BY BRITT SKELLY
PHOTOS ARKAN ZAKHAROV
May 26, 2009
Its hard to believe that Dandi Maestre once described herself as a minimalist. Much like a dandelion, this Colombian born jewelry designer is as spunky and bold as they come with a side of the good old je ne sais quoi. This designer is best known for her show stopping pieces which are composed of natural materials such as deer antlers (don’t worry folks, the antler is shed after each mating season), raw hide and bone - to name a few. Her pieces take a new spin on jewelry design and she succeeds in pushing the limits and thinking outside of that Easter egg blue jewelry box.
I was lucky enough to spend the morning lounging in Dandi’s incredible Annex studio which I could best describe as a pack rat’s wet dream. Chunks of amber, bone and horn are piled high on tables and hutches while antlers and hide hang lifelessly from the walls. Bangles and boggles and bone, oh my! During the interview staying focused was a feat in itself as I found myself picking up odds and ends, stacking stone encrusted rings on each of my fingers and adorning my arms in coconut hollowed and woven bangles.
Six years ago Dandi and her family relocated from their native hometown Baranquilla, Colombia to Toronto. Although she had been working in graphic design and advertising for over fifteen years, the thought of starting all over again in a new city seemed too daunting. Although she was unsure what direction she wanted to head in, Dandi knew she wanted to use her experience in design and photography to create something of her own. She came to the conclusion that she would start experimenting with jewelry design. After creating some sample pieces, she applied and was accepted into the One of a Kind Show. Thanks to the show which Dandi describes as a “whirlwind”, she garnered tons of exposure and caught the eye of a particular mover and shaker at the upscale Holt Renfrew. A week later the Dandi Maestre line was snatched up by Holts and she has been selling with the department store ever since. In the interview Dandi says, “It was crazy. I never expected anything like that! It just kind of fell into place”.
Once she started selling at Holts and through US showrooms, Dandi was eager to dive into a new challenge. She was interested in collaborating with designers and had read about the design duo Greta Constantine. She sent an email with some photos of her pieces to the designers and asked if they would be interested in collaborating on a project together. Not more than a few hours later, Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong were standing in the flesh in her studio discussing what samples they wanted to use for their Toronto Fashion Week F/W08 collection. For the next two seasons, Dandi worked with Greta Constantine and last season she was asked by Lucian Matis to help him with his FW10 show. She is currently working on her SS11 collection.
While some people’s egos would blow up after success like this, Dandi remains her humble and sweet self. She mentioned to me many times that none of this was ever planned and its turned out for the better that way. She describes her experiences in jewelry design as a “journey of discovery”. The fact that she doesn’t follow trends and started this business not for money but for personal satisfaction shows that her business really is a labour of love. After meeting many jaded people working in the industry, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to get to know someone as talented and lovely as Dandi Maestre. And although her jewelry might dip too deep into your budget, I I highly recommend taking a stroll into the Bloor Holt Renfrew and checking out her awe inspiring collection. I guarantee her collection will transport you into a fashion realm where urban meets jungle!