With roots in the Southeast Alaska town of Yakutat, Jennifer Younger is Tlingit of the Eagle Kaagwaantaan clan and currently lives in Sitka, Alaska. For her handmade jewelry, Jennifer draws inspiration from such sources as traditional Tlingit formline designs and spruce root basket weaving patterns.
POPSUGAR: Tell us the story behind how your brand came to be.
Jennifer Younger: My brand came to be when I decided that I wanted to do something to honor my grandmother who wasn’t allowed to practice her Native American culture. I started my jewelry line, Jennifer Younger Designs, 11 years ago. When people wear my jewelry, I want them to feel strong and empowered.
PS: What’s the inspiration behind your latest collection?
JY: The collection I showed at Yaamava’ Fashion Daze is inspired by monogrammed ovoids. An ovoid is a feature unique to Northwest Coast art. Ovoids are used to portray a creature’s eyes and joints, and sometimes teeth or orifices like nostrils and ears. Because ovoids aren’t mainstream, this collection is intended to promote Native American design and increase its popularity outside of the Northwest United States.
PS: How does your culture inform your design process and your brand as a whole?
JY: Although the world is my oyster and I am free to create whatever I want, I always keep my elders in mind and design something that would make them proud. The basis of every piece of wearable art that I design has tradition and heart behind it, while paying tribute to my tribe’s ancestors.
PS: It’s like picking a favorite child, but do you have any favorites from your line?
JY: My favorite piece from the monogrammed ovid collection is the copper shield. It represents stature, wealth and protection. A key element of this design is this little “T” that represents the backbone of my Tlingit ancestors.
PS: What have been the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in launching your own brand?
JY: Hustle every day. People say “oh you’re so lucky, you work for yourself” and what they don’t realize is how much dedication it takes to run your own business and be your own boss.
PS: Where would you like to be a year from now? Five years from now?
JY: Since I am now achieving the goal of showing my collections in my own fashion show, I’d love to continue to do more runway shows and continue to build out my customer base beyond the Pacific Northwest. I also want to design even bigger, bolder pieces.