Meet the Maker: Dear Rae
In recent years, Karin Rae Matthee’s jewellery range, Dear Rae, has gone from relatively unknown, to adorning South Africa's most stylish. Her and her hand-picked team breathe life into delicate hand-molded metals like gold and brass, pairing them with semi-precious and precious stones to produce beautifully pared-back collections. From the beginning, she’s wanted to give meaning to the creative and manufacturing process, and continues to train up previously disadvantaged people to join the business; read on as she shares her journey.
What inspired the start of Dear Rae and why jewellery?
I decided to start Dear Rae Jewellery whilst studying in Germany. My time away from South Africa made me realise how much space there still is for business opportunities and how inspiring our raw and beautiful surroundings are. I was also moved to start a business that could act as a platform to educate and employ South Africans. I have always been drawn to creating 3D objects, so jewellery was a very natural choice for me. I also love the idea of working with precious metals that last a lifetime and can be passed down as heirlooms.
What did you study?
I studied a BA. Fine Art, Jewellery Design degree at Stellenbosch University.
How did you come about the name Dear Rae?
Rae is my second name that I inherited from my granny. I really look up to her so it is a name that I am very proud of. The word ‘Dear’ described something precious and worked well next to the word “Rae.”
What do you believe sets your brand apart and makes it different?
I always start every range with a story that has inspired my own life - it is not just trend focused. This creates a strong concept behind every range. Our company culture at Dear Rae is also quite unusual for a business, as we run it like a family; that sets us apart too.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement since launching the brand?
Developing a strong team of dynamic and diverse people that work together well has definitely been my greatest achievement. Dear Rae is what it is because of the people that work here.
What was most challenging in starting up the brand? And how did you overcome that?
Taking big risks is part of developing a business. It never stops, but you somehow get used to it. I make sure that I have good mentors and friends around me that keep me grounded and focused on my values and goals. Once you know where your’e going, taking risks seems less scary.
Which African brand(s) would you want to collaborate with in future?
Lalesso, Ballo and Sealand are all brands that I look up to and love. They have strong values and ethics behind their businesses and the owners are all great dynamic humans who I have a huge amount of respect for. Collaborating with other strong creatives is such an important part of developing my creative perspective.
How do you market and sell your jewellery to your customers?
I don’t really believe in over marketing or selling. I believe in developing a strong company culture and creating beautiful products that sell themselves. We use social media platforms to express and share our company culture and it seems to be working well for us.
You have quite a following on Instagram how has that helped your business?
Yes, it is a great platform to express who you are as a brand and what you stand for. Our following has grown organically and steadily, and I think that is a good sign that we are doing something right.
Where would you like to see your brand in 5 or 10years?
Who knows, the sky is the limit. I don’t think that we will only stick to jewellery though. Dear Rae will continue to be a platform of creative play and collaboration in various mediums.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
I make sure to book in time for activities that make me feel alive, like surfing, travel, yoga, hiking and adventuring with friends.
Any words of wisdom for anyone looking to start up their own brand?
Create something that is authentic to you. Everything that you do should come from this place. If you follow this principal you will be sure to create original work that is appreciated and real.
For more on Dear Rae Jewellery - https://www.dearrae.co.za/