Interview: Local Jewelry Designer Buki Peters

Local designer Buki Peters, who grew up in Lagos, incorporates shells, sequins, and beads into her lovely pieces of jewelry.

By: Ruth Samuelson

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Nigerian-born designer Buki Peters says, “I like to work with my hands and put things together.” For some, that interest translates into a career in carpentry or mechanics; for Buki, it’s all about jewelry. Growing up in Lagos, she’d pick up shells, sequins, or beads and string them together. Her mother thought it was “a nice hobby.”

Peters moved to Virginia when she was 11, attended Langely High School, and then ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Two years ago, she started her own jewelry line. Her pieces aren’t busy or outrageous, but they’re not delicate either. She often uses one material in a variety of shapes and sizes, creating pieces that are simple yet bold. Currently, she’s designing her first clothing collection, called Buki.

“It’s going to be an extension of my jewelry,” she says, “and everything’s going to flow together.”

To gain inspiration, she recently took a speedy monthlong trip through Nigeria, England, Portugal, Austria, Italy, France, and Spain. She was particularly struck by the way Europeans wear layers year-round, mixing and matching fabrics and jewelry: “In Portugal, almost every girl has a different scarf every day.”

She also noticed how Italian men love to wear pinstripes and Nigerian women always match their shoes and purses. Lagos women are constantly “dressed to the nines.”

“There’s a huge emphasis on image,” Peters says of Nigeria’s largest city. “Even if you’re just going on public transportation or walking down the street, you have your lipstick on and your nails done.”

Peters graduated from FIT last year and still lives in New York, though her family remains in the Washington area. Her fall collection, available in mid-September, will draw inspiration “from early civilizations and villages,” using fabrics, chains, and beads with a mostly natural color palette. Her clothing line will debut next spring. Her jewelry is carried at unsungdesigners.com and on her Web site, bukipeters.com.

Chad Riley, photographer