Eldenwa Designs: African-Inspired Jewelry That’s Fashionable, Affordable, And Sustainable
When you visit Eldenwadesigns.com, the first words you see at the top of the page are “FUNctional Art,” a perfect description for the pieces created and sold by the brand’s founder, Ellen Wagner.
Six years ago, Wagner made the leap from employee to entrepreneur when she left the world of advertising and forged full speed ahead with eco-friendly fashion accessories brand Eldenwa Designs, a decision she came to fairly easily.
“When I realized that I did not want my bosses job I knew it was time for me to focus my efforts somewhere else.” she said. “Somewhere I always had a flame burning. It was time to stoke the fire.”
Although starting her on company while freelancing in the ad industry was new for Wagner, she’d actually been creating pieces for herself since she was a kid. She also studied Fashion Design/Merchandising at Clark Atlanta and went on to study Art Direction at Creative Circus in Atlanta. But perhaps Wagner’s greatest teacher was her mom, whom she would watch “whip up a skirt” whenever she couldn’t find the perfect fit or style for a particular outfit. “It was magic!” Wagner declared.
Now Wagner is making magic of her own with jewelry crafted in designs that are heavily influenced by African culture, specifically Egyptian civilization, art, and design. All pieces are handmade fabric accessories made from recycled (up-cycled) jersey cotton.
“I have been a person who recycles for as long as I can remember. We can all do a small part to help out the environment and that is a no-brainer. And I have always enjoyed making old new again so it pretty much went hand in hand [with my brand]. But when I found out that each year we dispose of 11 million tons of textile in the US alone it became a passion to make fashion sustainable.”
And unlike many designers who attach a hefty price to that sustainability, nothing in Wagner’s current inventory of rope scarves, chain link scarves, hats, or fringe necklaces costs more than $60.
“There is no reason we should have to break the bank to be fabulous,” Wagner remarked. “I have never been addicted to labels and, frankly, I think that’s the easy way out. A true fashionista can look like a million bucks even if they only spent 5.”
As far as starting one’s own business, Wagner said there’s no reason women should feel like they can’t do that either, but what they have to remember is “You can’t do it all yourself.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs need to both outline their goals and create a strategic plan and then create a support system to launch their own venture,” Wagner advised.
“It is a lot of work and dedication and not for the faint of heart if you’re going to go all out. Do not worry about what everyone else is doing. Keep your eye on the prize.”