MoAna Luu has spent her professional life building brands, from designing boutique hotels to serving as chief content and creative officer at Essence. But after contracting Covid-19 in March 2020, Luu decided to refocus on a new brand-building effort—one that’s entirely her own.
That project is ManLuu, a line of luxury jewelry paying homage to Luu’s Creole heritage—a blend of African, Indian, French, and Caribbean traditions—and Martinique’s long tradition of jewelry-making. ManLuu arrives today at Nordstrom for its official, 21-item debut following a soft online launch this summer.
ManLuu is composed of gender neutral earrings, bracelets, and rings in 18k gold vermeil and sterling silver. Nods to Creole jewelry tradition emerge through ManLuu’s use of exaggerated geometric shapes and signature woven patterns (an octagonal hoop with webbed inlays here, a chunky beaded bracelet there). “The craftsmanship is something that is so delicate, when you see it you know you have a precious piece already,” Luu says.
Some of the designer’s earliest introductions to Creole craftsmanship came from her grandparents’ jewelry store in Fort-de-France, Martinique, Luu tells BAZAAR.com. But ManLuu’s devotion to quality is inspired by even earlier references, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, Black people could not become property owners, so they invested in gold jewelry heirlooms to pass down among generations. Luu says that ManLuu shares the power of this story, one that many people may not know, through each piece.
ManLuu’s interpretation of heirloom jewelry had resonated long before this week’s Nordstrom launch. Gwyneth Paltrow, Mary J. Blige, and Maye Musk are a few of its early fans. Cardi B. even wore ManLuu bangles to announce her second pregnancy earlier this year—a special stamp of approval for the brand, Luu tells us.
Joining forces with a large retailer like Nordstrom is, in some ways, even more significant than those celebrity endorsements. “As a Black female designer and founder, I believe it’s important that heritage brands welcome new creators and support them taking their place in the luxury market,” Luu explains. “This is a big step, not just for me, but for all of us.”
While ManLuu’s approach to luxury references centuries-old jewelry traditions, its use of eco-friendly materials is thoroughly 2021. Many pieces are crafted with recycled metals; later on, ManLuu will also incorporate lab-grown diamonds. Luu couldn’t imagine starting a new label without incorporating conscious design techniques: “Sustainability is something that, today, is mandatory in any business.”
By balancing meaningful history with modern design, ManLuu is an alternative to the throwaway jewelry sold, well, nearly everywhere. “Fast fashion was nice,” Luu says, “but now it’s time for pieces you want to keep.” And one day, pass down.
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