She stands alone – poised, wearing a classic dress, a floral shirt, and bronze earrings – on a New York street corner. She has that kind of sincere look in her eyes that cannot be faked.
If you talk to her, you will almost always leave feeling happier. Her favorite quote is from a Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song, “I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl.”
Kemi Gadaleta is a jewelry designer and world traveler, inspired to share her love of fashion with others. A graduate from the University of Delaware’s Apparel Design program, Kemi is living proof you can follow your dreams. This is her story.
S: When did you decide to design jewelry?
KG: After I graduated college in 2009, I moved to Australia for a year to travel around and figure out where I wanted to go in life and what I wanted to do.
I used to go to these awesome markets on Bondi Beach in Sydney and see these beautiful hand-made pieces and brilliant artists and it completely inspired me.
When my visa ran out, I moved back to New York and started taking metal-smithing classes and fell in love with the whole jewelry making process. It’s so rewarding to turn a raw piece of metal that looks like nothing into something so personal and beautiful that will last forever.
S: Where did you get your inspiration for this line of jewelry?
KG: I take inspiration mostly from nature, traveling, and other cultures. I’ve been told my jewelry is “boho-hipster,” so I guess that’s trendy with a bit of a hippy vibe to it, which some say describes me and my own personal style. The quote “forged by hand in a Brooklyn bohemia” [which describes my jewelry] was actually written by a website that carried my pieces for a little while. It was because I was working out of a studio in Brooklyn with an internship for this brilliant jewelry designer, Katrina Lapenne. She taught me pretty much everything I know.
S: Who would you say was a female role model of yours?
KG: A female role model of mine would definitely be my older sister, Nicole. She literally help me become the person I am today.
When I was younger, I was really shy and didn’t speak up and she taught me how to find my strength and not to be scared of pursing my dreams. The funny thing is, if you ask her who her role model is she’d say me. I guess that’s a sister thing.
S: What do you hope women will get from wearing your jewelry?
KG: It might be cliché, but I hope women feel beautiful in my jewelry. My pieces are meant to accent who you are, as well as be little reminders of things like, “keep traveling” and “be carefree.”
Some of my pieces have a lot of meaning, such as my Love Is Blind Braille ring. I’m working with the Foundation Fighting Blindness to donate a percentage of the proceeds to them. This charity is very close to my family so it means a lot to me to help them. I once had a customer tell me they gave their mother this ring on her anniversary after her husband died who was blind. She said she cried of happiness when she opened it, it literally made every ounce of hard work worth it.
S: Where has your jewelry been featured so far?
KG: My first big feature was on Refinery29.com. They had a holiday gift guide and featured my “We Built This City NYC skyline ring” and boosted my sales like crazy. After that I’ve been on sites like JewelMint, Uncovet, Scoutmob, GalTime, and ElectricFrenchie
S: Where can we buy your jewelry?
KG: You can buy all my jewelry on my site: www.kemidesigns.etsy.com, while my real website is under construction. A bunch of my other pieces are sold in JewelMint, Uncovet, and Scoutmob. I also am in the works with a store called “The Feather Tribe,” which will be opening soon in Australia!
S: What advice do you give others about following their dreams?
KG: Just because it’s a different path than anyone else, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Go for it!