Jewelry designers build industry connections

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A. Sue Weisler

RIT students Senam Akorli, left, and Sarah Fairbank have designed jewelry for Fashion Week of Rochester.

Jewelry design students Sarah Fairbank 
and Senam Akorli are making the most 
out of their stay at RIT by building industry relationships in Rochester.

The two School for American Crafts 
students designed and modeled their 
jewelry for a runway show emceed by Tommy Lee of the band Mötley Crüe 
during this year’s Fashion Week of Rochester in October. Fairbank and 
Akorli also showed their design flair in 
an upscale VIP showroom event where 
they were able to interact with people from the community interested in their work.

Fairbank is a Seattle native and fourth-year jewelry design student. Her pieces incorporate elements such as fur, feathers, stones and precious metals. According to RIT Professor Len Urso, Fairbank’s work often takes the form of larger scale compositions.

“I like to push my concepts,” says Fairbank. “I’m not afraid to make something way louder or more intense than what I originally had in mind.”

Fairbank has professional modeling 
experience with designers such as Dareen Hakim and Muehleder, but Fashion Week was the first time she got to strut down the runway in her own designs.

“It’s a lot more personal,” says Fairbank. “Modeling something I designed and 
created is a huge personal expression.”

Fairbank has been able to make some 
important connections during her modeling career, and Fashion Week was no exception. The exhibition event gave her the opportunity to give out her card to those interested in purchasing her work.

“When I first came to Rochester I 
didn’t think I would stay after graduation, but being part of this event I feel a much stronger connection to the talented arts community here,” Fairbank says.

Akorli is a Ghana native and second-year graduate student in the jewelry design program. Her designs show traditional aspects of her culture and employ copper, brass, feathers and precious stones. Akorli often aims to make pieces that cause people to think more deeply.

“I like to think about the feeling you get when you are around a piece,” says Akorli. “I give names to each of my pieces to give them a more symbolic meaning.”

Prior to RIT, Akorli was a finalist in the Miss Ghana competition in 2008. While 
in Ghana she also worked for a modeling company. Fashion Week of Rochester was her first modeling debut in America.

“I see modeling as a hobby but also as an artist it is a great way to get yourself out there,” says Akorli. “It was very exciting to model again. I wish I was always on the runway.”

Akorli’s long-term goal is to become an entrepreneur in the jewelry business. The connections she made during Fashion Week will help her achieve that goal. 

“Fashion Week gave me an idea of how to make connections,” says Akorli. “Once I start expanding, I think it will be easier to get my name out there.”