When Jamaican-born designer Matthew Harris first launched Mateo New York in 2009 ,men's jewelry was his focus. The self-taught jewelry designer spent hours in the New York City jewelry district learning everything he could about perfecting his craft. He found the design inspiration from his first collection from the idea of a working man's toolbox. After a successful women's capsule collection, he listened to his customers and introduced women's jewelry into the family permanently. His brand is now sold in some of the best retailers in the word such as Matches Fashion, Net-a-Porter and Browns in London.
Below, EBONY caught up with the Jamaican designer to get some insight into who he is and how his Jamaican heritage shines throughout his designs.
EBONY: Tell us a little bit about your heritage and background
Matthew Harris: I am from Montego Bay, Jamaica, born and raised. I'm truly Jamaican and fell in love with fashion from an early age by watching my mother create clothes as a dressmaker. I love being Jamaican because of our rich culture and heritage. I'm obsessed with the lush vegetation, the beautiful beaches, the incredible food and the vibrant people.
How did you get into design?
Design has always been in my blood. Beyond watching my mother create, she never left the house without asking me how she looked. It was only natural for me to eventually work in the field. How I became a jewelry designer was a very organic and self-serving process. I did not set out to start a brand—I truly just wanted to make jewelry for myself, but one thing led to the next. I went to the jewelry district in New York and asked loads of questions and tried to learn as much as I could. After making a few pieces, Rihanna's stylist pulled a few pieces and the next thing she was wearing Mateo and that's how I truly got my launch into design and the brand Mateo New York was started.
How has your Jamaican heritage informed your designs?
My heritage plays an integral role in my work. It takes a subtle form but it is very much there. The colors of my proud Jamaican flag is evident in my work. Our jewelry is made mostly of yellow gold. The gold in the Jamaican flag represents the beautiful sunshine. You also find a lot of black onyx in my work. The black in the Jamaican flag represents the strength of the Jamaican people. We also use loads of malachite for its vibrant green hue. The green in the Jamaican flag represents the lush vegetation and the beautiful island.
Tell us about your latest collection.
Our latest collection is our Gemstone Collection. I wanted to celebrate color in a bold and elegant way. Each piece is made of luscious gemstones in bold emerald cuts. There is this simplicity yet opulence to the collection. Our signature use of cultured pearls makes an appearance throughout the collection.