Local jewelry designers make a splash at UVic

Culture Fashion

On Friday, Oct. 4, the shimmer of quartz and glimmer of gold lit up the halls of the Student Union Building. UVic alumnae Danielle Noel and Sylvia Tennant put their passion and creativity on display with their up-and-coming jewelry line Zaleska. Tennant was running the pop-up Zaleska shop at UVic, having taken a semester off from her busy master’s program in Education to focus on the jewelry line. Both of them, however, hail from a visual arts background; the pair met in a design class in 2007. Knowing that each of them made jewelry, Noel and Tennant met up at a farmers market to sell their wares together, and “the rest is seriously history,” says Tennant.

The serendipitous collaboration has certainly taken off, as the stylish collective has garnered a lot of attention over the last year. The Zaleska line has been featured in Niche magazine twice, fashion shows, and more recently, Victoria’s YAM magazine, as well as catching opportunities such as trunk shows with Niche, and a place in the Amelia Lee Boutique. However, Tennant has no hesitation exclaiming that Zaleska sells best at the university. It’s not hard to see why: the sparkly, natural, vintage feel of the pieces is reminiscent of the popular fashion around campus. Tennant says that “the pieces speak for themselves,” re-iterating that most people are drawn towards one specific necklace or crystal in particular.

Some of the crystal is from Vancouver Island, and some isn’t, but Zaleska makes a concentrated effort to purchase from retailers who are Vancouver Island–based. The stylish pieces incorporate Italian leathers, real gemstones, and different types of crystals into entirely handmade jewelry. It speaks of mystical travels, and one can sense a throwback to vintage pieces. Zaleska offers something for everyone. There are cuffs, bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings available in a wide variety of styles. One thing is for certain, though: due to the natural elements, every single piece is one of a kind.

The two designers started off making jewelry because they didn’t see items in stores that they liked as much as those they knew they could make, and soon it became a business. “I can’t believe it’s work!” Tennant says enthusiastically. It is obvious that she truly feels that way when she speaks to customers or explains about the crystals. Zaleska’s aim is to create lasting professional connections within Victoria and grow as a collective to one day feature other up-and-coming designers in a mentorship-style scenario.

When asked about their inspiration for the pieces, Tennant nearly jumped out of her seat to say “Instagram!” Social media sites, specifically Instagram, have been the main source of inspiration for the line and also helped to promote it. Because of their social media platform, the jewellers have sent Zaleska items around the world, frequently shipping pieces as far as France and Georgia State.

Tennant could easily see Zaleska evolving into a full-on lifestyle brand. She mentions that Noel has already started experimenting with clothing and leather handbags. Tennant says “the jewelry will always be the heart and soul [of Zaleska] because that’s where it started,” but that both her and Noel have so much more to explore in their practice, and Zaleska is only limited by how far they choose to push it.

Zaleska has launched a Style by Zaleska blog (stylebyzaleska.blogspot.com), which Tennant encourages readers to check out if they want any more information. Jewelry is also available online at their Etsy shop (etsy.com/shop/thezaleskacollective), in the Amelia Lee Boutique, and at pop-up shops at UVic (the pieces are cheaper if you buy them like this in person!), the next of which is Oct. 25. Prices range from $10, up to $50 to $60 depending on the types of crystal and leather. When discussing pricing, Tennant laughed, saying, “We have loans too!” She says they understand that people in university are usually on a budget. “We want more than anything for really amazing people to be rocking our stuff,” says Tennant, “and we are still in the process of growing. So it’s in our best interests to make sure that you can afford it so that you tell people about it.”