We kickstart our #FemaleFounded series, dedicated to celebrating the stories and achievements of women who are paving the way for themselves in the worlds of fashion, jewellery and beauty.

In this exclusive series, we delve into the journeys, experiences, and insights of women who have navigated the entrepreneurial landscape to build successful businesses and drive positive change. Join us as we uncover the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs of these kick-ass women!

In recent years, the jewellery space has witnessed a shift towards a deeper respect for craftsmanship, sustainable practices, and a connection to one's roots. The founder of the jewellery brand YSSO, Alexia Karides, welds together these elements to create unique pieces that tell stories from across the Aegean Sea. Most recently, the brand has opened a brick-and-mortar pop-up in London’s Notting Hill to showcase the work of other independent female designers, from faux florists to fashion designers and skincare specialists, who share the same ethos as it does.

The Greek native, who now resides in London, established YSSO back in 2020, alongside her mother to inject a flourish of Mediterranean flair into everyday lives; drawing from her mother’s background in archaeology and their familial appreciation for ancient history.

Handcrafted in a workshop of artisans just outside of Athens, sculptural, organic shapes, designed by the mother-daughter duo are cast in locally sourced, recycled bronze, which is then double-dipped in gleaming 18-carat gold. From gilded shells and delicate fans to intricate dangling squiggles, the unique forms are knocked about and dented to appear perfectly imperfect in formation.

We caught up with Alexia to delve into the journey of YSSO and explore the influences that have shaped its identity and success. Plus, get some insight into the brand’s latest venture.

Your jewellery is handcrafted in an artisanal foundry and family workshop in Athens, close to where you grew up. How does this connection to your roots and the local community impact the brand's identity?
Working with Greek workshops in Athens and championing the “made in Greece” ethos was key for me when I launched YSSO. Having grown up in Athens, I am immensely proud to showcase our traditional crafts and expertise to the world and support the artisans who we work with. The UN refers to craftsmanship as the most important manifestation of intangible cultural heritage, directly linking mass production and changes in consumer tastes as a threat to the survival of traditional forms of craftsmanship.

Our work is greatly focused on breathing new life into old techniques by paying homage to ancient Greek jewellery-making techniques and creating designs that are contemporary yet timeless. Additionally, the materials we use – bronze, plated in gold – are a direct link to Ancient Greek jewellery where bronze (rather than brass) played an important role in jewellery and sculpting.

YSSO's collections are made from recycled bronze, gold, and sterling silver. Can you tell us more about your commitment to sustainability and ethical practices in your production process?
Overproduction is one of the main problems in the fashion and jewellery industry. We have a large catalogue of designs, but we produce very limited quantities of each and base our production largely on real-time demand, and pre-orders. Additionally, we retain a lot of our designs in our core collection, as we believe that timeless design never goes out of fashion. We also produce in Europe close to our workshop and our packaging is produced from recycled and recyclable materials locally in the UK.

Your Mother’s archaeological training, often informs the sculptural form of your designs. Could you share how her background in archaeology translates into the aesthetics and storytelling of your pieces?
My mother’s work is deeply embedded in the story of YSSO, and our designs. Her profession plays into the design research we do, which stems from a wealth of places, from architecture and traditional Greek dress to historical storytelling.

Transitioning from a corporate lawyer to becoming the Creative Director of a jewellery brand is quite a shift. What inspired you to make this career change, and how has it contributed to the brand's success?
I come from a family that has always valued art, specifically drawing and painting. My grandmother and mother always painted in their studios, as did I. Painting was what led me to become passionate about photography. I used to photograph landscapes and translate them into paintings. While working as a lawyer, I found myself deeply missing the creativity in my life and work. At the same time, my mother had just started working with a group of artisans, which we still work with today. I found it so much more meaningful and fulfilling to bring to life my designs. I believe that being a largely self-taught photographer and creative director has resulted in an intimate outcome, which, I hope people feel when they wear my designs.

Can you highlight any specific challenges and opportunities you've experienced as an independent female-founded business in the jewellery industry?
One of the biggest challenges was potentially not having so called “industry contacts”, to begin with, I lacked an understanding of how to actually get things done. That was a very big challenge early on, however, as we grew I understood I could use it as an advantage, innovating certain aspects of our business and building on the relationship I already had. Also being a female-founded brand, creating jewellery predominantly means that we are essentially designing for ourselves, so that puts us at a great advantage too!

Tell you more about your latest pop-up venture. Why was it important for you to collaborate with other independent women designers and shed light on the community?
For me it is extremely important to work with founders that I love. Whether it’s their product or their story, I have been hugely inspired by the process of curating the pop-up and working alongside all the women. There is an incredible level of support that comes between female founders, and the sharing of the efforts to make something a success – which I believe is quite unique.

Lastly, for aspiring female entrepreneurs, what advice would you give on building and growing a successful business in the world of fashion and jewellery?
I would advise to really focus on your product and the “why”. Starting a business is extremely hard, and doing so should have a deeper meaning to you personally. I would also say that previous industry experience is a plus, and being able to identify the problem you are trying to address by yourself is essential.

The pop-up is open until December 22nd on 79 Ledbury Street, London, W11 2AG and will feature:

Iraye Skincare
Ett Hem London
Maria de la Orden Studio
Eleanor Balfour
La Veste
A di Gaeta
Austin Austin

Discover more at theysso.com