We have been trying to present this awesome lady and her business to you for a while. What makes her special to us is not that she has been contributor to Africa Fashion Guide since we launched in 2011 but her amazing tenacity to produce fashion in Africa that is true to Africa and supports made in Africa. Her name is Margaux Rusita and she is a Jewellery and Textile designer who lives and works in Burundi, East Africa. But Margaux began her journey in design as a teenager in Guyana, South America (her country of birth) and her interest in sustainable fashion was born early in her career and was greatly influenced by her Amerindian and African heritage.
Margaux had an idea and a dream of producing beautiful wearable art using materials given by mother nature herself. In those early days, being a university student, Margaux searched for affordable means of using natural materials in her work. She began by working with natural textiles like cotton, linen and silk and forsook as much as possible any kind of man made materials. This became increasingly difficult as these materials over time, became less accessible due to shortages in the region but also due to the increased cost per metre of fabric. There was also the issue of not having the needed skills to transform accessible raw materials like coconut shells, into art. Margaux continued to strive towards creating a brand which would celebrate natural and locally produced materials and products.
Having moved to England and started a family with her Burundian husband, Simba, Margaux settled into being a stay at home mom with a dream. Upon moving to Burundi in 2009, she began to receive inspiration from her new exotic home. Being born into a multi-racial family, Margaux was at ease in environments which were made up of various cultures. A very good friend one day sent Margaux a large package of beads and a pair of jewelry pliers from neighbouring Uganda, on a day which she will never forget. Being in landlocked Burundi was beginning to take a toll on the artist. For the entire first year of being in Burundi, she was unable to access materials for jewelry or her textile work. Then suddenly there was a bag of beads before her. There would begin her design journey on the beautiful continent of Africa.
That bag of beads contained everything from Chinese acrylic beads to camel bones, which this very inspired Margaux used to her heart’s delight, creating lovely earrings and necklaces for anyone who would give them a second glance. Several trips to Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya over the next few years would see Margaux’s vision coming full circle. She very decisively came to the conclusion that although the region had an array of lovely beads and findings with which to create jewelry, and which in Burundi she was becoming well know for, her method was not sustainable. She had to travel thousands of miles to find her materials and many of the ‘natural’ beads which she discovered on her trips, turned out to be knockoffs. Many of the beads which looked very close to the ones produced in Kibera, Kenya, she discovered, were imported from China. Now the market was flooded with many beads which looked ‘African’ and natural, but were not. Margaux was desperate to get back on track with her original dream- Sustainable Wearable Art produced by locals of her homeland. Africa was now home to her and her family and quite naturally, the vision evolved into one that embraced Africa and its people. The desire to produce beautiful jewelry from natural materials, grew into a great passion to create a lasting legacy.
Since then, Margaux has dared to boycott the use of acrylic/plastic beads in her work. Seeking to realise her dream, Margaux ventured into searching East Africa for ideas and inspiration. She discovered jewelry made of Cowhorn while in Uganda. She began to research the uses of cowhorn and found her way to Rwanda where she was introduced to artists who work with horn. Desiring to produce more refined, exclusive pieces with a particular type of finish, Margaux took her search back to Burundi, where she met an artist who worked for over twenty years, with ivory. Knowing the controversy and danger involved in the ivory trade, Margaux convinced her new friend to join her small team. He would now use his years of experience as an ivory sculptor, to produce finely the finished cowhorn jewellery which Margaux had envisioned.
Burundi is a country where cows are greatly valued, relevant and are used by its people on a daily bases for meat and milk, so discarded cowhorn is quite accessible. However, not many locals use these horns for art, but instead, discard of them, use as chicken feed in very small quantities or export to neighbouring Uganda and Kenya where they are used to make jewellery.
Today, Margaux Wong (founded by Margaux Rusita) produces some of the best cowhorn jewellery in the region. Margaux Wong is now not only producing high quality jewellery with cowhorn, but has also introduced recycled brass into the mix. The team, led by Margaux produce remarkably beautiful, luxurious handmade cowhorn, recycled brass jewellery from sustainable materials found in Burundi. Materials which would otherwise be discarded of or shipped out of the country in raw form. She has found a means of adding value to something which is seen as useless by many locals. Margaux is humbled to be able to provide employment for herself and gifted Burundian artists who are able to make a difference in the lives of their loved ones,while doing something they love. Margaux Wong now aims to be and to be known as a premiere African Luxury Brand, which through exquisite craftsmanship, produces Wearable Art which are kind to the environment and an inspiration to those who wear and admire them.
Do have a look at the amazing product that she has produced in Burundi – our favourite piece is the last photo of the necklace – gorgeous! Do check out her facebook page for more information.