The creator of KAKURU has built an entire community of people who love her designs around her creations that are inspired by the patterns and textures of nature.
It's not hype: Elina Kakourou, creator of the KAKURU jewelry brand, has achieved something that is as rare as it is defining for an independent local brand. Her creations, inspired mostly by Nature (and, in particular, that of the Peloponnese, where her family comes from), as well as by the people she connects with spiritually, feelings, and even social and existential issues, make you feel like part of a community.
A ring, such as, for example, her best-selling design Stala, is more than a piece of jewelry. It is a conspiratorial wink between those who have chosen it. It is as if, when the eyes of two women wearing it on their fingers meet, they’re telling each other “I see you”.
Elina Kakourou has achieved this unique phenomenon because she pours her entire self into her jewelry. From her skill to her innate optimism and her earthly personal style. Elina was born and raised in Sparta. Despite being accepted by the Faculty of Economics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, she left to pursue the same studies in London, where she went on to gain a postgraduate degree in business administration and economics, geared towards the new entrepreneurship. It was there that she also met her friend Bibiana from Colombia, who shared her love of jewelry.
Inspired by the natural beauty of the Peloponnese and by emotions
“It came to a point where everything we did at college was related to the business side of jewelry. We began to develop that and started a company with the aim of importing jewelry from Colombia to the UK and, at the same time, to create our own range of jewelry in collaboration with designers. The venture didn’t succeed, however, because Bibiana went back to Colombia and the collaboration with designers didn’t quite work out. And so I tentatively began taking seminars on jewelry design and any classes I could, either at St. Martins or at Hatton Garden, England’s preeminent silversmithing neighborhood,” she says.
After five years in England, she made the decision to return to Greece and settle in Athens. This was in 2009. A few years later, in 2012, and having tried her hand at the visual arts, she decided to attend the silversmithing school in Athens to “test”, as she puts it, whether she could pursue jewelry design professionally, instead of treating it as a hobby. She started working at a workshop and it wasn’t long before she felt the need to create her own brand, an organic next move, given her studies and her development so far.
She started looking for a space, asked for support from her family and, in February 2018, KAKURU came to adorn the quaint alleyway of Petraki Street, where her workshop/store can be found, and where people fall in love with the clean yet elaborate forms of her jewelry and the Greek natural materials, such as olive wood, semiprecious stones and metals, that it is made of.
Meet KAKURU and its creator
How and when was KAKURU created?
At first, when I began making jewelry, it was under the name Elina Kakourou. But then, once I started thinking that I’d like to have a physical store, I decided I didn’t want the brand to bear my whole name. I was thinking that the brand didn’t necessarily need to be identified with one person just because of its name. And so, with the precious and very creative help of our graphic designers, "K2 design”, KAKURU was born. I loved the vertical direction in the logo from the start, as well as the very plain style of witting, along with its curves, as the whole team I worked with knew from the start that my designs have almost nothing linear. That was how the KAKURU brand was created in 2017, but it was first launched alongside the store in Athens, at Petraki 24, in 2018.
If you had to describe the DNA of KAKURU in three words, what would they be?
Real, Emotional, Organic.
Can you talk us through the process of how you envisioned and ultimately created the current collection?
I will tell you how I envision almost every collection. It’s a lot to do with my emotional state at the time the collection is created, the images and experiences I might have. Initially, I begin by capturing the “philosophy” of the collection, either by writing a text, or a word, or by making a design. All this kind of happens simultaneously, until the design begins to take on the form of a piece of jewelry. I may start with one item from the collection, i.e., I may happen to design the earrings first, and have the whole collection develop and come together from that. Right now, I’m working on a collection that, ideally, I’d like to launch in the winter, before we present our New Year’s charm. I’ve been working on it on and off for almost two years and I hope that now it will be completed. The conditions were probably not mature for it to come together before, but now I feel it’s at the right stage to be presented.
What are the challenges facing a new designer in Greece, and what are the privileges they enjoy?
