How Éliou Is Creating Fashion For Everyone

There are several moments that Miami-based childhood best friends Cristy Mantilla and Duda Teixeira, cofounders of Éliou, can count as ‘pinch me’ moments, which have made it possible for the brand to skyrocket from side hustle to global sensation.

Among one of those sparkly moments? Harry Styles wearing a freshwater pearl beaded necklace that read “Golden” custom-made by Éliou, for Styles’ video of the same name. (Several other Éliou necklaces appear in the video, in a rotation.)

“I remember (Harry Styles’ stylist) Harry Lambert saying, ‘I would love some pieces for this project that I’m working on. And we said, ‘For sure! Whatever you want,” Teixeira shares. The cofounders had no idea it was for Styles — the “Golden” necklace has since been renamed “The Harry.”

“We found out two months later, the same day that everybody else saw it,” Mantilla adds.

As it was, this marked the beginning of a golden relationship that has since blossomed between Styles and Éliou. The next moment occurred in December 2020, when Styles, who became the first man to cover an issue of American Vogue solo, wore two Éliou necklaces in the magazine’s fashion spread. (One is a chain made of colorful beads, called the “Thaia,” the other is a string of blue Millefiori glass beads).

Styles has since appeared in more Éliou pieces for his “Music For A Sushi Restaurant” video from Harry’s House: the limited-edition capsule collection features handmade works of art, with shells in the spotlight.

Éliou fuses the traditional with the contemporary by carefully balancing the spirit of playfulness and eccentricity with modern design. Each handcrafted piece is made using natural materials, ensuring no two pieces are alike.

Longtime friends, creatives and jewelry designers Mantilla (who is Cuban American) and Teixeira (who is originally from Brazil) didn’t expect their brand, Éliou, to become an overnight Instagram sensation when they first launched in 2019.

Éliou’s ethos and mission has always been about fashion and jewelry for everyone — emphasis on “everyone.” They disrupted the concept with genderless styling and designs, so it only made sense that Harry Styles would help take this notion to another level and blow up into the stratosphere. Styles amplified their genderless vision and validated it to a global audience, but they always created with genderless styling in mind.

“We kept pushing out this message of ‘jewelry for everyone,’ Teixeira shares. “Harry Styles wearing it was a stamp of approval — he put our voice on a pedestal. We felt seen and heard.”

“Éliou was really born out of creative expression. We designed jewelry that we wanted to wear ourselves. We wanted to bring something innovative to the world,” Mantilla adds.

The magic here is that these moments have been purely organic.

“Our story likely goes further back than most business partners,” Mantilla shares. “Duda and I met in first grade when we were seven years old, she had just moved to the United States. We became really close friends when we were in middle school. We found a connection through our friendship because we both had fun with creative ideas.”

(The friends always had an eye for styling, fashion and branding, and had dipped their toes into entrepreneurial life together before, first while in high school, when they would sell clothes to their friends for the weekend — this store was referred to as “The Closet” — and then in college, when they created upcycled, distressed shorts, which they sold to Miami-based contemporary boutiques.)

One of their most notable ventures was their creative agency, WPC Collective, which focused on set design, graphic design, photography, and styling, which they launched at age 25. They continued to operate until Éliou had clearly become more than a side hustle and passion project. The original premise behind Éliou: creating pieces they wanted to wear themselves.

They decided to create jewelry with beads and shells (the brand’s original name was Coqui, which means shell in French — pronounced “coquille”).

“I had lost an earring on my first day of vacation, and I had just bought it,” Mantilla recounts. “Later that day I was walking on the beach and saw the same shell littering the sand. I gathered up a bunch of shells and traveled back home with them, hoping I could remake the earring myself. We’ve always had those resourceful, DIY skills.” They ended up making over 100 iterations of that earring.

Before they even officially launched their jewelry collection, everything sold out. Friends, people in their network thanks to the agency, and strangers immediately wanted to purchase their jewels made of seashells, freshwater pearls, and colorful beads.

“One night, using only the flashlight on our phones, we took photos of the jewelry pieces we had and sent them to our immediate friends. We started receiving messages from random people we didn’t know telling us which pieces they wanted,” Mantilla continues. “I remember us saying, ‘we don’t really need another business, we have one, we’re doing well, we’re self-sustainable.”

The sign that they needed to pursue this as a legit business came when their brand was still a side hustle: they got an email from buyers at Net-A-Porter.

That’s when they knew they were onto something — as surreal as that moment was.

“One day — before we even had a website — we got an email from Net-A-Porter, asking if we were going to be showing in Paris for Fashion Week. And I started crying,” Mantilla shares.

After demand for the jewelry items began to take off (to the point where they would enlist their friends’ help to package their orders), they knew it was time to go all in and let go of their agency.

One of the first orders of business was changing the brand name.

The name first stemmed from Timothée Chalamet’s character in Call Me By Your Name, Elio, which led Mantilla and Teixeira to land on “Éliou.”

Mantilla: “We wanted it to embody that Mediterranean location, that feeling, of a very memorable summer.” The name gives off the vibe of “eternal summer.”

Given Mantilla and Teixeira’s design background, there are other elements that are associated with the brand: the accent on the “e,” which also gives it a French feeling, and the use of primary colors in its logo and elements.

Another proud celebrity moment for the brand: Hailey Bieber was photographed by paparazzi walking out of Kith Paris with an Éliou necklace (which husband Justin was later pictured wearing too).

More recently, they’ve expanded from jewelry to a ready-to-wear collection, all with the same playfulness, rich color palettes and whimsy as their accessories.

“We’re always trying to look ahead and continue designing new things. If it’s already been seen and inundating the market, we’re on to the next,” Mantilla asserts.

Éliou’s items are proudly made to order and everyone on their team is involved. (Their mostly Miami-based team is about 16 strong and all women, with the exception of Mantilla’s brother). They’re also proud of the wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds on their team, including Duda’s mother in Brazil who runs their production).

“We’re proud that we’ve created a space, which truly feels like family,” Mantilla adds.

Sustainability is important to them, hence their “made to order” policy: “We don’t want to make things just to make them — there has to be an intention behind it. That’s what always came naturally to us.” They also want to avoid sitting stock or creating waste.

Éliou has always been about art and color, which is why it made perfect sense for them to open a pop-up at The Standard in Miami Beach. The pop-up, “Paradisé Club,” debuted at Art Basel and is open until January 8 — it’s a destination where locals and visitors can find “eternal summer,” as well as their signature handmade jewelry, clothes from their newly launched ready-to-wear collection, an exclusive batch of upcycled denim, and one of a kind vases from their collab with Memo Studio.

The brand has come a long way since the day they received the email from Net-A-Porter. Today Éliou is available worldwide in indie boutiques and stockists like Kith, Intermix, Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as on global e-tailers like Moda Operandi, Shopbop, Matches Fashion, Selfridges, and SSENSE.

“Everything has just been a really wonderful surprise for us,” Mantilla says. “We’ve never paid anybody to wear anything. Sometimes you need to disrupt what everybody’s doing. And that’s what we’re going for.”

Teixeira adds: “If people can see themselves in it, then we’re doing something right. I see the potential, and I see where Éliou can go and where we want it to go. So yes — this is just the beginning.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/karineldor/2022/12/29/harry-styles-eternal-summer–handmade-collections-how-liou-is-creating-jewelry-for-everyone/