If there’s one thing that jewelry designer and artist Kali Arulpragasam is good at, it’s getting her message across.
Once a creative marketing director for major brands, she commonly found herself trying to covertly push a message of diversity or subvert ethnic stereotypes in her work, until she decided that the best way to place that message front and center was to change her medium altogether.
“I want people to get interested in these topics and I use jewelry as a tool,” Arulpragasam said. “I can go sit in the UN, or some charity, or [the uber trendy London club] Shoreditch house, everybody’s attracted to the sparkly materials of this medium.”
Her most recent collection for Super Fertile—the name of her successful brand, which is as much art as jewelry—is making waves with gallery shows at both London and Paris fashion weeks. Its genius lies though, in the fact that it transcends fashion altogether.
Each large gold plated necklace is a visual representation of a statistic—from literacy rate and nuclear disarmament to GDP and freedom of the press—with different colored rhinestones representing the data for each country. A small chain dangles from the back of the necklace containing the map legend, transforming the wearer into a walking conversation starter, a phenomenon that Arulpragasam describes as “performance art.”
After causing a swarm when she debuted the corruption necklace at the security line of the Olympics last month, Arulpragasam says she now leaves it to her friends and customers to “tell the story.”
Her message of the universality of the human condition and the need for fairness and justice is, at least in part, owed to her family’s background. Arulpragasam and her family (including her sister, the rapper M.I.A) fled Sri Lanka during the civil war twenty years ago, an experience that she says informs her work and outlook today.
“This is our world. This is our time,” Arulpragasam said. “If we’re not gonna be part of that or interested in it, we can’t get that time back.”