I think that if I start writing all the challenges that a designer in Greece faces, it will run on for several pages. Nothing comes easy and there is certainly nothing encouraging if you think that the state will support you. You will have to rely on your own strengths and the help / support, in any way it comes, of friends, acquaintances and family. I don’t know if it sounds disappointing, but it is the reality experienced by several people who want to work in the world of art. So, the challenges are plenty: operational, when, for example, you want to start a small business so you can make a living from your work, but the system doesn’t make it easy; financial, when you need support so you can go further or cope under unexpected circumstances such as the pandemic; and ideological, too, when, for example, the field of culture and art is not in the priorities of a state/society.
There are, perhaps, some privileges if, by your own strengths, your work has started to become “recognizable”. Another privilege for a designer, for myself at least, is the nature of this country, which we ought to look after like the apple of our eye. It’s what gives us the drive, the inspiration, and cultivates us. It is also a privilege for me when I interact with people with whom I share similar visions, concerns, influences, and that helps me both in the development of my work and in my personal life.
What is your relationship with fashion?
I like keeping up with it. There may be times when something captures my attention and I’ll want to process it, and other times when I pay it no attention whatsoever for a while. Of course, with social media, following designers or accounts that are engaged in fashion means you have contact with it on a daily basis. What I like is to receive stimuli.
I like to see how a designer presents their work and what it is that they’re working on in a particular period. But I don’t follow it in the sense of being in fashion. In any case, our jewelry and collections do not evolve according to what’s in fashion. And I am grateful that our public has embraced that and loved it.
What does personal style mean to you?
It's the image of your personality, mostly, and at times of other personalities that you perhaps admire. It’s beautiful to think of how to express outwardly what you are inside, either by an item of clothing, jewelry, accessory, or even though your speech, your movement, the way you style or don’t style your hair, the way you hold your bag or sip your drink.
The nice thing is that, in the same way that features of your personality evolve over the years, your style can also change, evolve or diversify depending on your mood or what you’re going through. When we talk about personal style, I would even add our habits, out motifs, anything that makes one personality stand out from another. That’s where the magic of personal style can be found and if each of us sees that, it’s lovely to bring it out.
Is there something or someone unrelated to fashion who is one of your greatest influences?
Nature will always be an inexhaustible influence, but also the people whom I’ve met in my life. Different personalities, as I mentioned previously, and human relationships, are what drives me in my own quests, and that will also influence my collection or jewelry. There are, of course, people who have/had a greater influence upon my life and work, members of my family that have been a sort of “study” for me. Finally, there are existential and social issues that affect me daily, without my control, and depending on their intensity, they often become a great influence.
Which famous designer (living or dead) would you invite to dinner, and where in your city would you take them?
I would like to talk with and spend some time with various designers. I love meeting different personalities and observing them. If I did have to choose one person, it would be Elsa Schiaparelli. If I had to take her somewhere in Athens, I’d choose a spot where we could see Athens from above and talk, perhaps inside the car, watching the city lights at night. Otherwise, I’d like to take her to Limeni in Lakonia, so she could take in more of nature, the wonderful waters of the sea and the wild beauty of the place. I would really enjoy a conversation with her, I think it would be hugely inspirational and educational.
Could you pick one look of a pop culture idol that you consider the best of all time?
It's very hard to pick just one look as the best of all time, because there have been fantastic appearances through the years. For some reason, what popped into my head first are the appearances and personality of Prince, as an unique figure of pop (and not only) culture, who’s made history with his music, his image and, generally, the issues he took on by the way he lived his life. He loved to wear jewelry in almost all his appearances, and they played a leading role in his image.
He liked to fill his neck with numerous chains or a necklace that would create bulk, or, at other times, to wear statement rings. One of his looks that stands out for me is on the cover of the music magazine “Q”, where he wore an elaborate choker – a necklace that draws your attention and is clearly at the forefront of the shot. The title accompanying his picture on the 1994 magazine is “I am normal!”.
Where can we find KAKURU?
You can find KAKURU jewelry in our physical store at the center of Athens, at 24 Petraki Street in Syntagma. Also, at our e-shop, kakuru.gr, you will find almost everything and enjoy making your purchases there. If you happen to be at the beautiful island of Santorini, you must stop by “Mati Art Gallery”, the gallery of the wonderful sculptor Giorgos Kypris, where you will find, among other things, selections of jewelry from our collections. At our physical store, at times, you can also find custom-made jewelry that isn’t in our e-shop, so it’s definitely worth visiting!