Atinuke Adeleke is an accessory designer with an undergraduate and masters degree in Law. She took her first jewelry making class from local artisans in Nigeria and fell in love with the process of handcrafting wearable artisan pieces. She has continued to build on that foundation by taking a variety of classes including metalsmithing and CAD classes at Kansas University. She is also an alumni of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and a member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG)
After moving to the United States to be with her husband, she was unable to find jewelry pieces to compliment the Nigerian traditional outfits she loves to wear. Major retailers did not carry the bold, colorful pieces similar to what she grew up wearing in her home country.
She created the brand to cater to African brides and grooms looking for traditional African jewelry to wear for their traditional wedding here in the United States. She has since expanded the brand to incorporate a balance of her Nigerian traditional aesthetic and western experience. She piqued our interest and we got up and close with Atinuke Adeleke
LT – Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Atinuke – My name is Atinuke Adeleke. I’m an Accessory Designer, the lead designer and founder of the accessory brand Zuri Perle. I hold an undergraduate degree in Law from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and a Masters in International and Commercial Law from the University of Buckingham in England.
I took my first jewelry making class from local artisans in Nigeria, over 9 years ago and, fell in love with the process of handcrafting wearable artisan pieces. I have continued to build on that foundation by taking a variety of classes including metalsmithing, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and 3D printing classes at Kansas University.
I am currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Art Degree at the University of North Texas and I am an alumni of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and a member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG).
LT – Where did you grow up and where are you now?
Atinuke – I grew up in Ibadan, Oyo State. I spent a few years in Abuja and then Lagos before moving to the United States in 2009. I’ve lived in Maryland, Georgia, Missouri and I currently reside in Texas.
LT – Tell us about your brand?
Atinuke – Zuri Perle is an accessory brand. We handcraft authentic wearable art for clients who are looking to explore a different side of the African continent enamoured with colour, gemstones and precious metals. Our aim is to create accessories that are a far cry from the stereotypical cowry, horn accessories associated with the African Continent. We offer discerning customers, quality, timeless handcrafted accessories. Our product offerings include jewelry, leather bags, leather belts and gele.
LT – Zuri Perle started in 2009, what were the challenges you faced and how were you able to overcome them?
Atinuke – Zuri Perle started in 2010 before that the business was called “the Wright Jewelleries”. The name didn’t sit right with me so we rebranded in 2010 and Zuri Perle was born.
There are numerous challenges we’ve faced and are still facing. One of the first challenges that stands out to me was how to build a network when I started the business. Having a solid network is very important in any venture one embarks on and here I was in a new country with no network to rely on. I had also just had my first son, so going out to networking events was close to impossible. The internet became my best friend. I focused on honing the skills I had just acquired, challenging myself to come up with unique designs and building my online presence/network.
Another challenge that stands out to me was deciding to step away from a wholly Nigerian traditional aesthetic and creating a balance of my Nigerian and Western experience, this was a tough decision for me. Stepping away from a wholly Nigerian aesthetic was difficult. It was my foundation and money maker but I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t being creative anymore. I knew things had to change but was worried about my clients and if they would accept this new trajectory I wanted to embark on. I had to trust God and that voice that kept telling me to take the leap of faith. It hasn’t been easy, for example I used to travel 10 hours every week for classes at Kansas University. I did this for 2 semesters and also took part in our first fashion show during this time, while still being a mum and a wife.
LT – What inspires your designs?
Atinuke – God, my emotions (negative/positive) and my culture.
LT – Your designs have a creativity twist to it, what makes it unique from other brands in same industry?
Atinuke – I believe embracing one’s true nature is the key to individuality. No one has lived my life or had the same experiences that I have. I have learnt to embrace all those experiences -good and bad- explore them and translate that into my pieces. As long as I create on that plane and stay true to myself our designs will always be unique.
I also like to venture into new territory, I challenge myself every year to build on my skill sets and incorporate those newly acquired skills into my designs and collections. Last year I attended Kansas University to learn Computer Aided Design and 3D printing, this year I’ve been learning about leather and leather accessories. New skills bring about new challenges and forces my brain to work in unfamiliar territory and I find that for me, that leads to creativity.
