We’ve become accustomed to Jay-Z, and other rappers, dropping names like Lorraine Schwartz, Eliantte, Avianne and Co., and Jacob the Jeweler in their raps. But Dynasty and Soull Ogun, twin sisters from Brooklyn, designed this ring under their fashion line L’Enchanteur. They are one of the few Black brands operating in the fine jewelry space.
“I walk up and down the Diamond District all the time and there’s no one there like me and Dynasty,” says Soull, who designs and creates the jewelry for the line while her sister looks over apparel and textiles. “And who’s making weird shit? Who’s making something that I’m going to notice or that I would want to wear? I’m not saying that you wouldn’t want to wear other things, but I think sometimes when people are trained under the same popular jewelers, they tend to produce things that look alike or that we’ve already seen before.”
Soull and Dynasty were born and raised in Flatbush by a Dominican mother and a Nigerian father. At one point they had two separate lines—Soull designed BRZÉ while Dynasty had Alkhemi9—but they joined together to form L’Enchanteur, which means “the enchanter” in French, in 2013. Soull says their goal is to reawaken objects that have been dormant. And their bold and unconventional designs, which are steeped in storytelling, have attracted clients including Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.
Here, we speak to Soull about what it’s like to design jewelry for legendary clients like Jay-Z, how their brand gained traction, and what they want to do next.
Jay-Z has been wearing a lot of your pieces. How did that happen? What is the Infinite God Body ring he wore in the “Sorry Not Sorry” video made of?
The stone is called morganite. It’s a type of stone in the sapphire family or ruby family or whatever. They’re like distant cousins. And that’s what makes it valuable. It’s about as valuable as a sapphire or an emerald. An emerald or sapphire that size would be a crazy cost, but that morganite stone is still crazy for what it is. It’s not quite like a quartz, which would be in the amethyst family or the rose quartz or whatever. It’s not a rose quartz, it’s a morganite and that’s what makes it look like that salmon-y color. We worked with June Ambrose on that.
So does June just come in and say, “Jay-Z wants some rings?”
It’s all developing the trust there because we had made a pair of earrings a few years back for Missy. Our friend Jerome Lamaar threw our name out when she wanted some specialty earrings. He’s dope also. Another visionary. And we just made those earrings for Missy and then that was kind of it. So when Black Is King came out, Zerina [Akers, stylist to Beyoncé] was already about to make pieces for Jay because he was going to be in the video. And we made that big black one he wore in Black Is King. She had this concept, this style that she wanted it to feel kingly. And I’m thinking like, “Well, there’s so many types of kings. What king can he be today?” You know what I mean? Because I feel like the beauty of Jay is that he is malleable in that sense, and he’s a transformer. He’s exactly what we’re talking about in terms of thought pattern. So you see one minute he had a Caesar for years and now he has locs, you know what I mean? And that’s just crazy. Jay-Z with locs. So to me, I’m looking at it like that’s a malleable GodBody. A GodBody is mythical in a sense. It transforms and transmutes. So I was thinking like what’s this theme for this king today essentially. So the thing I was thinking of was Maharaja. And it’s basically more of a Middle Eastern king or an Indian king. Well, Indian diaspora, South Asia. And so that was the king I was thinking, something very decadent.
And decadent, meaning that all he needs is that one ring and that’s it. I can make a bunch of other things, and he doesn’t have to actually wear all at the same time. He could if he wanted to get that look, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. So I was thinking of something girthy, because I think the presence of Jay as a girthy presence is also subtle, you know what I mean? The ring is really big and then there’s also a subtlety on it. It’s just that stone and the rest is just metal, and that’s it. It’s very simple. However, when we look at the detail of it you’ll see there’s a lot of intricacy in the actual design.
How long did it take to make?
This took maybe a week and a half. It turned over real fast because there was a whole other idea first that wasn’t going to involve any rings at all. But we switched directions. And then we did a tennis bracelet. And I changed that the day it was supposed to be shipped out. Because it was all princess cut. But we added a rounded triangle. There’s barely a picture of it that exists anywhere.
What about the ring he wore Black Is King?
