For Kora’s Maxandra Short, life has been one big ol’ happy accident. When co-founder Amy Walker’s public health gig in Africa took an unexpected turn towards handicraft development, the duo discovered horn and decided to build a jewelry line around the material together. Following the smashing success of the trunk shows unveiling their Rwandan bracelets, Maxandra left her film job in Los Angeles behind and never looked back. “That’s the best time to start your business—when you really hate your current job,” she laughed.

As a kid growing up in Southeast Asia, the designer moved around between places like Seoul and Jakarta, collecting antique and Indonesian jewelry and making her own, too. Though her childhood interests weren’t supposed to evolve in a career, her passion for overseas travel, business development, and craft made it a perfect fit. “My absolute favorite part has been when I’m in Kenya and I’m at the workshop, working on the piece together and trying to tweak it with them,” she said. “When you get it, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

For the past four years, Maxandra and Amy have focused on building a line from four sustainable components: brass, recycled aluminum, glass shards, and, of course, the one that started it all. While it’s probably easy for Maxandra, who has been alone at the helm since a few months ago, to get distracted by collaborating with Rooney Mara or seeing her designs in Vogue editorials, she has committed big-time to economic development in foreign countries—a passion that keeps her bopping around the globe as much as possible. —carlye wisel


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Alyssa Lesser Makes a Case for Irreverence

This designer is all about being a punk-ass adult.

“I felt very pent-up growing up,” the designer Alyssa Lesser confesses. “People dress in very conservative ways in D.C. I had hot-pink braces and used to cut up T-shirts and put safety pins on things because I was always wanting to wear something more exciting. I have learned to express a more refined version of that in my older age.” That angsty vibe comes through in her jewelry line Less—which is still elegant as all hell, don’t you worry. Here’s where she’s currently picking up wayward style cues. —maggie dolan

Alyssa’s mood-board mash-up.

“I think it is important for people to always be provoking thoughts about the society around them and trying to do new things—to question what is established and to challenge it or to try to make the world their own.”

Rooney Mara-meets-Lisbeth Salander.

“Irreverence is always coming in and out of fashion, but you can always tell when it’s natural for people and when it’s not. The girls who get it right don’t look like they are trying to be something they aren’t. It is just a part of who they are. I don’t think you have to be a rebel to pull irreverence off. It’s just about the overall package and being yourself.”

Givenchy couture, accessorized with ornate silver septum piercings.

“Annabella Lwin [of Bow Wow Wow] is a great example of that. She was so young and singing all these sexed-up punk songs. Everyone thought she was nuts. Courtney Love, too—she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her, which I think is fantastic. I have been dreaming about dropping off an anonymous box of jewelry at Courtney Love’s house for a while. Diane Keaton was also super rebellious—but in a very secretive way, which is the best way possible.”

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