LT – How would you describe your designs?
Atinuke – I leave this part to my clients. LOL.
LT – Do you handcraft your jewelleries yourself?
Atinuke – I handcraft a significant number of our pieces myself and the other pieces that are not handcrafted I create using 3d modelling and printing.
LT – How long does it take to handcraft out a client’s order?
Atinuke – Minimum time line for a client’s order is 2 weeks. There is no maximum time line for production, it all depends on the client’s order and the materials needed to complete the order.
LT – Which process do you enjoy more, the designing or the crafting?
Atinuke – I’m a very hands-on designer, I enjoy designing and crafting. Not infrequently the way I envision/sketch a design is different from the end result. My sketches are the caterpillar and the final product is the butterfly but each design must go through the cycle. I do dislike making multiple pieces of the same design which is why I went into CAD and 3D printing. We currently offer one of a kind pieces and multiple order pieces.
LT – How do you balance work and being a mother?
Atinuke – That’s one of my greatest challenges, I still don’t have a formula for that one but having a supportive husband is definitely a huge part of that balance. I just take it one day at a time and have learnt to forgive myself when I mess up. I try my best to schedule time with my boys every day. Our current routine is to all cuddle up in bed and watch 2 or 3 episodes of Family Matters before bed. I loved that show growing up, it’s a blessing to see them watch it and love it too.
LT – You didn’t give up on your dreams even after moving to a new country, what kept you going even in front of all the challenges you have faced?
Atinuke – Becoming the best version of myself is my greatest motivation. I’m always trying to outperform myself. I love this quote by John Wooden “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming” I have this quote as my screen saver and it’s a constant reminder to me to stay the course especially during challenging time.
LT – As a Nigerian in Diaspora, what has been your challenge in growing your business?
Atinuke – Labor has been the greatest challenge. Getting people with the right skill set at the right cost is challenging. Our pieces are labour intensive and labour is not cheap in the U.S.
We’ve also had to move around quite a bit which isn’t great when you are trying to build a network.
LT – How swift has the ride been in growing your business and having hands on deck to help you achieve your dreams?
Atinuke – I registered Zuri Perle in 2010 so we’ve been in business for 10 years. I don’t see the growth of my brand as a sprint, I see it more as a marathon. Each measured step takes us closer to our destination. I want us around for years to come so I’m taking time to ensure that our foundation is strong. God always sends the right people along and opens doors when it’s time. When something doesn’t work out, after giving it a 100% effort, I know it’s God telling me it’s not time and I still have more to learn.
LT – What has been your biggest fear or hope while you have been on this journey?
Atinuke – My biggest fear initially was failure, moving from an investment banking job to being a jewellery designer is not a step up in the Nigerian Society. I had a chip on my shoulder for the longest time, always trying to prove to everyone that I wasn’t a failure. I had to take a step back from all the negativity, play the worst failure scenario in my head, and realise that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. So what if I fail? at least I tried!
My greatest joy now is embracing the unknown. I never know what’s going to be around the next corner – it’s nerve wracking and exciting, especially when it’s a hurdle that must be overcome to get to the next pit stop.
LT – Is there plans to establish your business in Nigeria?
Atinuke – Yes, but I’m playing those cards close to my chest for now. LOL
LT – Who are your inspirations in the industry?
Atinuke – There are quite a few, of the top of my head I will say Doureian Fletcher, Monalisa Okojie, Icakostika, Iris Van Herpen.
LT – A lot of young designers are looking up to you, what advice can you pass on to them?
Atinuke – Be you, channel all that is in you into your art (the negative, the positive), be hungry for knowledge and skills (technique is important) , take the unusual path and question the status quo.
LT – Where can people follow you online?
website – www.zuriperle.com`
Facebook – www.facebook.com/zuriperle
Instagram – www.instagram.com/zuriperle
Twitter – www.twitter.com/zuriperle