How Shakira Javonni is single-handedly modernizing tradition.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Multi-hyphenate creative Shakira Javonni is adding “model” to her resume. The Queens-based designer brought her full-wattage glow to our recent Protect Your Light campaign. (We’re still swooning!) Shakira’s all smiles, on and off camera, with a vibrant energy that mirrors her artistic vision. Her expression of choice? Embroidery. Rich colors and intricate patterns of needlework form one-of-a-kind pieces that caught Alicia’s eye. (Psst… our goddess-n-chief even scored a custom design for her birthday.) In a pandemic-inspired leap of faith, Shakira’s business bloomed — landing her partnerships with UGG along with a flourishing online community. But what’s the foundation and future of Shakira’s success? Let’s jump in.
HOW WAS WORKING WITH THE KEYS TEAM?
The team was so dope. They were hyping me up the whole time and [the photos] came out great. I felt like they came out great before I even saw them because of the energy everybody had. And it was freezing outside — like 30 degrees — but everybody was really excited. That boosted my energy. It made me more confident.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO NEEDLEWORK?
It was actually so [random] because I’ve practiced ballet [since] I was four. When I got to my freshman year in high school, I got so fed up with so many things like the commute [to school] and dancing [in general.] I switched up and [decided to] go to the school for design. I went to the High School of Fashion Industries in the city and learned how to sew there. I was good at it and I thought this was my calling. My grandmother sews. So maybe it did come naturally and I didn’t even know.
DID YOU BUILD YOUR BRAND AFTER HIGH SCHOOL?
After high school, I decided I didn’t wanna sew anymore. I went to college for marketing then I tried to be a marketing intern. That didn’t stick that much. [Eventually,] I started doing embroidery in Nordstrom. I was the only person in the entire company doing this type of embroidery. And when Covid-19 happened, it gave me the motivation to pursue [embroidery] on my own and turn it into something that I wanted to be. I was putting so much energy into working for another company and not getting everything that I needed from it. I built such an audience on Instagram during that time when everyone was in the house.
People just started sending me commissions, so I got really busy. It just encouraged me to keep going.
WHY IS SEWING IMPORTANT TO YOU?
It’s a skill that is dying. Some people aren’t as fortunate to be as “stylish.” But you could be as stylish as you want if you know how to put two things together. You could build confidence [because] when you have something nice on, you feel good about it. I think it’s important for people to have the ability if they want it.
A lot of people are designing, but there are not a lot of people [who] know how to sew. I would like to pass that down to the youth in my community.
WHAT’S MOST UNIQUE ABOUT THE SHAKIRA JAVONNI BRAND?
I do embroidery artwork on already-owned, thrifted, or vintage garments. I also create garments from start to finish [using] scrap fabrics or deadstock fabrics. I’m big on turning older things into new things for people so that they can be passed down instead of increasing the waste of fast fashion.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGNS?
Timeless. I make things people will love and wanna pass down to their children and their grandchildren. [My work] is an investment that gets value over time. I want [my designs] to be treated like an art piece. Each design is one of one. Even if I create two of the same things, they’re gonna be different because there are no computers involved. They were made by my hands. Each one was made individually. It’s organic and personal.
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR DESIGNS?
Music mostly. I even [sew] portraits of musicians. That’s my go-to. I really appreciate music as an art. One of my favorite designs is a portrait of Sade. I got to experiment with different textures and colors. I unlocked a new skill that I didn’t know I had. I created depth with ombré and gradient. I didn’t even know I could do stuff like that.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
I started posting progress videos of me actually sewing. And now it’s easier for people to understand the value of [my designs.] When people see it took 12 hours to make something with your hands, they don’t even question prices or anything anymore.
WHAT ARE YOU STILL LEARNING?
I’m a people-pleaser. I’m excited to do my work. If it seems like a fun project, I’m gonna stay up all night and do it for you. So boundaries are very new for me. People will take advantage of you if you let them. You gotta realize people who don’t care about your well-being are not the people you want supporting you anyway. Yeah, money’s good, but if I’m gonna be sick or exhausted from it, sometimes it’s not worth it.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST CONNECTED TO YOUR HIGHEST SELF?
When I get dressed in the outfit I was scared to put on. I didn’t always like to get dressed because I would feel like I was doing too much. But now I feel that’s the way I express myself. I carry my personality wherever I go. I wanna be unapologetic all the time, and it’s something that I’m practicing when I get dressed [up].
WHAT’S YOUR HIGHEST VISION FOR YOUR WORK?
I want my pieces to spark conversation. I want to spark curiosity because it’s so special that people have to try and figure out where it came from — and how it wasn’t made on a digital, computerized machine. Like, this is by hand? I think a lot of artists feel like that.
WHY ARE YOU A LIGHTWORKER?
I always tell people to be themselves. Even when I’m creating and they [ask] how I feel about it, I’m like, how do you feel about it? Because that’s how you’re supposed to walk around life. Of course, you should care about others, but you gotta do what’s best for you. If you do what’s best for you, then everything else will follow.
Shakira’s vision: spark conversation. What inspires you? Share your favorite songs, artists, or films in the comments!