Meet Malyia McNaughton

Designer Malyia McNaughton Discusses Her Design Process, the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, and Her Custom-Made Pieces for the new For Moments Like No Other Campaign

Malyia McNaughton—the Brooklyn-based creator behind the label Made by Malyia—was a participant in the inaugural Emerging Designers Design Initiative, a platform formulated by the Natural Diamond Council and the jeweler Lorraine Schwartz. Known as EDDI for short, the endeavor aims to help BIPOC designers further establish their own brands and entities, obtain clearer paths to diamond financing, and obtain access to wider production, education, mentorship and business-building resources. Participants also receive $20,000 in diamond financing credit.

McNaughton’s dynamic eye and deft ability to spin twists across classic shapes caught the Natural Diamond Council’s attention; she ended up custom-making much of the jewelry seen in this campaign. Known for a focus on natural and organic influences, as well as a sense of movement in her lines, McNaughton’s pieces are at once familiar and unexpected—and utterly versatile, as such. Below, the designer speaks to her standout concepts from the campaign, what’s always present in her creative process, and how it all began with a body chain.

What about this campaign—at the storyboard stage—was most inspiring to you?

Every piece I created for this campaign was made after I saw the initial framework and concept. What I was drawn to most was the idea of telling a story through the pieces, and connecting people again through these pieces. I liked the idea of these pieces helping in the creation of new memories. The campaign’s manifesto—“Love Life”—really resonated, because I feel jewelry has that innate ability. It helps to form and solidify life’s moments, whether big or small.

How did this inspiration transform into reality?

Some of them are spins on classics, which was intentional on my part. I wanted to reimagine certain ideas that people love and wear often. Through that reimagining, I wanted them to become new classics, so to speak. One of those examples is the Embrace Link Bracelet; I really wanted a piece that would be both feminine and masculine, and something that symbolizes all of our connections. The links have this tight intertwining, as a result. I’m also really drawn to movement, so there are some pieces that have a kinetic element, like floating pear-shaped diamonds on the Crescent Drop Hoop Earrings, or others with a more water-like sense of energy, such as the Fountain Earrings. These were inspired by the campaign’s fountain scenes. The design that I really, really love is Dancing Twist Hoop Earring. It’s a traditional shape in theory, but now, there’s a twist, with a baguette diamond cut you don’t often see on this silhouette. For this, the inspiration came from elsewhere—the Apple Store in New York City’s Meatpacking District. It has this amazing spiral staircase. I thought, “That would be so cool as an earring.”

What is always present in your creativity—what’s instilled and visible, regardless of the collection or the project?

I would say the elements that you always see in my work include some form of movement, whether in the design itself or just in the way the eye travels, and a reflection of the natural world.

How did you get into jewelry design? Has it always been an interest?

Looking back, I would say I was always interested in jewelry. I always had a love for fashion, and ever since I could hold a pencil in my hand, I’ve been sketching. I drew clothing more often, but I remember being focused on the full look of how outfits came together, accessories included. I went to school for fashion merchandising and product development at Florida State University, then returned to New York to work in the field for several years on the production and sales side. What really sparked it all was when I was looking for a body chain to wear to a music festival. I couldn’t find one that fit the aesthetic and price point I was looking for. At the time, body chains were popular. Rihanna was wearing them. I ended up creating my own, and I got stopped so many times by people asking about it. It was such a small, dainty sort of piece, but it made a statement. After some convincing I put it online, and it was a slow burn, but then it picked up and… that’s how Made by Malyia was born!

What was your experience with the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative?

It was the first one they’ve done, and it was an amazing experience, especially in connecting with other designers. We’re all at different levels, the original group that was selected. But we’re all going through this process together, breaking into the diamond industry at the same time. And we all have different interests, but a common overlap of needing and appreciating support. So that has been wonderful. The other portion has been the mentorship element. I’ve been creating jewelry for six or seven years without any professionals to bounce ideas off of. I’ve been paired with the jeweler Sheryl Jones, and she’s just been a beacon of light. She is where I hope to get, when it comes to diamonds.

What is it about natural diamonds that interests you?

I am learning to be more intentional about understanding the resources that I’m using, and I’ve learned that each and every natural diamond is unique. Each is very different from the next on a molecular level, and I’m in awe of the process and time it takes for nature to make them. With the natural world being such a big inspiration for me, and being able to use such an extraordinary natural resource… I just think they have such an ability to really draw people in and then reflect back upon that moment. If it’s brilliantly bright outside, your diamond is going to capture that—and dazzle in its own right.

What is a takeaway you hope the viewer will absorb from this campaign?

I would say that the takeaway is that I hope for viewers to create new memories with these pieces. And to see themselves in these pieces; to feel a sense of individuality and empowerment. I think that’s actually been the biggest takeaway for me, personally.