Canada. She says in the future, her dream would be to head back to her roots and work on a project to help women in Malawi.
In her 20s, Gomani enrolled in the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, where she obtained a degree in industrial design. Afterwards, she worked in the film industry for nearly a decade before moving to Sweden in 2007. She says it’s Swedish nature and landscapes that inspire her designs.
“I don’t want it to be just green people buying it,” she says. “I want people to see it as jewellery they want, regardless of the fact that it’s sustainable. It’s fulfilling when somebody buys a piece of jewellery and they love it – for me, that’s inspiration.”
Gomani’s jewellery is available online at www.kumvanagomani.com. She also keeps a blog on the site to update supports on her endeavours and upcoming projects.