From subscribing to both the worlds of Nike and Lorraine Schwartz, Victoria Brito knows this all too well. The Sao Paulo-born and Miami-bred model, dancer and queer activist started loving sneakers years before gracing the pages of W magazine.
"I've been an avid sneakerhead since I was a little girl," she says. "I can remember wearing a Nike Air Force 1 sneaker and just loving it so much that it would tear apart. And I would just go back and buy more and more."
This love of footwear inspired her line of fine jewelry, launched with tech startup Pietra in December, which is filled with unexpected, one-of-a-kind baubles — think a gilded sneaker charm and a shoelace-inspired chain.
"I really want to be a voice for girls that are just like me — that love their sneakers and that understand how they are made, depending on if the pair's a Nike or Adidas," she explains. "When you think about sneakers, you don't really associate them with a girl. You're always going to associate them with a basketball player or a male athlete of some sort, and that's fine, but, I want girls to realize that they have something important to say."
Having long believed that sneaker culture deserves to be looked at from a female perspective, Brito jumped at the opportunity to create a jewelry line inspired by the inherent artistry and functionality of these shoes. The project conveniently fell into place thanks to Ruthie Friedlander, a friend who introduced her to the online marketplace Pietra, which allows people to work with a global network of jewelers to custom-create their dream designs. It came to fruition rather quickly, a pace that gives Pietra its diamond-disrupting reputation: The tech startup sources manufacturers and materials from its own private network for its creators, so after a few initial meetings and brainstorming sessions, Brito was finalizing what you would normally think of as last-minute details.
"It's all done in-house, it's all made in New York," says Brito, noting how this made what could have been a drawn-out mess during a global pandemic into a relatively pain-free process.
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The line officially launched in December with eight pieces: six sneaker charms that come in two different sizes and in silver, gold-plated silver or 14k gold; a cable chain available in a thick or thin version and in 925 silver, gold-plated silver and 14k gold; and a shoelace chain available in 925 silver, gold-plated silver and 14k gold. The silver and gold-plated products are similar in price to a pair of Jordans, costing between $169 to $399, while the gold pieces range from $679 to $3,858.
"I wanted to make the coolest thing ever, but I still wanted people to buy it and for it to be accessible to everybody," Brito says.
For design inspiration, Brito studied her favorite sneakers, with the goal of replicating the feel of the shoe. The chains mimic shoelaces. (One boasts the same distinct braiding of a shoelace and even has an aglet-style clasp.) There's The 8/24 Charm, named after Kobe Bryant's jersey numbers and resembling the Nike Kobe 9, and The Originator Charm, with a similar silhouette to the iconic Air Jordan 1's.
Brito hopes these charms not only enable sneakerheads to display their most-loved kicks in new ways, but that they also pay homage to groundbreaking sneaker creators, like Tinker Hatfield, who designed many of Nike's most memorable shoes. "He made us all wear Air Max's back in the day and Jordan brands to this day. He's a genius," Brito says.
"Sneakers are wearable, but in my opinion and in my heart, they are really works of art," the newly-minted jewelry designer adds. "Once I got the details down and then I started seeing the collection get created, I knew right then and there that we had something really special."