By Joel Wigelsworth
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
“A big part of our ethos is sharing the creativity and diversity of the Southwest with the rest of the world,” said Sydney Alfonso, founder and CEO of Etkie, on representing her company’s jewelry line at Paris Fashion Week. “It had this crazy energy — you feel like you’re in the midst of of making things happen, which is really exciting.”
Etkie is a year-old New Mexico business that works with Native American artists to produce high-end jewelry inspired by traditional indigenous textiles. “What we’re trying to do is take the Southwest look and modernize it, and make it hip and fashionable for younger generations,” Alfonso said. This modernization includes beadwork that uses high-quality Japanese glass beads, and sterling silver and 24-karat-gold Czech beads. “We’re doing extremely well in Paris — one of the orders sold out in a week.”
Etkie’s model is based on ethical business practices. The full-time manufacturing team consists of three women from To’hajiilee, a community that Alfonso says is full of skill and talent, yet has a 70 percent unemployment rate. “We’re thinking about the big picture. How do we not just create jobs, but how do we create great jobs for people in New Mexico?”
Etkie was selected to participate in the grant-subsidized Creative Startups business accelerator, which “taught me the business fundamentals to take my ideas and company to the next level,” Alfonso said.
A considerable amount of hard work, and a little good luck, have served Alfonso well and she wants to pay it forward. “As a New Mexican who was able to go out and get a great education, I feel a pretty strong responsibility to help my community.”
Alfonso encourages Native women with beading skills to join her team, and to contact her at [email protected]