alchemy /al-kim-eē/ the ancient forerunner of chemistry, based on the transformation of matter; concerned with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir; a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.
Founded by Disney backed entrepreneur Aiyanna Greene, Alkimee is a luxury brand and social venture that specializes in creating ethical jewelry and jewelry-inspired audio, apparel, and accessories. Our flagship product is our jewelry-inspired earphones with a patent pending wire sheath invented by our founder in February 2015. In an effort to create her own unique design interpretation of "jewelry earphones" for the 2015 Shopify Build a Business Competition, Aiyanna disassembled all of her jewelry and discovered that plastic audio wires could be encased in chains to recreate the look of a real necklace, while preventing damage and tangling. When her second company, marketing agency Ader, was accepted into nonprofit startup accelerator MassChallenge in May 2015 and later funded by 500 Startups and The Walt Disney Company's Disney Accelerator in 2016, development of Alkimee was put on hold until Ader reached its $7M accrued revenue milestone in December 2017. She is the first and youngest black female entrepreneur to receive VC funding from Disney.
SOCIAL MISSION: HIGH MARGIN LUXURIES FUND BASIC NECESSITIES
Born into a low-income family of immigrants from Trinidad and Mizoram, India, Aiyanna was accepted to Amherst College with the help of QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization that connects high-achieving, low-income youth with leading colleges and opportunities. Her studies of Capitalism and social entrepreneurship as an Anthropology major during her sophomore year at Amherst inspired her to informally found her first company, venture studio and consultancy Greene Street Innovation (GSI), at age 19. She soon after left Amherst to pursue entrepreneurship full-time with the aim of learning how to create wealth by creating economic value. Once this goal was achieved, she planned to share the required knowledge and resources with anyone who needed access to them. To that end, Alkimee — like all GSI ventures — is a social venture, allocating up to 50% of profit made on the sales of our luxury goods to our Giving Fund, which focuses on providing funding for necessity goods and services to those who cannot afford them. Necessities include food, healthcare, housing, education, employment, financial services, clothing, technology, and transportation. Our social mission is predicated on our founder's belief that “rags to riches” stories can become the norm instead of a novelty if people are provided with the resources required to fulfill their basic survival needs, achieve financial security, and transform their dreams into a reality.
ETHICAL SOURCING & TRANSPARENCY IN OUR SUPPLY CHAIN
The majority of Alkimee jewelry products are handcrafted in the USA with the help of our experienced artisan and Responsible Jewellery Council certified manufacturing partners. Exceptions include base metal, gold plated, and audio products that are responsibly made in China by BSCI audited factories whenever possible. Meanwhile, the precious metals and gemstones used to produce our products come from a variety of global sources, both known and unknown. The most expensive fashion products in the world contain precious metals and gemstones — The Passion Diamond Shoes ($17M), The Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse ($2.9M), Nightingale of Kuala Lumpur Dress ($30 million), Stuart Hughes Diamond Edition Suit ($778K). Based on this data and the fact that our flagship product is jewelry-inspired earphones, carving out a high margin "jewelry-inspired" luxury fashion niche makes financial sense for Alkimee as a profit-sharing social venture. But what are the ethical costs of producing these products? When considering the jewelry industry’s use of metals and gemstones that come from unknown, limited, and controversial sources, the sustainability of Alkimee’s products and social mission can be called into question. Are we selling luxuries mined through forced labor to fund necessities for the very people being exploited? Can the sales of our luxury products ever provide sustainable funding for necessities if they are made with non-renewable resources?
It is extremely difficult to create jewelry products with 100% traceable and ethically sourced metals and gemstones in the current marketplace, as the majority of already mined resources are untraceable. Unless it's explicitly stated, there is no way to know that the metals and gemstones available to produce our jewelry haven't funded human and environmental abuses throughout their supply chain. Even recycled materials, despite having a lower environmental impact than their newly mined counterparts, are impossible to trace to their mine of origin in most cases (although they can at least be traced to their refiner). On the other hand, completely abstaining from using already mined resources because their origins are potentially controversial, but impossible to know, is neither a solution to the industry’s systemic problems, nor an efficient use of available resources.
