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Twilight actress Nikki Reed is on a mission to turn old computer parts into timeless jewellery pieces

Photography By Supplied
Published 02.08.21

Nikki Reed is a woman on a mission: to create timeless jewellery and products that make individuals think about how they might help solve the climate crisis.

The 32-year-old actor and designer founded her brand BaYou with Love in May 2017. Pregnant with her daughter Bodhi at the time, Reed had already been creating sustainable products in partnership with Anthropologie when she was approached by tech giant Dell. They had a whole heap of gold they had found in the motherboards of their discarded technology, and they thought Reed might be able to make something with it. They were right. Within two days, the whip-smart creative had pitched her sustainable jewellery line idea to Dell. Three months later she launched the idea at CES, one of the world’s most influential tech conventions.

“It was weird to launch jewellery at a tech convention, but I was excited by the idea of merging two worlds,” says Reed from her home outside LA during our FaceTime chat, wrapped in a floral robe she tells me is made from a recycled sari that she’s had repaired twice.

Persuading the workers in her LA factory to work with gold in a form they had never received it in before was one of the earliest hurdles she faced. “I remember my factory staff asking me, ‘How are we receiving the gold? Is it in trays? Is it in pellets? Do we have to melt it down?’. It was just completely foreign, and we had to figure out how to actually reuse gold like that,” Reed says.

Reed has pulled off an almost alchemical feat of extracting gold from the motherboards of old computers and turning it into fine jewellery – transforming, as she puts it, “one industry’s trash into another’s treasure”. For Reed, a passionate environmentalist who uses her Instagram following of 3.1 million to mostly champion environmental and humanitarian causes, creating her own company was as much about making beautiful things as it was about opening consumers’ eyes to the kind of startling facts she quotes on her website.

Only around 12.5 per cent of electronics are responsibly recycled globally, and Americans, for example, throw away more than US$60 million in gold and silver every year in phones alone. A point Reed wants individuals to remember is that “gold is gold no matter where it comes from; it doesn’t lose its value”.

Recycled gold, however, is only part of BaYou’s impressive circular approach. You can hear the excitement in Reed’s voice when she talks about sourcing diamonds from the world’s first certified 100 per cent carbon-neutral diamond producer, who grow their diamonds from tiny seeds of pre-existing diamonds – meaning no conflicts are funded, no groundwater polluted, and no land, wildlife or communities displaced. Her designs also feature the innovative process of mixing an ink distilled from extracted air pollution into enamel.

BaYou has recently entered the apparel space, producing a small range of products including recycled activewear, pyjamas and organic cotton baby clothes – but Reed admits to having “mixed feelings” about apparel. “I’m always asking, what happens when we go beyond the lifespan of that piece? Where’s it going? Rather than using it once or twice, how do we ensure people use it 50 times?”

To address this, Reed and her BaYou team of six avoid colourful trends and patterns, sticking to timeless, versatile pieces in neutral tones which she says, “have a better chance of being purchased in their second or third life if they end up in donation centres.”

Can our fashion and jewellery choices make a difference? Reed certainly hopes so.

“My mission is to create pieces that are conversation starters, and to inspire people to connect to beautiful products they value,” she says. “I say it all the time, I’m never going to get rich from this. But I believe in BaYou as an entity that can create and effect change.”

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