You know those jewellery pieces you just can’t help but reach out and pick up to turn over in your hands? The ones you can tell the quality and fine detailing that has gone into it just by looking? That’s how I felt the first time I was shown Murkani Jewellery. It was obsession at first sight.
Founded in 2012 by Melbourne-born designer Kiralee McNamara, the unique collection of hand-crafted pieces is inspired by her travels to Morocco, India and Turkey – with strong leanings towards the whimsical and folk.
With the brand expanding into over 80 boutiques globally this year, it’s not just been my bowerbird eye the brand has managed to catch – Murkani Jewellery has recently been spotted on an array of top style influencers: think Amy Maree Comber, Life With Three’s Rachel Barwick, Anita Ghise, Black White Loving‘s Aurelie, Chloe Plumstead, and Style With Starr‘s Starr Clare.
After taking a look over the latest collection that recently hit stores, we sat down with Kiralee to find out everything Murkani – from brand launch and ethos to working with influencers and choosing who to team up with…
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
My background was actually in beauty – I did all the colour development for Australis a long time ago, and then worked with brands like Ulta3, Bourjois, MaxFactor, and Bloom. I was always doing everyone else’s product development – but not just that: the visual imagery, the branding… everything! I wanted to start my own brand because I’ve always been building everyone else’s brands for years – creating imagery, collections and colours. I just wanted to try doing my own thing.
How did you go from beauty product development to jewellery designing?!
I got into fine art when I left school, but I didn’t do it as a job because I thought no-one who does fine art has a career that pays well. I thought that’d just be a disaster in my 20s – so decided I’d be more commercial and moved into marketing for security. I did it for a long time and the thing about marketing is that it is creative. It was good, I loved it, but when I finally had time to stop and go ‘what do I really want to do?’, I really wanted to design.
I had actually started making jewellery when I was sixteen so thought ‘I can do jewellery’. I could have done shoes or clothes, but I felt most comfortable with jewellery. I spent the first year designing and getting things made and travelling back and forth to Bali.
The brand has a beautiful wanderlust aesthetic to it. Can you talk me through the ethos behind Murkani?
There’s a few things. One of the things about Murkani was that I wanted to create a beautiful brand that women like me could afford – I didn’t want to be so high-end. There were some brands that I adored, but $1000-$2000 a necklace wasn’t very accessible to women like me with three children and a mortgage to pay. I also really wanted to create beautiful pieces that were in materials that would last forever. I’m very anti fast-fashion and landfill, so wanted to have gorgeous pieces but not so expensive that they were unattainable.
Secondly, I love travel. I’ve been a backpacker since I was eighteen, so I’ve always been that wanderlust-y, travelling sort of gypsy. I wanted to combine my love of travel with my designing, so we often will pick our travel destinations based on what I want to design next. I’ll say, “I really like the tile designs in Turkey or Portugal”, and that’s when we’ll go to those places. I love repetitive patterns. I love geometric patterns. I love taking elements from things and creating something else out of them. It’s often very old designs but making them contemporary and gorgeous for today. I also love that whole bohemian luxe style – but not in a grungy way. I love the more elegant boho, it’s about layering different materials and fabrics.
And lastly, the other thing for me is that it’s really important to work with good suppliers who are ethical – so I am making sure I do things that I feel comfortable with. When I work with a supplier, I will go and look at their factory and make sure that they are treating their staff well and that they are paid well. Longer-term, I am looking at creating a range that can give funds back to support a charity. I would love to work with a charity that is empowering disadvantaged women.
We love this latest collection. Where has it been inspired from?
This is the Indian-inspired collection, which draws on the lattice work around the windows in the Red Fort in India. It’s all about taking the elements of the latticework and then repeating them into different pieces. It’s really about design motifs being repeated and then being mixed together.
Then, with the organic collection (called Creation), I really wanted to create these wavelike, organic, big statement pieces. They were almost tribal, but not – kind of like an ‘elegant tribal’. My jewellery is never too aggressive. It can be bold, but it’s still got an elegant element. All my jewellery is easy and wearable for everyday. It’s also all long-wearing. Because the materials are so beautiful, you might be paying a tiny bit more – but they’re going to last you forever. I’m very into lasting forever.
I’ve been seeing it worn by some top influencers. Can you talk me through some of the girls that have been wearing the Murkani jewellery?
We’ve started to get a really nice following in Australia, London and Paris. We have a girl called Black White Loving that’s wearing our jewellery, and she does a gorgeous job at layering. We’ve got a few in London that we’re working with as well. It’s really lovely because they’re just wearing different pieces that might not be from the current collections, but they’re wearing them with their own jewellery – they’re showing that it can be mixed and matched.
Locally, we’ve done some stuff with Anita Ghise and Life with Three. There’s been some beautiful images coming out, and I love how people wear it in a different way and bring it into their lifestyle. Anita Ghise did a beautiful photo of her sitting down with a bangle from above – it was just gorgeous because it was a real lifestyle photo of her in Byron Bay.
It’s lovely working with all these different girls and the styling that they do. We’re also working with T.andk’s Tarlie from Melbourne, who’s got a very monochromatic look. Tarlie really makes the pieces fit with her minimalist aesthetic. She’s not at all boho, so she shows how the range does meet a number of people’s aesthetics. They all wear it in their own way, they make it work for them.
How do you choose which influencers you want to work with?
It’s really finding people that you admire and really love. It’s trying to stay true to what you feel about your brand – it’s very personal. Really, we’re talking about my aesthetic. We’re talking about, ‘Do I feel comfortable working with that person?’, ‘Do I love what they’re doing?’, ‘Do I love how they’re representing themselves?’. We get approached by a lot of people where I think, ‘You’re gorgeous, but I’m not loving what you’re doing’ – it doesn’t fit with my aesthetic or my values. It’s challenging to say ‘no’ to people, but it’s part of growing as a brand.
Where do you see Murkani heading in the future?
We are heading overseas! We’re really trying to grow the brand in London, New York and Paris. We work with really good artisans and the level of the materials and the quality of what they produce is stunning – I really want people to see that. Australia’s tough because it’s a smaller market, whereas when you go overseas – the world is your oyster. There’s so many gorgeous people and stores. This is the year – year five is going overseas and becoming global.