How Jordan Brand Streetwear Designer Aleali May Plans to Disrupt Sustainable Fine Jewelry


Aleali May is lending her creative prowess to a new sustainable accessories brand that is looking to disrupt the fine jewelry industry.

May, a longtime figure in the streetwear world who got her start working with the late Virgil Abloh and Don C at RSVP Gallery and was the first woman to design collections under Nike’s Jordan Brand, is the creative director of sustainable accessories brand Grwn, which launches on Monday.   

Grwn is the brainchild of cofounders Michael Pollak, whose background is in retail and fine jewelry, and his son Jordan Pollak, who has 15 years of marketing experience. The brand is targeting younger consumers with its collection of fine jewelry that offers trend-driven and creative pieces made from lab-grown diamonds and recycled metals, which reflects the brand’s mission of marrying creativity with sustainability. 

“We want to redefine the new luxury,” Jordan Pollak said. “You don’t need to have $5,000 to walk in a store like Tiffany & Co. or Cartier to feel like you can walk out with something that you can cherish. That’s really our overall vision and how we look to differentiate ourselves as we launch the brand.” 

Grwn’s first collection, which is called the Metamorphosis, was designed by May and director of design Annalisa Cervi. It is anchored on a butterfly motif that’s seen across earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets. The pieces are designed with Grwn’s proprietary lab-grown diamonds and recycled gold and sterling silver. The collection is meant to be accessibly priced, ranging from $525 to $5,000. 

Styles from Grwn's lab grown diamond collection

Styles from Grwn’s lab-grown diamond collection.

Courtesy of Grwn

According to Michael Pollak, Grwn’s diamonds are produced using a power grid that is fueled by solar and wind turbines. 

“We’re leaning really heavily to focus on sustainability in today’s world,” he said. “That often is a term that is used without having any substance behind it, but it’s really important to us that we have very high standards, whether it has to do with our sourcing, with companies who are focused on supply chain, on climate control or on inclusivity in terms of the workforce.” 

May described Grwn’s aesthetic as being “free and expressive,” which she said is a “representation of what kids want to see now.” She said Grwn’s pieces are meant to be versatile to appeal to a broad range of customers.

“All of my other designs tell a story and really just represent not only women, but kids, the youth, and how we want to express ourselves through clothes and accessories,” May said. “So coming into this role, I thought it just made so much sense where I’m steadily evolving in my own process as a designer and also my style.” 

In addition to its own designs, Grwn is focusing on a robust slate of collaborations slated to debut every two months. The first is with watch brand Mad Paris that will offer two timepieces designed by May and priced at over $100,000. The collaboration will debut during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June. 

“Grwn from a design point of view will both surprise and evolve, both as a result of our own in-house collections — for which we have a very robust plan through the end of the year and into next year — and also with the collaborations,” Michael Pollak said. “Every collaboration will be a different feel and a different aesthetic coming from a different influence.” 

Styles from Grwn's lab grown diamond collection

Styles from Grwn’s lab grown diamond collection.

Courtesy of Grwn

Grwn has plans to expand beyond jewelry in the near future. Michael Pollak said the brand is working on a line of vegan leather handbags. 

Later this year, Grwn will also open a flagship in Los Angeles. The cofounders said the store will be a “very different retail experience” by offering education around its materials and art pieces created with lab-grown diamonds. 

“We want people to be able to walk the space and not only understand our brand and the most important aspects of our brand — which is where we stand with sustainability — but also enter an environment where they can understand more about how lab-grown diamonds are made because some people are confused about that,” Michael Pollak said. “They don’t understand necessarily that they’re chemically and anatomically identical to a diamond that comes out of the ground. You just don’t need to move 50 tons of earth to get one diamond. You can grow a diamond with a fraction of the energy that it takes to get a diamond out of the ground, and we want to communicate and explain that process to the consumer.” 

The Grwn team emphasized one of the main goals of the brand is to create a lifestyle and community that draws in customers — and that’s felt across their marketing, products and in-store experience.

“It’s definitely more so showing the lifestyle rather than just a piece of product,” May said. “The lifestyle, meaning the story of us, the story of someone we’re working with or even the people we work with internally, and just showing more of behind the scenes and where our journeys have led us to and what we’re creating.” 



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