In the global jewellery and accessory design space, finding your niche and your design style is all important. For Marie-Paule Tano, founder of rising star brand ROKUS LONDON, her inspiration came from her African heritage and her interest in the ancient cultures of the continent.
LoA met wth Marie-Paule Tano in London recently to find out more about this exciting and highly original jewellery and accessory brand.
What does your company do?
ROKUS designs and produces fine and semi-fine jewellery, as well as other luxury accessories.
“What makes ROKUS unique is the fusions of West and South, old and new, edgy and classic, artisanal and modern.”
What inspired you to start your company?
I've always loved fashion and design. I used to work in fashion PR and fell in love with all the accessories that would come through to us, including clogs by John Rocha, jewellery by Monet, sunglasses by Oliver Peoples, and shoes by various Spanish designers, a lot more than the clothes. I decided then I would learn jewellery design but did not get to it until years later after a chance meeting with artisans from Niger whilst in Nigeria. I designed my first pair of earrings and they made it for me. I enjoyed the process but I couldn't quite explain what I imagined to have someone else making the pieces for me, so I finally registered to learn jewellery design and manufacture when I got back to London. I was invited to a few interviews whilst studying but soon realized that working for others I would have to realize their designs, and I really just wanted to explore and create my own.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
The business is all about creating unique pieces inspired by African art and cultures, made artisanally and suitable for the international markets. What makes ROKUS unique is the fusions of West and South, old and new, edgy and classic, artisanal and modern. These combinations help us design the refined, textured and fashion forward pieces that make ROKUS’ unique design style, offering original wearable sculptures with a unique story, an edge, and a feel of vintage luxury. All our pieces are designed, crafted and finished by hand.
“These combinations help us design the refined, textured and fashion forward pieces that make ROKUS’ unique design style, offering original wearable sculptures with a unique story, an edge, and a feel of vintage luxury.”
Tell us a little about your team
It's mostly just me at the moment, researching, designing, creating samples, finishing pieces. I also work with other independent jewellery artisans in London and in Abidjan at times for larger or trickier parts of the process, including lost wax casting and plating, which can be quite dangerous.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I believe entrepreneurship is something that ran in my family. My mother would travel and buy gold filled jewellery in Belgium and handwoven fabrics in Ivory Coast and resell them in France, and buy clothes in France and resell them in Ivory Coast. My grandmother would mend clothes and accessories around the house and resell them in markets in Paris. It is something that influenced me subconsciously.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I would like to open a production studio in Ivory Coast and have all my pieces produced locally by traditional artisans as well as by women and young people I would have trained.
“I would like to open a production studio in Ivory Coast and have all my pieces produced locally by traditional artisans, as well as by women and young people I would have trained.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Creating my own vision.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Learn as much as possible on all aspects of your business before outsourcing any production. This helps to manage the quality of your products, to know what prices are fair, what materials to use, and to communicate your vision more effectively with the people that make it a reality for you to help limit certain errors.
Contact or follow ROKUS
Why LoA loves it….
The world of jewellery and accessory design is highly competitive and it can often be difficult as an independent brand to stand out from the crowd. However, Marie-Paule Tano is doing just that, with her unique and powerful design ethos and her fascination with the African continent’s strong cultural roots. Today, she is making a name for herself through her edgy yet beautiful designs that reflect the places and cultures that inspire her, particularly in Africa. Her fans fall in love with the artisanal backstory that punctuates each piece of jewellery art she produces, and the sense of place that is reflected in each design. It is no wonder that in London and around the world, her customers become as passionate as she is about the uniquely personal pieces she creates. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa