Malyia McNaughton is one busy lady. Fresh from the Natural Diamond Council BIPOC jewelry showcase at Greenwich St Jewelers in February, today she drops a fresh new capsule designed with Grammy-nominated musical artist Tierra Whack. Alongside her eponymous line, the co-founder of the Black in Jewelry Coalition also continues her work lobbying for greater diversity and representation in the jewelry industry for BIPOC professionals, and with the Tierra Whack x Banter collection available from today in Banter by Piercing Pagoda stores around the US, she’s come full circle to see her work in what was one of her own favorite stores as a teen.
“We were very aligned,” says Malyia of the design process. “Tierra Whack represents all things self-expression, personal style and individuality. Banter encourages people to express their individuality and to celebrate their personal style – I became a designer for the same reason; I wanted to create jewelry to empower through style.”
Recently rebranded from Piercing Pagoda, Banter is the US high street leader in ear and other piercing jewelry, and a part of the Signet Jewelers portfolio with over 500 stores nationwide. The brand caters for a Gen Z and Millennial target with bold personal style, making Tierra Whack a great fit as the new Creative Director: “I’m excited to be give a unique spin on what jewelry means to me,” she says. “My fans are all about celebrating creativity, I’m thrilled to now turn my attention toward creating jewelry that brings all our shared passions to life. I can’t think of a stronger partner to do that with than Banter.”.
The collection includes a necklace, bracelets, alphabet rings, charms and earrings in 10kt and plated gold, priced from $55-$1,750. Malyia spoke more about the collaboration, her work for Black jewelry professionals and her fan girl moment backstage at a Tierra Whack concert.
Tell me how the collaboration with Tierra Whack came about.
The amazing team at Banter tapped me to co-design a collection with a Creative Director who at the time I didn’t know was Tierra. Once I was told who the official Creative Director was, I was so excited because I have been a fan of her and her music for some time. It was perfect alignment.
Shortly after I signed on for the project, I had the opportunity to meet Tierra at her concert in Brooklyn in December 2021 through a friend. My friend knew I was working on a project with a major brand but I had signed an NDA so I couldn’t reveal it was Tierra or Banter! When the concert was over, we went backstage. I was so excited and before I could even introduce myself, Tierra said “I know you, you’re the jewelry designer for my collaboration with Banter”! My friends were speechless and so was I. We immediately started chatting about her favorite pieces of jewelry to wear, and I showed her a few initial sketches on my phone. After the meeting, I had so many new ideas and left even more inspired to translate her creative vision into wearable jewelry.
How did you work together to bring the collection to life?
As Creative Director, Tierra provided a notebook and images that inspire her. She is a jewelry enthusiast herself, so was very clear about what types of pieces she wanted to see in the collaboration. Her sketchbook was filled with jewelry, gold-rich pieces like phones with cords attached with catchy phrases like “Ear Rings”. I merged her vivid imagination with my design influences which often celebrate the intersection between art, nature, and culture
My goal is always to create statement pieces that speak for themselves and allow for self-expression. I translated those ideas into wearable jewelry that would appeal to the Banter customer, then submitted the final sketches to and she provided feedback. The Banter team worked to get the collection to the next stage of production.
Your work will reach a huge audience via this collaboration. What does that mean to you?
I’m still processing the reach of the collaboration; it means the world to me to have the opportunity to create an accessible collection with Banter. The July 14th launch of this collaboration falls on the eight-year anniversary since I designed my first piece and it’s my mother’s birthday, so it will be very special to me.
As a high school graduation gift my late aunt bought me a bracelet from Piercing Pagoda (prior to the rebrand) and I remember how I felt when I tried it on. The collaboration represents all things that are possible to me as a young jewelry designer and artist born in the Bronx, NY, to Jamaican immigrants. My mother supported my creativity at a young age and I often expressed my personal style through fashion and jewelry. It feels like a full circle moment; I can’t wait to walk into the stores in the Bay Plaza Mall in the Bronx where I was born, and in Brooklyn where I now call home and see the collection for the first time. I hope it inspires and empowers people to express themselves through their personal style.
Who, real or imagined, would you like to see wearing the collection?
I can’t wait to see how the Banter customer styles and wears the collection. I also would love to see the collection worn by Kelis, Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Sasha+ Malia Obama, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliot, Zuri (in Black Panther), author Akwaeke Emezi, Zendaya, Marjon Carlos, Bad Bunny, and Pharell Williams.
When I last wrote about your work, you were taking part in the Natural Diamond Council’s BIPOC showcase. How have things evolved for the Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC), which you co-founded, in recent months?
BIJC continues to evolve and support efforts for inclusion for black professionals in the jewelry and gem industry through resources, scholarships, and mentorship. In June, six black jewelry designers took part in the BIJC design collective at JCK in Las Vegas providing the opportunity to present their collection to retailers. I had the opportunity as one of the designers to connect and showcase my collection.