2008 is the year to give and this line is right on track. Dominique Coq Vassallo, founder and designer of Domini Jewelry handcrafts an amazing fashion jewelry collection with a greater purpose in mind. With all pieces made completely by hand, 15% of all its retail sales go to various charitable organizations, such as Water for Life, Smile of a Child and presently the Carma Foundation. The Carma Foundation founded by R&B artist Melky Jean, benefits improving the health of women and children in poverty-stricken areas of Haiti. Of Haitian descent herself, this designer uses her classical music training, faith, Haitian heritage and American experience to fashion her eclectic pieces. All pieces are created using semiprecious stones, glass beading, silver; yellow gold or gold- filled wiring to create a collection that is aesthetically beautiful. I had a chance to sit with the designer and get a better viewpoint of the collection and its efforts. `
PD: Recently, you have worked with the Carma Foundation. Can you tell me more about this project? In addition, will you do more projects like this in the future?
DV: Carma, is a foundation created by R&B Soulstress Melky Jean, Wyclef Jean’s sister. The foundation benefits the poor and the vulnerable women and children of Haiti. It has actually been dubbed, the female response to Wyclef Jean’s, Yele Haiti foundation.
DOMINI has partnered with the Carma Foundation to create an exclusive, urban chic collection, under $100, where 50% of the profits go to help to raise funds for the massive catalytic mission of the foundation. All the pieces can be purchased at www.dominijewelry.com.
There will even be a feature on the site where everyone can submit photos of themselves in the collection to be uploaded along side of some of our favorite Iconic Hollywood and Music figures, who will also be doing the “DOMINI for CARMA” collection.
PD: I understand you were working with Melky Jean; Wyclef Jean’s sister on this project…how was that?
DV: It’s really great! It’s a long-term project, for which I am really grateful. Melky is so kind to me. She has a great heart and is so full of love, I immediately felt right at home from start of my involvement in this project.
PD: What else have you been working on recently?
DV: I have been working with various local non-profit initiatives that match DOMINI’s mission.
PD: When you first decided to start your own collection, did you think that you would be presented with such an opportunity?
DV: I was definitely believing for projects like this to raise the awareness of the power within us all to respond to world poverty through our own gifts and talents.
PD: Global warming is a real issue and many designers from ready- to-wear to the accessories/ jewelry markets are incorporating green methods- such as, using recycled elements to produce pieces in their collection, etc. Will you implement these ideals as part of your collections and if so, how?
DV: I already have, since the company’s inception! The very nature of the company is green (GIVING BACK TO OUR GLOBAL COMMUNITY). It is the very reason why our company was invited to participate in the “eco-friendly” Academy Award suites in 2007 (this was the companies official debut). In addition, it is company policy that measures are taken to ensure that all raw materials are acquired through a socially responsible supply chain. As we grow, we will increase these measures through packaging and other means.
PD: Does your passion for giving back influence your designs and are you working on a new collection now?
DV: It is the very reason that the company was birthed. As I stared helplessly during a charity infomercial, I thought to myself, charities should not have to beg. Ironically, a charity infomercial is what started my endeavor to use my artistry to empower others when I was seven.
‘As a multifaceted artist, I answered the call with
what was in my ability, at the time, jewelry.’
Since the jewelry is handmade. A lot of heart and thought goes into every piece: its purpose, the people it benefits, the campaign that will raise its awareness, the story it will tell. For instance, the collection for the CARMA Foundation. “KARMA” is based on the principle that what you give is what you get. When one wears the act that she/he believes from the exclusive collection: LOVE, LIVE, HOPE, DREAM, he/she will in turn, be committing that very act by providing food, clean water, medicine, education, jobs, empowerment for the poor and vulnerable women and children of Haiti through the 50% donation from their purchase.
PD: Are there any designers in particular that inspired you to start your collection?
DV: No, I didn’t even know any designers when I first started. I never really thought to hard about jewelry. Truly, the collection was birthed out of the desire to meet the dire needs of world poverty with what I had.
PD: Along with being a designer, you are a wife and mother…how do you balance this all out?
DV: I am still working on that!
PD: What obstacles do you face being a designer and what do you do to separate yourself from the rest?
DV: I literally started this company with nothing, no loans, nothing. As with every venture, there are risks involved with the hope of progression, so I definitely made some mistakes and hit major obstacles. That said, I would have to say, coming to a place of balance in every area of my life.
In addition, the dichotomy of business and philanthropy can sometimes be challenging because of the equal importance both sides demand. As for designing, I go with my heart, if I feel like I am trying too hard, I just stop.
Visit Domini Jewelry online at www.dominijewlery.com