BF+DA Alumna Blair Lauren Brown Launches Ethical Gold Collective

This Friday, April 28th, from 4:00-4:45 p.m., join Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator alumna Blair Lauren Brown as she launches The Gold Collective, a result of a four generation Alaskan Family legacy of gold jewelry addressing the demand for ethical and transparent gold extraction. Lauren Brown will also be part of a panel titled “Strategies for Preserving Multi-Generational Businesses,” and as part of a larger 3 day conference filled with panels, networking and an exclusive screening of Sharing the Rough followed by a panel discussion with director Orin Mazzoni on Saturday, April 29.

Image: Blair Lauren Brown

The Gold Collective launch is part of a 3-day Gold Conference being hosted by Initiatives in Arts and Culture (IAC), an organization committed to educating diverse audiences in the fine, decorative, and visual arts. IAC’s primary activities are conferences, publications, and exhibitions that consider issues related to fabrication, cultural preservation, and the future of culture.

Lisa Koenigsberg, President of the Initiatives in Art and Culture says gathering people together to discuss the changing meaning of gold is critical.

“Meaning is a social contract, compact, or understanding; therefore a forum for consideration, so discussion and accord is needed. Gold is also associated with emotions and chords of memory that dwell deep within us, and those aspects of the metal’s meaning or significance are often most fully explored when shared with others who have a similar commitment to it,” says Koenigsberg.
“Also, it has been said that change is the only constant, and while gold has abiding emotional power, allure, and enduring value, at the same time, our conception of it and its meaning for us is shaped by history, economic conditions, society, and as we are increasingly seeing, personal association and narrative,” adds Koenigsberg.
Lauren Brown says she is looking to the Gold Conference to help her launch because that particular community is collaborative and can help fill in the gaps.

“We don’t know what we don’t know, but that is the beauty of the community – its an open forum for sharing and collaborating and it has a history of success in opening doors.​”

Image: Blair Lauren Brown

We caught up with Blair Lauren Brown to ask a few questions about the launch and her own take on the power of gold.

What prompted you to launch the Gold Collective?

Sustainability and ethical considerations are tricky in the jewelry space, in any space really, any of my business goals are four fold. Leading with art and design, followed by environmental considerations, community next and lastly financial.

I constantly ask myself two things in any move I make: What can I do personally to have a positive impact in my area of expertise? And, if I share that with my peers, can we increase the positive impact? In the case of the gold collective, I specifically got into the jewelry business because I have a unique story about sustainability. My family has been in the gold jewelry business in Alaska for over 115 years. To maintain a business for that long, the resource extraction becomes a primary consideration. So, I have access my peers do not. I have personal relationships with Alaskan gold mines dating back over four generations. For any industry in the USA, that relationship is tremendous.

Talk about sharing supply chains-do you think collaboration is the future of sustainability?

No doubt! In order for a business operating with or without ethical considerations to succeed, they need to continue to acquire new business. The cost of entry and the cost of doing business is higher when the auditing and the considerations are deeper, which they are in ethical businesses. For instance, we are a certified B Corp. The process of getting certified alone took months of in house work with multiple staff members. So only with the acquisition of new business are those costs reduced making services more accessible to a wider audience. It’s simple economics. Beyond that, it is good business and the nature of good people. In the end, I’d like to believe that the good will prevail (cue superhero music).

Creating a certification is challenging. How do you see yours helping fellow designers?

I think we use the words Made in the USA often enough that we have forgotten the true meaning. For myself and my advisors at the Gold Collective, we believe that we have a good model for gold extraction that is traceable, and in sharing the story and the process we can create a baseline and a template for entry, that all in the industry can improve upon. It’s not until a good model is fully transparent that we can see where the opportunities are to improve.

The US has the EPA, a governing agency to help with environmental and community considerations. It’s not perfect, but it’s leaps and bounds beyond many developing nations (whom actually happen to be the largest suppliers and extractors of gold). Alaska, even further yet has policies and regulation in place that are more stringent than that of the EPA for mineral extraction in the US. So just in going about business as usual we are operating with the healthiest model. Again, it’s not perfect, but it is certainly a start.

What is your vision of success with the Gold Collective?
​Success is…

1. the education of jewelers on the opportunity to use a cleaner source

2. a collective of jewelers using the gold in their production and sharing that story with their customers

3. a documentary that shares the story of traceability and supply to a broader audience

4. helping create a model for developing mines and operations to start with a cleaner process that has already been outlined for them.

An industry that chooses the cleanest option as the default option is the true future.

To register for the conference go here and use the code “Collective” for $200 instead of the $350 entry to the conference.

To learn more about applying to be a Venture Fellow go here and to see how brands are taking on sustainable strategies, check out our Sustainable Fashion Roadmap tool.