Beneath its glittering surface, the jewelry world can be a pretty ugly place. From blood diamonds to ivory poachers, the history of jewelry is filled with examples of the darkness to which a person can descend in the pursuit of precious stones.
That’s why it is such a relief to see people like Kim Smiley, the creator of Sapphô by Kim Smiley, using jewelry to create a positive impact on the world and giving these baubles a reason to shine.
“The essence of my vision,” Kim says, “is to use fashion as a platform for empowering women with meaningful work.” By providing marginalized women the opportunity to work for Sapphô and earn a living wage, Kim is changing lives.
“I have always loved fine art and fashion, but my heart has always drawn me to the charitable sector. Sapphô marries my passion for social justice with my love of aesthetics and style.”
Sapphô, Kim’s jewelry collection, is named after the ancient Greek poet. Known for her lyrical odes to the beauty of women, she is a fitting namesake for a jewelry company that is aiming to use its pieces to introduce people to great poetry.
Each one-of-a-kind and handmade piece of jewelry in the collection is inspired by a poet, and comes with a poem from said poet’s collection.
“We juxtapose Nobel Laureates like Pablo Neruda with brilliant emerging poets like American Jessica McFarland, whom I met while a graduate student [at Harvard] in Boston,” Kim says.
This unique marketing scheme is one of the many ways Kim sets her company apart from the pack. However, this was not a decision made just to creatively market her collection. Kim really believes in the power of poetry.
“We’re using fashion as a portal to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of poetry,” Kim explains. “Many people are turned off by poetry because they think it’s inaccessible or elitist. We want to turn them on. Who ever thought jewelry could get people to read Pablo Neruda? We’re feeling pretty optimistic.”
Drawing attention to beautiful poetry by linking it to stunning jewelry, the impact of Sapphô would be enough reason to laud Kim as a supreme businesswoman (as well as a fashionista). But she doesn’t stop there. Kim also has solid work experience in the non-profit sector.
Currently, she serves as the vice president of community capacity building at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. This role allows her to once again use her social consciousness to make a difference, but focuses it more on the Jewish community in the GTA.
Prior to her work with the UJA Federation, she served as vice president of marketing and development for Habitat for Humanity and assistant director for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre & Museum.
Clearly, Kim has spent much of her life striving to make the world a prettier place, both literally and metaphorically. What’s the next step for her?
“I’m joking with friends that maybe I should start a modest poetry library where people can check out books and try on jewelry,” she says.
All joking aside, such an endeavour would be a natural fit for a woman who has so adeptly combined the worlds of charity, literacy and jewelry.