Marti Diro has lived in Dallas for just a year and a half, but already she understands the city’s outgoing spirit and collective love of making a statement. That’s one reason why the jewelry designer started Foreign Collections, an online shop for jewelry that modernizes materials and styles inspired by her native Ethiopia, which she left when she was 18. The name is a nod to the exotic source materials that Diro, 35, uses to craft her pieces. Her designs are eye-catching but not ostentatious.
“The main goal for me is to marry what’s old and what’s new, and to create something cool that you don’t see in every department store,” Diro says. “I’m trying to walk that balance of making a statement but not a noise.”
Diro studied fashion merchandisng before going to work for Gap in supply chain and merchandising, but after the birth of her son, she decided to pursue her dream of creating jewelry. She traveled to Ethiopia last October to find materials and speak with vendors, and she launched her blog, Heels Avenue, shortly thereafter. The online shop is flush with chic leather necklaces, heavy cuffs, and bracelets made from silver, nickel, and brass. Diro says the East Africa-inspired designs, produced by Arlington-based leather manufacturer Alexander Blackshear, have flown off the virtual shelves to shoppers in Dallas and beyond. Next up: collaborations with artists and nonprofit organizations in Africa.
Diro, who lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade before moving to Dallas, favored Timberlands and crop tops in her youth, but says now her personal style has grown more sophisticated. She credits her relaxed and effortlessly chic appearance to her mother’s affinity for mixing and matching styles from all parts of Africa based on her tastes. Diro expects both her jewelry creations and personal style to keep evolving.
“Back in the day, my style was very tomboy,” Diro says. “But it transitioned, and I started appreciating this feminine side of fashion, started wearing heels. I learned jewelry can tie together everything.”