It’s actually a carved onyx and it’s the Sagittarius zodiac symbol because he’s a Sag. And that’s the thing also, it’s like I love the fact that Jay knows that he’s a Sag. Like he knows his energy because he talks about it a lot in his music, you know what I mean? So he knows he’s very calculated. So when we’re thinking on the ring, I was like, “You can just put a black onyx and it would work for him.” But I was like, I’m going to put a black carved Sag in that joint because it will be for him. Nobody else is going to know that there’s a Sag in there, unless they see it up close. And we posted a couple of pictures and stuff like that. So you can see the engraving of it, but most likely you won’t see it. The design around that was like a braided rope in metal. I made it all in wax and then cast it. And I felt like I was just channeling something and working my instrument when I made that, whether that be God or whatever you want to call it. That’s exactly how those rings came out because I never really made anything else that looks like that until the ring he just wore.
What was kind of the big break for you all?
Dynasty had been designing a lot of bottoms. She was doing a lot of panel work on denim for years and really playing around with a lot of denim and also incorporating different textiles that are typically used in interior design. She made a bunch of these pieces for some musician friends of ours at the time. I think it was Jesse Boykins. And he had gone to South Africa and this cat named Joey, who was one of the facilitators of the Bread & Butter trade show, saw them and invited us to bring our brand to the show. This was January 2013. And that’s when we officially merged brands so we could show together at Bread & Butter.
What happened after that?
We didn’t realize how much money it takes to wholesale. And we concluded that we never wanted to overproduce. We always want things to be really singular and artisanal. And the fact that we were also creating our own pieces and we’re our own artists, that was also a really important story that we wanted to tell even before we knew that we were telling that story. People were encouraging us to produce in China, and we just didn’t have the money to do that. So we didn’t do any more trade shows or follow a traditional fashion calendar and we just started releasing smaller collections and putting them out whenever we wanted to.
I feel like another big break for you all were the du-rags, which came out before they became this “fashion trend.” Can you talk about those?
People are always like, “Oh, I think you all did the du-rags first.” I think we probably got noticed for it first. And we probably decided to make a whole collection about it first. Maybe there were like, other individuals who were like putting it on with their collection, but it wasn’t really like a thing yet. However, I definitely do think that we were one of the first to uphold the du-rag. We know that in the hood people wear their du-rags all the time, so we wanted to create something that you could also wear to a job interview and be seen as professional and uplift the quality. So some of them started off as denim, some of them were made from a floral print. We wanted to create something elegant that people could pass down to their kids and not just throw away.
One of your first celeb clients was Lauryn Hill, right? What is it like working with her?
It is one of the most beautiful experiences we’ve ever had so far. Because she was just so… I can’t explain it. We do custom stuff for her and she picks out already-made pieces. She just respects our art. And it’s a full-circle thing because she’s one of our muses. Dynasty made a headwrap for her, which she wore in her Woolrich campaign. And that was also cool because Woolrich wanted her to just wear their stuff, and she was like, “No I need to wear this.”
And how did you all even meet her?
A friend of ours worked in a showroom and asked if we had any pieces because Ms. Hill’s stylist was looking for bold pieces. And I sent over these pictures and things like that, and then they pulled it. And that’s actually what started it, because then afterwards Ms. Hill would be like, “Where’s that magical stuff, where is that special stuff that you had brought to me before? That’s what I want.” So she would always request pieces from us. So it started off like that. And then she had gone on this long tour at the time, and she ended up just buying everything that we loaned her. And that’s also the other thing about her, never asking for any discount, nothing like that. It was just always just straight up like I’m supporting this brand, long before last year. You know what I’m saying?
What about Erykah Badhu? How did you form that relationship?
Erykah is her own stylist, but she works with a stylist named Diamond Mahone Bailey, and she said Erykah was coming to the city and wants to pull some stuff. It was for a live show. But Erykah really allows us to tap into our real fantasy. Lauryn totally sparked that as well, but Erykah is fantasy design and it’s such a privilege to work with both of them. Erykah’s really going to push you beyond. If you’re going to make a ring, it’s going to be fantastical. And that’s actually how our extra long du-rags came into play because we were like, “Oh, we want to do something real unique for Ms. Badu. We want to do something that’s a du-rag, but like a Badu-rag.” So that happened, and then she wound up purchasing the pieces that she had pulled. We made her a long yellow denim du-rag with one of our characters, which is called the lucasso.
How did you learn how to make jewelry?
I’m self-taught. Both Dynasty and I self-taught in our trades. I went to high school for fine art. My family is very artistic. My father is all brains and my mother is all design talent. She made all of our clothing. She was a seamstress, a hairdresser, a cook. And our dad is like a chemistry engineer who likes fabrics. So growing up, there was a lot of both happening in the house. But I actually wound up meeting this gentleman who worked as a metal worker, and he’s an artist himself. And he was just very supportive and invited me to his studio and let me use his studio while he was away. So I’d be in the studio every day making things. It was very unconventional because I wasn’t using the right tools, but that’s how I learned.
