True value of something is revealed by the way it is given.
Elisabeth Crossley-Wright has always worked to make a difference. Through two NATO peacekeeping tours as an army officer, and years monitoring elections for the UN in Kosovo, she saw firsthand the depth of need and stark inequalities faced by so many. When the shift came about in her life to align her passion – intricate handmade custom jewelry – with a social consciousness platform, she knew she had found the perfect companion in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2015 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laid out the 17 Goals for the general assembly of 193 nations as a roadmap for the future. The Goals chart a course for the elimination of poverty and hunger, international development of an elevated standard-of-living for all, and a conservation strategy for our precious ecosystem. “…we must use the goals to transform the world,” declared Ban, “we must leave no one behind.”
Crossley-Wright was inspired to express the integration of the Goals into our collective story through her masterful creations, and she and the Goals have been inexorably linked since. The pieces bring new perspective on the scope and meaning of each momentous objective, and have drawn the attention and support of major influencers including will.i.am and Bono. We asked Elisabeth about her inspiration, the Goals, and what this impactful work means to her.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, studies and experiences that influenced you to become a jewelry designer?
I was born and raised in Denmark. After graduating high school, I decided to join the army where I eventually earned the rank of Captain. It brought me on NATO missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. After leaving the army, I studied law and worked in the UN mission in Kosovo arranging special needs voting and monitoring election fraud. I had seen the stark inequalities of the world during those missions, and felt committed to do my bit to change what I could. When I started designing jewellery it was always with a focus on storytelling and conveying important messages. This led me to design the Global Goals collection, which is basically 17 bids for a better world.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Be patient. Life is long and good things usually take time to build. Enjoy the ride.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
My biggest fear was probably not being taken seriously, or feeling that I hadn’t earned the right to be where I am. I realised that the only person thinking these thoughts were myself, which wasn’t very productive. My husband is quite lighthearted about failure and constantly reminds me, “not to take life too seriously, as no one gets out alive!” (-:
How would you describe your personal style?
“Classic with a twist”
Tell us about your design style. What makes your collections unique in the industry?
To me jewellery is all about storytelling, and the value of a piece is to be measured in its symbolism and sentimental value – as opposed to its monetary value. I like the thought that a piece of jewellery also represents your personal values and beliefs. This is how the Global Goals Collection was born. We are the first brand to have interpreted the United Nations global goals by way of jewellery, which is quite unique, I suppose.
What kind of person wears your jewelry?
My Danish roots make me quite a minimalist, which is why most of my pieces are rather dainty. Our customer wears the pieces more for her own benefit than for others. They remind her of who she is and where she is going, and she holds them very dear.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the jewelry design business?
- Start imagining, drawing and experimenting. 2. Find a great jeweller who will bring your pieces to life. 3. Ask questions wherever you go, in order to find the best casters, setters, 3D printers etc. Soon you will have a network of wonderful experts who can help you and guide you. 4. Pound the pavement for buyers and set up trunk shows and events. In short: spread the word of your new creations. And above all, don’t get disheartened by closed doors or rejection. Learn from every ‘no’, and see it as an opportunity to grow.
What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created – and what made it so special?
The first piece I ever created with my own hands was a silver butterfly ring for my mother. It taught me the basics of producing jewellery, and its special to me because I put so much effort into that piece. I wanted it set with diamonds, and this is how I met the jeweller I now work with. He has taught me everything I know, and without him I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. It makes me happy whenever I see my mother wearing the ring.
What is the concept behind your designs?
For The Global Goals Collection, the concept is definitely ‘Discreet Activism.’ I love the idea that your most important hopes and dreams can be either disguised as a pretty piece of jewellery or worn as a badge of honour for all that you stand for. The choice is yours.
How did you come up with the name With Love Darling?
That’s a funny story. My husband and I were sitting in our kitchen with a glass of wine, brainstorming on names, whilst checking if the domains were available. I wanted the name to reflect that the pieces were made and given ‘With Love.’ And it just so happened that www.withlove.com was available! But it was US$92,000!!! A bit much for a little start-up. My husband is British and always calls me ’Darling.’ So he said, “why don’t you try www.withlovedarling.com?” I searched it up and it was available at US$2.99!! So we had a name! (I enjoy telling people that I made US$91,997.01 the first few minutes I was in business!) 😉
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere I go. It can be a conversation, a piece of fabric, or nature. I was in Costa Rica recently to learn surfing and was so taken by the way of life and the sea that I made a collection inspired by the waves.
Tell us about the global goals and how With Love Darling is making a difference.
Our commitment is twofold: Firstly, we want to engage and inspire everyone to be part of the movement to get closer to achieving the global goals by 2030. To Quote UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon: “We are the first generation that can end poverty, the last that can end climate change. We all need to make sure that these 17 goals is a part of the way we live and act. ”
Secondly, we want to adhere by the goals when producing the jewellery. This means no impact on climate and planet, decent work conditions, engagement with artisans from the third world and so on.
Tell us about how you include sustainability in your production process.
All our stones are conflict-free and the metals are recycled. The pieces are produced under decent work conditions and with lowest possible impact on climate and planet. We aim to have all our pieces produced by independent artisans, returned refugees and create jobs for those most vulnerable.
What celebrities have purchased With Love Darling pieces?
I met Robyn Wright on the ski slopes in Davos and saw that she was wearing one of my pieces; The Goal #1: No poverty. That was a moment. will.i.am has the owl symbolising Goal #4: Quality Education, and Bono has the Heartbeat for Goal #3: Good Health and Wellbeing. I gifted Goal #17 to Bill Gates and received a very personal letter thanking me for promoting the goals. That was rather special.
Do you have any new or exciting announcements? Anything coming up that should be mentioned or highlighted?
I have two very exciting projects, but unfortunately I have to wait a bit more before I can reveal what they are. But watch this space!
How do you define Impact?
I define impact by creating a positive and lasting change to a situation and/or a community. There are many ways to contribute, and I would encourage everybody to explore what they can do.