Rebel Nell is an awesome company that mixes sustainability, creativity, and empowering women all into one space.
In an effort to be both sustainable and socially-conscious, Rebel Nell, a jewelry company based in Detroit, hires homeless women from shelters to create beautiful pieces of jewelry from graffiti scraps found in the city.
The company, which was founded by Amy Peterson and Diana Russell, first started when Amy went on a run in the city and came across a shard of graffiti on the ground that she thought was beautiful. After close inspection, she saw that the piece also had several layers of paint that played an important part in the wall’s story and had the idea to turn it into jewelry. She pitched the idea to Russell and the pair spent four months prototyping ways to best encompass the shards’ history into wearable masterpieces.
Peterson told Forbes,
“We knew we wanted to make Detroit-centric jewelry, and decided to use graffiti scraps for two reasons: to show support for the city we love, and to financially sustain the programs that we offer at Rebel Nell.”
The idea to employ homeless women was born as Peterson walked her dog and often talked with women on the street. She was touched by their stories and the co-founders visited shelters to determine how to best put their idea into practice.
In addition to employing women that are ready for transitional opportunities by working and becoming financially stable, Rebel Nell also offers programs for their employees to help get them back on their feet. These programs include financial literacy and management classes to provide employees with the knowledge needed to succeed as they improve their lives.
Rebel Nell doesn’t just sound like a cool name—it’s representative of the values the company prides itself on. It’s originally derived from a nickname given to Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of women’s rights, social justice, and civil rights, who was called “Little Nell” by her father. In order to be more representative of the edgy jewelry designs and the awesome women that work there, they swapped the “little” for “rebel” and the company was born.
The graffiti aspect allows the company to remain sustainable and gives the women creative freedom to develop pieces they love. Since all of the graffiti shards are picked up from the street, these pieces that would otherwise become trash or seep toxic materials into the ground and water are instead upcycled into fashionable items. The employees are given complete autonomy when it comes to selecting color schemes they find in the original artwork.
Peterson best described the essence of the company to Forbes:
“The jewelry is reflective of the city we live in and the women of Rebel Nell. People rush to judgment when hearing stories of Detroit or learning of personal past struggles, but when you take time to see what is underneath and expose the layers, amazing things are right in front of your eyes.”
Pieces start at $40 on Rebel Nell’s website and the company is constantly adding new designs and types of jewelry to their collection as the demand grows.
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