The Consumer Electronic Show, the tech world’s annual bonanza that lures the wonkiest of wonks to Las Vegas to check out the industry’s latest innovations, has a surprising guest this year.
Nikki Reed, multi-hyphenate extraordinaire, put on her entrepreneur hat and announced the launch of her sustainable jewelry line, The Circular Collection by BaYou with Love, in partnership with Dell. Yes, Dell—the tech company that powers countless businesses globally. What do Dell and Nikki Reed have in common, you ask? Gold.
Ahead of CES, Marie Claire talked to Reed about her partnership with Dell and their plans to change the world.
Marie Claire: How did this partnership with Dell begin?
Nikki Reed: Dell called me a year ago and they said, "We have this idea. We don't know how to do it yet. We feel like you're going to know what to bring to the table." I had no idea that for $60 million dollars of gold and other metals are virtually thrown out every year just in cell phones. So, you hear a number like that and you're like, "Oh my God, what are we doing with all of it?" How fascinating that Dell literally pulled gold out of old motherboards, came up with a sustainable way of extracting the gold, it ends up in someone's hands in the form of, like, literally gold bricks—and somehow that has made its way into a factory in Los Angeles, a factory that has never worked with this medium before. How cool is that?
MC: That mission—creating sustainably produced fashion products—aligns with your company’s mission.
NR: A real challenge that I've had with my company, Bayou With Love, is getting people to understand that using post-consumer materials does not mean that you are getting a "less than" product than one made with virgin materials. I use a lot of post-consumer plastic in Bayou’s clothing. I use it in our bags, which are made from recycled plastics from the ocean.
MC: So why jewelry?
NR: I don't think anyone has ever really been able to marry tech, fashion, and this concept that sustainable material, up-cycled material can be luxurious. And nothing is more luxurious than gold, right? Gold is luxurious because it's gold, post-consumer or virgin. Whatever it is, it's just gold.
MC: Who’s your ideal audience for this new line?
NR: This is 14 to 18 karat gold—it is fine jewelry. That said, we wanted to price this initial collection in a way that made everybody feel like they could be part of this. The most expensive piece is a cuff link, which is $348. The collection starts at $78, and most pieces are in the $100 to $200 range. That was intentional. I know that pricing can be risky; it can make people feel like, "Oh, it's priced lower, so it's kind of low-end." And I know it is also risky when using post-consumer material. Again, that misconception can feel very loud. But it was an intentional decision that we made to make this accessible for everybody.
MC: Why cast such a wide net, rather than focus on a niche market when first launching?
NR: The conversations around mining and conflict areas and all of the human rights violations. The millions and millions and millions of tons of toxic waste dumped into rivers and ocean. Extracting materials in a way that's not sustainable. All of those things suddenly in the last, I want to say, couple years alone, they matter to people. That's a big deal.
MC: What’s been most challenging about starting your own business?
NR: I'm self-funding Bayou. Obviously you learn a lot when you're funding something on your own. I'm also trying to check every box on the list. I don't know if that's entirely sustainable—pun intended, I suppose—because I want everything to be U.S. made. All ethical. All sustainable. I want it all up-cycled. I want it all vegetable-dyed and chemical free. That's an ambitious order. You just push through. That's been my motto, actually, and that's Dell’s motto. Just pushing through.
MC: What’s the coolest aspect of your partnership with Dell?
NR: This all came from a group of badass women. All of the people that came and approached me about this project at Dell were women. And I mean, while we love Michael Dell and I love all the things he's doing, he's probably one of the few men in this equation.
MC: Any thoughts on what’s in store for the sustainable fashion space?
NR: No one said that changing the world was going to be easy. We can't act as islands. We all have to come together, and it takes putting our heads together, and our passion, and our resources, and outreach to actually move the needle and make this more than just a blip on the radar. And it's not for fun, it's a necessity. And this is not the future. This is now.
Interested in donating old tech products to help source gold for The Circular Collection? Drop off used electronics at Goodwill stores that participate in the Dell Reconnect program.