From Mexico to Australia: NAJO evolves

NAJO founder Jo Tory recalls the evolution of her jewellery brand from an idea born in Mexico to a thriving Australian business. This is the second instalment of our special NAJO 30 Year Retrospective – check out the beginning of the story here, and look out for the final part of Jo’s tale, coming soon!

The jewellery dream

Before Mexico, I had never considered working in jewellery but I’d always loved it, particularly silver, and I had adored Georg Jensen since I was a young girl. Actually, as I was growing up my mother hand-crafted silver jewellery, which she would sell to a local gallery. I guess sometimes you need to go away in order to clearly see what’s right under your nose, and I had to travel to Mexico to discover my passion and my future.

Moving on

After a couple of years in Mexico it was time to start a fresh adventure. I left my beloved town with a bag of silver jewellery, which I sold successfully back in Rome and London. Then, once home in Australia I took the first $500 I earned working in a café and sent it off to Mexico in exchange for more artisan treasures. And so it began.

From humble beginnings

The jewellery was well received at Sydney’s Paddington and Balmain markets, and I managed to wholesale to small galleries and stores. NAJO grew quickly as I started attending trade fairs and joined buying groups.

I regularly travelled to Mexico to see the jewellery come to life. I’m actually now the godmother of a boy from one Mexican silversmith family – that’s how close our relationship became. I’d dine with them in their home, then we’d head into their workshop and develop exquisite jewellery together.

The NAJO style

At its heart, the NAJO aesthetic hasn’t really changed in 30 years. It pairs two disparate influences: the very clean, sculptural Danish design that I’ve always loved, and the elaborate flourish of the Mexican silversmiths and their traditional jewellery-making. Together they create a look that is signature NAJO, and which has endured over the decades.

In fact, when I look back at early NAJO marketing materials from the 1990s, it is incredible how consistent everything has remained. We even still carry some of our very early pieces; one in particular comes to mind.

Friends of NAJO

These 30 years have been an amazing journey, but I couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve been very lucky to have the support of great retailers, some of whom have been with me for more than 20 years. Of course I’ve also had – and continue to have – many fantastic staff members who have helped take the business in exciting new directions. I work with excellent agents and suppliers overseas, not just in Mexico but also in Italy and Thailand now, and we have a great sales representation all across Australia and New Zealand. And since 2012, when we first opened our online store, we have our very own customers, those that love our jewellery and wear it to express their own personal style story.