iSpani: Accessory Designer

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iSpani is on fleek today with accessory designer Khulekani, he’s got a whole lot of training and experience in jewellery and accessory design behind him, and is a small business owner with a need to succeed.  Despite his experience he still needs assistance to get his brand going iSpani joins him at Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project where he hopes to get the incubation help and support he needs from the industry. 

Katlehong born and raised Khulekani dreamt of a career as a fighter pilot as a child but his hopes were dashed when he failed the entrance exam.  Like so many Hustlers he then began to look for anything that would give him skills to enter the workplace.  On a friends advice he sought out a jewellery course at a local beneficiation project and a whole new world opened up.  Following a basic training course he went on to join the Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project which put him on a path that has changed his life.  Using his talent and skills Khulekani has been able to create a support network that has supported his growth and allowed him to take his first steps as his own boss.  But Khulekani knows he isn’t quite where he needs to be and has applied for an incubation period with his former trainers EJP as he sets out to tackle the accessory and jewellery design sector and blow them away with his own brand. Accessory design manufactures fashionable items for either clothing accessories or the jewellery related sector. So how did a guy who wanted to be a fighter pilot end up flying in the world of fashion? Join us on iSpani this Tuesday at 14:00 to get your career off the ground.

The jewellery and accessory industry caters for the manufacture of fashionable items for either clothing accessories or jewellery related sector of which material used is locally sourced thus eliminating unnecessary import costs and minimising environmental damage

These items that are manufactured are aimed at the fashion and jewellery accessory industry with product that carries a higher return on investments, which is conventional tailor made and unique designs.  Designs that are manufactured are that of clothing accessories, clothing accessories such as belts, buckles, buttons and other related extensions to fabric. The jewellery side with manufacture items such as earrings, chains, bracelets, rings, pendants, bangles and corporate gifts in gold, silver and platinum.  At EJP the philosophy is “by the people for the people” whilst caring for the environment.

The Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project (EJP) is an enterprise development, industry training center and jewellery manufacturing organisation. EJP offers MQA accredited skills programmes, which vary in length and have specific outcomes aligned with industry requirements and individual development. The available skills programmes include an introduction to working in a jewellery manufacturing workshop, production of jewellery, basic hand skills training for the production of jewellery, basic polishing of jewellery (mechanical and traditional methods) and final finishing of jewellery.

The training consists of providing necessary theoretical background and developing practical jeweller’s skills. There are several options for the trainees to utilise their newly acquired skills after graduating from the programmes. These include joining one of the six incubators set up within the project as entrepreneurs (SMMEs), joining the formal jewellery sector or furthering their studies with Design @ 50 for rapid prototyping skills and computer aided design (CAD).

Since its opening, the programme has trained 50 students and 20 incubatees, with a successful uptake of 30 students into full-time positions in the jewellery sector and has achieved commercial viability for 50% of its incubatees since inception. The project is able to produce high-quality jewellery at competitive prices to ensure the future sustainability of the project.

The incubators (mini-workshops) can accommodate 12 emerging jewelers. These jewellers have access to fully equipped workshops, production services and technical support. This allows them the opportunity to develop their own business in a secure and enabling environment. The workshops have been set-up with state-of-the-art equipment. 

What is Accessory Design? [cite: www.theartcareerproject.com]

To complete the perfect outfit, many people will often rely on the addition of accessories. These can include items such as jewelry, belts, shoes, scarves, hats, and handbags. Accessories not only help complete and ensemble, but they can also add a splash of color, personality, and style to the wearer.

In the fashion industry, accessory design refers to the act of designing and creating these accessories. Some designers will stick with classic timeless designs, such as black leather handbags, while others may create wilder, trendier accessories.

What Does an Accessory Designer Do?

An accessory designer is a type of fashion designer that plans the aesthetics and functionality of different accessories. Like other individuals in the fashion industry, an accessory designer must be very knowledgeable about past, current, and future fashion trends. They must be able to predict what types of accessories consumers will find fashionable at the beginning of future fashion seasons.

Once an accessory designer forms an idea, she will then usually try to bring her idea to life. Many accessory designers choose to draw their accessories with pencils and paper. Computer software can also be used for this step, however, and it is becoming much more popular.

After a design has been drawn, an accessory designer will also often create a prototype. For instance, if the accessory in question is a traditional leather purse, an accessory designer will create a pattern and sew pieces of leather together to make the purse.

Some accessory designers may only specialize in a certain type of accessory. Others, however, may design and create several different types of accessories, as well as garments.