Alkimee intends to limit the negative impact of producing our products by first providing as much transparency as possible into the origins of the metals and gemstones that we can use. Secondly, both to limit resource waste and epitomize the concept of alchemical transmutation, new Alkimee jewelry and jewelry-inspired products are prototyped using sterling silver or base metals, made to order or made available for pre-order, and only "transformed" into gold and other materials upon request. Our wire sheath prototype is made with recycled sterling silver, primarily sourced from old jewelry, scrap metal, and electronic waste. Our fine jewelry, jewelry details and embellishment prototypes are made using regular untraceable — meaning of unknown origins, like the majority of precious metal on the market — recycled sterling silver, and base metals. According to a 2018 report in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science & Technology, recovering gold and other metals from electronic waste is 13 times cheaper than extracting metals from mines. Clean tech company Itronics reported that $22 billion of gold (16 million troy ounces) and $1 billon of silver (51 million troy ounces) was thrown away in e-waste in 2016.
As a Fairmined licensee, Alkimee is able to produce and label jewelry products made with fairmined silver, fairmined gold, and fairmined ecological gold — meaning responsibly mined by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) cooperatives who are paid a premium that is reinvested into community and cooperative development initiatives. ASM occurs in approximately 80 countries worldwide and accounts for the global supply of 80% of sapphires, 20% of gold and up to 20% of diamonds (The World Bank). According to the Alliance for Responsible Mining, there are approximately 20 million artisanal and small scale miners worldwide and over 150 million people, including miners and their families, rely on ASM for their livelihoods. ASM workers who are not Fairmined certified are regularly subjected to violence and financial exploitation by paramilitary groups, black market dealers, and exposed to health risks due to the unformalized nature of their work and improper use of chemicals without safety precautions. We offer clients the opportunity to request custom designs, metals, and gemstones, subject to labor and material availability. Specifically, they can request the use of fairmined or fair trade metals, certified conflict-free metals and gemstones — meaning not mined using forced labor to fund wars, certified recycled metals and gemstones, uncertified recycled metals and gemstones, regular untraceable metals and gemstones, or lab-created gemstones in the production of their Alkimee products.
In addition to metal buttons, details, embellishments, and hardware, our clothing and accessories prototypes, such as suits and handbags, are made primarily with deadstock silk, cotton, linen, wool, vegetable tanned leather, chrome tanned leather, SGS certified vegan leather, and Piñatex. Examples of custom materials include recycled leather, cork, OEKO-TEX® certified vegan leather, GRS certified recycled polyester, recycled silk, peace silk, GOTS certified organic cotton, organic linen, organic silk, and fair trade cotton. (Disclaimer: The unregulated chrome tanning of leather has a toxic impact on workers' health and the environment, however it currently accounts for 80-90% of the global leather supply and 80-90% of jobs in the leather industry by extension. This is due to a faster tanning time of 10 days, compared to our preferred and more sustainable leather option — vegetable tanned leather — which takes 2 months to tan. Its limited supply is a current barrier to our exclusive use. This is also the case with organic cotton, which accounts for only 10% of global cotton production). Finally, we source pre-owned vintage, antique, and designer goods and — when possible — alter the non-jewelry products to resonate with Alkimee’s jewelry-inspired aesthetic through the inclusion of metal buttons, details, chain straps, etc. These products are then offered for rent or sale to encourage conscious consumption by extending the lifecycle of existing products.
SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVE: SCALING SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL SUPPLY CHAINS
The demand for ethically sourced and certified fairmined, fair trade, recycled, conflict-free metals and gemstones, textiles, and lab-created gemstones currently exceeds the supply. To address this deficiency and further our commitment to responsible jewelry and luxury goods production, Alkimee has created the Sustainability Initiative. As part of our Giving Fund, the initiative provides funding to new and existing organizations that support, certify, use or supply fairmined, fair trade, recycled, conflict-free metals and gemstones, lab-created gemstones, and other ethically sourced and sustainable materials. The goal of the initiative is to enable the creation of sustainable products through more transparent and abundant supply chains. For example, we provide charitable donations to the Alliance for Responsible Mining to support their mission to help artisanal and small-scale miners form legal and responsible mining cooperatives as Fairmined suppliers.
Sustainability is a necessity for the survival of all life on Earth. As a Positive Luxury Brand to Trust, Alkimee is among a group of world class luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, who have been awarded The Butterfly Mark for their measurable impact and commitment to sustainability. Although metals can be recycled indefinitely and lab-created gemstones are seen as a more sustainable alternative to mined gemstones, if the demand and supply of newly mined materials disappeared, it would have a devastating impact on the millions of artisanal and small-scale miners who currently do not have access to equally lucrative employment. The same can be said for animal products such as leather and silk from China, India, and Brazil, despite the harm caused by their unregulated production and the climate change impacts of industrial animal agriculture. Through our Giving Fund and Sustainability Initiative, Alkimee contributes to solving these complex issues by funding the creation of sustainable alternative materials, supply chains, and employment opportunities that prioritize the ethical treatment of workers, animals, and the environment.
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