Mariana, creator and owner of Kaju, is a powerful force to be reckoned with. I have personally purchased from this lovely lady before (see my photo at the bottom of the interview!) and I am obsessed with her style. She agreed to share her heart behind her business with me and I hope you all are as inspired by her as I am!
Tell me a little about yourself, your background (personal, professional, whatever you feel comfortable sharing!)
“I am from Rio de Janeiro – Brazil, a beautiful beach city! I always had a big potion about arts, design, colours, everything visual! When I was 12 I started to paint, at 14 I did my first exhibition. I wasn’t really good of talking about my feelings, I was really introspective and that was my way to express myself.
I always had a big interested in fashion, but it is a difficult industry to get in and to make a living, because of that I studied graphic design at university and tried to work in different areas, as magazines, marketing agency, product design studio, but couldn’t find my thing. It was in my last semester that I got an intern position at a well-known clothing company! OMG that was absolutely what I was looking for! It’s funny, because I always knew what I wanted to do, but I tried to follow other paths that didn’t work out, and destiny did his job! After a couple of months as an intern, they offered me a clothing designer assistant position. I can’t describe my happiness! After a year, I was promoted to a clothing designer and there I was for another four years! and what I learned from that is: Go after the life you want, doesn’t matter how hard it is, go after what makes you happy!
I left this company and worked for other clothing companies for a while, when I decided to launch my own online business (without knowing anything about it), it was an online jewelry store. After two years of running this business, I got an offer to work at another jewelry business. It was a great experience, I’ve learned so much about jewelry making, online business and digital marketing!
In 2016 I moved to Canada. I always dreamed to live in Canada! It was everything new and took me a bit to adapt to my new town, new culture, new language. I worked for different companies, learned a lot, not only about business but also how to be a better person, I had to have the humility to give thousands of steps back, start everything again. I met great people but also had some really difficult moments. Its not easy to be far from your family and friends, from your culture. I learned so much and changed so much!
Here in Vancouver, people are here concern about the environment, with life quality, that’s when I found myself questioning my habits and in need to learn more about what was going on in the rest of the world. At the same time, I watched a lot of documentaries like The Minimalist and The True Cost. That was a game changer! Day by day I decided to make small changes and today I am totally thoughtful about the way I consume!
After all this, all my experience, my passions, I decided to follow my heart and do what I love in a sustainable way! So I launched Kaju, a handmade jewelry brand. Where I make every single item by hand with much love!”
Tell me about your company! When were you founded, what’s your mission statement / main purpose, etc?
“I launched Kaju in October 2018. Kaju is all about making women feel beautiful and empowered! Making your day better with different colours and shapes! I don’t follow trends, I believe people should wear what makes them happy and feeling good! My mission is to bring joy and self-confidence in the form of jewelry! Every single item is designed and handmade by me in Vancouver. All the materials I use are ethically sourced!”
What does Kaju mean? What is the significance of the name?
“Caju in Portuguese is the fruit cashew, where the nut cashew comes from. My grandpa use to eat this fruit everyday, and I wanted a name that makes me feel closer to him. So I adapted to Kaju.”
How did you first get into ethical / sustainable fashion?
“Definitely after moving to Vancouver! I use to have a huge closet and because I worked designing clothes, it was really cheap or free for me. I had a bunch of things that I never wore! When I moved to Vancouver I had to reduce my huge closet to 2 suitcases, that was my first challenge! With that, I realized that I didn’t need much.
I didn’t change in one day, it was a process, actually, it is still. Every day I tried to do things in a more sustainable way, be more thoughtful about the way I consume, about the waste. It is a journey, I still have a lot to learn, but already made a big change in my life! And I have to tell, I am so much happy having less and knowing that somehow I am contributing to a better world!”
Tell us about your creative process? How do you create your pieces? Do you partner with any other companies or organizations?
“I am all about visuals! Everything inspires me, art, architecture, patterns, nature, music. Some days I feel an urge to create! I also have a lot of admin business things to take care of. I am a one-person business, but I would love to able to create every day!
I do partner with some stores, and create exclusive designs and colours for them. Because I design and handmade everything, the sky is the limit! I am still in the middle of the process with some collections so I am not able to talk a lot about it, but as soon as I can, I will for sure!”
Why is it important to you to be an ethical company?
“It’s my way to make things right and to make the world a better place, to do what completes me, to take care of the environment and to be sure that people that are involved with my business are working in good conditions and are paid fair salaries. A lot of people think that only their attitude won’t make a difference, but will! It makes a huge difference–the changed habits of every single person!”
Who are your inspirations (ethical fashion or otherwise)?
“I love watching all small business and local craft creators! They all inspires me not only to create, but to keep following my path!”
What is one of your most favorite pieces you’ve created?
“It is hard to pick one item, they are all my babies, and I put so much thought and love to every single piece! It’s like choosing a favorite son!”
What are you reading, listening to and/or watching right now?
“I am reading three books right now. One in Portuguese called Today, On My Path (by Laura Bartelle) is about a girl trilling the Camino de Santiago. [I’m also reading] Getting Things Done by David Allen and 10% Happier by Dan Harries.
Where can we find you?
“I am really active on my Instagram account @kajucreations, and if anyone want to reach me by email you can: email@example.com.”
I absolutely love Mariana and Kaju–not only are her designs gorgeous and ethically made, purchasing from her is also a way to support a hardworking businesswoman. Shopping ethically is more than boycotting fast fashion—it’s also making sure our dollars go towards to supporting creators and companies who are taking the time to do things well. Mariana is one such creator, and I’m proud and honored to support her!
Seriously, go and check out the Kaju Etsy page—there are so many gorgeous designs to choose from! My earrings are my favorite accessory and I’ve gotten so many compliments on them.
Are you as obsessed with her creations as I am? Let me know below!