As with most type of careers in the fashion industry, the average salary for an accessory designer varies greatly, depending on a number of different factors. Some accessory designers, for instance, only work part-time from home, and they may not make as much as a full-time accessory designer. The area where an accessory designer lives might also affect her salary as well. Generally speaking, accessory designers that live in larger, more densely populated areas will also usually make more money.

An accessory designer’s salary will also depend on how successful she is. Accessory designers that are able to sell more designs and accessories will also usually be able to bring in more money.

What are the Education Requirements for a Career in Accessory Design?

While there are no stringent education requirements to become an accessory designer, most aspiring designers will usually benefit from a fashion design or similar degree. Some post-secondary schools, particularly fashion design schools, also offer courses specifically geared toward individuals interested in accessory design careers.

To earn a degree in fashion design or accessory design, most students will usually complete courses in fashion history, drawing, and CAD. They will also learn about the different textiles and materials that can be used to make accessories.

Many accessory designers choose to work in a freelance capacity. This means that they work to design and create their own accessories. Typically, freelance accessory designers start out small. They usually only design and sell a handful of accessories at a time. With hard work and dedication, however, some freelance designers may be able to become very successful.

Design firms and established fashion designers may also hire accessory designers as well.

You can learn everywhere
Do not underestimate the power of learning outside of the classroom. When it comes to such a creative field, bookwork will only teach you so much. Experience takes that learning to a completely new level. Don’t look for a door to get your foot into; make a door.

Goldsmith and Jeweller [cite: NYDA Career Handbook V2 & https://www.gostudy.net/subject/visual-arts ]

Jewellers and goldsmiths fabricate and repair jewellery such as rings, brooches, pendants and bracelets. They use fine precision tools to cut, saw, file and polish jewellery at manufacturing concerns, retail jewellers’ / goldsmiths’ and at repair shops. The environment is usually pleasant, hygienic and well equipped.

The jewellery manufacturing industry can be divided into two types of production:
Craftwork: Individual articles that are hand-made by skilled craftsmen
Mass production: Moulds and machines are used in order to produce a large number of articles in the shortest time possible.

Jewellers who work in jewellery stores and repair shops provide a variety of services to their customers. Much of their time is spent repairing jewellery and watches and doing hand engraving. Typical repair jobs include enlarging or reducing rings, resetting stones and replacing broken clasps and mountings.
Some jewellers also design jewellery to be made either by hand or mass-produced. They make moulds to cast jewellery and dies to stamp it. Other jewellery workers may do the finishing work such as setting stones and engraving. A small number are also qualified gemmologists, who identify, appraise, classify and discriminate between all kinds of gems, including diamonds.
Jewellers and goldsmiths shape the metal with hand tools or cast it in moulds, to their own designs or those created by designers. They then solder together individual parts to form the finished piece. They may cast designs in precious metal and mount diamonds or other stones on the piece.
Jewellers and goldsmiths use pliers, files, saws, hammers, torches, soldering irons and a variety of other hand tools. They also use chemicals and polishing compounds, such as jeweller’s rouge, for soldering or finishing.
Jewellers / goldsmiths work indoors at jewellery manufacturing concerns, retail jewellers / goldsmiths and at repair shops. The environment is usually pleasant, hygienic and well equipped.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
  • Grade 9 Certificate for learnership or certificate programme at a TVET college

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

Compulsory School Subjects

No Compulsory Subjects

Recommended School Subjects

Business Studies, Design Studies, Visual Arts

What to Study

Diploma: CUT, DUT, TUT, CPUT and UJ offer a course in Jewellery Manufacture and Design. This includes practical training as well as training in Gemmology (training in the identification, classification and discrimination amongst all kind of gems). 

Certificate: Various TVET colleges offer programmes in Jewellery design.

There are four recognised learnerships:

  • Precious metal working and mounting - 5 years (Including diamond mounting)
  • Diamond and jewel setting - 5 years
  • Engraving - 4 years
  • Mounting and precious metal working - 3 years

Correspondence course at Technisa can also be followed. Practical training takes place under the supervision of qualified jewellers / goldsmiths.
Final examination: a compulsory trade test set by the Department of Labour to qualify as an artisan
Short part-time courses in Jewellery Design and Manufacture are offered by privately run operations.
Further studies overseas, some of which can be done via distance learning include:

  • jewellery manufacturers
  • retail goldsmiths and jewellers
  • jewellery, clock and watch repair shops
  • self-employment, skilled and entrepreneurial goldsmiths and jewellers can start their own businesses

Further Information

Jewellery Council of South Africa
P O Box 1549
Houghton, 2041
Tel: (011) 544-7958 Fax: 086 5049 512

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to jewellers and goldsmiths and observe them at work
  • try to obtain part time or vacation work in a jewellery shop


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