And then someone I met had taken a class at Pratt or FIT in jewelry design and had all of these tools she wanted to give away and she asked me if I wanted them. This was before YouTube is what it is now so I couldn’t just go on and learn how to make jewelry. I had to read books and just make things.
Can we talk about the finger caps you all made for Erykah? Where did that idea come from?
We were researching palm readings and just the beauty of the hand and how they’re so unique to everybody. And then, like me and Dynasty, we’re twins, so we’re always looking at our hands to find the uniqueness and also the similarities. I think I walked in on Dynasty embroidering a hand, and she was embroidering the fingerprint and I wanted to make a piece of jewelry that reflected that. So I remember going and just making these rings. It was something that was very instantaneous and it was like a download. We rarely sketch anything, at this point.
How’d you connect with Zerina Akers, Beyoncé’s stylist, and start working with her?
Zerina is an MVP, I’ll say that about her. She really is. Because she’s been about Black-owned everything for a long time. She makes it a point to always work with Black designers and mix it in with Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga or whatever. And that is to me, powerful, because it’s utilizing something that people are not even up on, so you have to be a visionary to be able to do that. So when they shot “Spirit” for The Lion King before Black Is King, she pulled some of the Midas touch and the finger caps we made. And we were in LA so we delivered it to her personally. And then I guess a year had passed and she pulled those pieces for Chloe x Halle and then she hit us up to create pieces for Black Is King, which at the time didn’t have a name yet. This was like, 2019. She was like, “I want to do a little bit of hood and a little bit of African and a little bit of galactic and a little bit of this and a little bit of that. So I want to tie that into what you all do.” So we just made a bunch of jewelry and she gave a little bit of direction. Zerina’s birthday is the same day as our mother’s birthday. And also Lauryn Hill’s son’s birthday is the same day as our birthday. So it just all connected. We also did the Adidas rings Beyoncé wore in the campaign.
What’s next? You are moving into fine jewelry?
I think fine jewelry in terms of the material that we’re using is where we’re heading. I walk up and down the Diamond District all the time and there’s no one like me and Dynasty and that’s just that district. So in terms of the fine jewelry we want to work with those materials and also be able to offer our people that look like us different types of equity. With our clients who have collected pieces of ours in brass or silver or whatever, back in the day, we want to give them the opportunity to have some of our pieces in gold. Have something that’s collectible, and again I bring up the word heirloom. Something that can be passed down, something that can’t be thrown away and also something that accrues value over time.
Yeah. And Jay is always name-checking like, Lorraine Schwartz and for awhile it’s probably because he had no other options. There aren’t a lot of Black fine jewelry makers.
Right. And who’s making weird shit? Who’s making something that I’m going to notice or that I would want to wear? I’m not saying that you wouldn’t want to wear other things, but I think sometimes when people are trained under the same popular jewelers, they tend to produce things that look alike or that we’ve already seen before.
What about clothing?
We’re dropping a full apparel collection and a full apparel collection is going to be mad crazy because we’re throwing in some fun things. So you might find a piece of morganite on a pair of pants or you might find some stitching that’s 14-karat gold wire. It might be the one out of the 20 pieces. And that one is the collector’s edition. You know what I’m saying? Really artistic and also pulling in more of our culture and combining our Western culture with our Yoruba culture.
What’s the biggest challenge now?
The challenge is always self challenge. There’s also outside, monetary challenges with producing fine jewelry. Like Lorraine Schwartz for example. I think her father was a jeweler and her father’s father was a jeweler. So jewelry is in her line. Gold and diamonds were accessible to her. So we need a business partner. We need investors. Those are the immediate challenges. But it’s also about tapping into your confidence. Overcoming procrastination.
What do you think is currently missing from fine jewelry?
The aesthetic. The flavor. We have our own brand, but I would work with Cartier. It’s an old house that has a story. But if Dynasty and myself worked with any company, we would bring a flavor they haven’t seen before because they haven’t done it before. They can’t replicate what we do. Cartier has their staple things. Like I love their Love bracelet and the Jaguar and those things. And they have great storytelling. But I think the beauty of us is that there’s no boundaries. And we access story all the time. Our whole makeup is storytelling because it comes from so much magic. There’s so much heritage that sits there. Whether it’s Brooklyn, Caribbean, West Africa, Asia, you know what I mean? We can find stories of Black Asians in China. So I think what’s missing is us.
source: complex.com BYARIA HUGHES