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«I was inspired by the way moss grows and decay processes take place». Meet the Kyiv-based jewelry brand Broq

Anya Kharabuha made a ring in three days as a gift for her boyfriend three years ago. It was her first experience with jewelry: Anya is a dentist by training, and she also drew and planned to publish a comic book. Now she draws sketches for future jewelry and is developing her own jewelry brand called Broq.

The concept of Broq merges the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi (beauty in imperfection), Scandinavian mythology, the textures of moss cast in silver, and gender neutrality. In an interview with DTF Magazine, Anya Kharabuha tells the history and philosophy of her brand, as well as how she creates jewelry and what she wants to say through it.

This is the second article in our series about niche jewelry brands in Ukraine. 

— How did the history of the Broq brand begin?

— I started doing jewelry when I was taking exams in my last year of medical studies. Actually, in my family, my mother and I are dentists, and my aunt is a dental technician. I played with wax, spatulas and ironing boards since I was a kid

The process of dental crown casting and the process of jewelry casting are almost identical.

The date for the last exams was set for the end of June 2019, and my boyfriend’s birthday was supposed to be in a week. In general, I like to make gifts that reflect my special relationship to a particular person. I love all kinds of D.I.Y., it’s like putting a piece of your soul into it.

I quickly found the contact information of a master jeweler who could help create the best gift in the world. I flew in to meet the master between exams and my boyfriend’s birthday. And we designed and finished the first piece of jewelry in three days. I was struck by everything, namely the entourage of the workshop, the fact that the master understands 3D, that he is aware of all the new trends and it was as if he knew everything in the world.

— You have this master in a mentor-teacher position and he gives you a base on which you can work, right?

— Yes. He tends towards a more conventional aesthetic: he likes all sorts of frills, artistic forging, technically complex work. But he never once restricts his students in any way in their creativity. He asks after every class: «Did you get a buzz?». I adore him!

Broq founder Anna Kharabuha | Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

bq-X ring | Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

— What kind of jewelry did you make for your boyfriend?

— It was an amorphous massive ring. Actually, one of the first unconventional jewelry I found in the account of Zloy Jewelry from Odesa, and I liked his work. But as far as I remember Zloy works with aluminum alloys, so he makes very voluminous jewelry. So I did some research, made a moodboard with similar projects, drew some sketches and chose the one that I most associated with ​​my boyfriend.

— How did it happen that the story didn’t end there, and you started making jewelry?

— I got a taste for it. For the first time in my life, I felt calm and at peace when I came to the workshop just after a stressful period at uni. Jazz was playing, I was sitting maximally focused on the process, getting into a state of flow. The idea for the brand came almost immediately, and the enthusiasm was through the roof.

And as soon as I decided to do it, I magically stumbled upon the online course «How to create your own jewelry brand» at Mastera Academy. Everything came together. I never really went back to the notes I took during the course, but I remember how inspiring it was.

Anna Kharabuha. Production process Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

— Was it some kind of long-term course?

— No, I watched these video lectures overnight. In general, I already had experience in creating my own project, so there was no fear of starting something. My first serious project was a public with comics when I was still in school-university.

— Did you paint?

— Yes, I ran that public for five years, was inspired by millions of comic artists, collected zines of friends, organized exhibitions, made merch.

— Why did you stop painting?

— I moved away from my parents, and there were fewer factors that motivated me to paint. For me, the act of drawing was a breath of air, a kind of therapeutic thing. All the thoughts that I could not say out loud, I wrote down, sketched, and thus there was a kind of diary format, which I shared with friends.

— Is jewelry another therapy for you?

— Yes yes. Generally the process of creating with my hands and the previous research is a very meditative story. If an opinion grabs you, it makes you wonder who among the predecessors had the same experience, what they thought about it and how they expressed these ideas in art.

— Does your past drawing experience help you now?

— Yes, I do all the sketches of future jewelry, the mood. In fact, the format of the diary has remained, but the form of presentation has changed. If before they were more concrete images, like lightning from the eyes meant anger, now they are more abstract. But there’s nothing stopping me from going further in different directions. Who knows what will happen in a month or a year.

Broq founder Anna Kharabuha | Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

— Let’s go back to creating Broq. You took a course and decided you were going to create a brand.

— Yeah, my boyfriend and I started thinking up a name. It had to be something capacious, noticeable, quick to remember. I was inspired by the way moss grows and decay processes take place, I loved this transformation from dead to alive and back to dead again. That’s when the video of yellow mold spreading and looking for shortcuts came out, and I was shocked to realize the harmonious cosmos of nature and the world at large. I wanted the brand name to somehow remind me of this harmony, so that on big scale it would be the universe and the micro universe within a person, and on small scale its uniqueness.

After some time and a lot of searching, I came across the letter combination Broq, looked up the description in the Urban dictionary, and when I saw «A cute loyal friend who always talks about his self», I knew it was exactly what I needed.

Enthusiastically, I texted my friends in the chat room: «Look how cool the name Broq is!» And one of them immediately sent a link to a Wikipedia article, which said that in Scandinavian mythology Broq is a dwarf, the brother of Sindri, who helped create the magical golden ring of Draupnir. And whoever wears this ring becomes invulnerable. I got goosebumps.

Anna Kharabuha with a Broq earring | Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

«There are no two Broq items that are exactly alike»

— When did the brand launch?

— I got the idea in late 2019, and in early 2020 I made a website and created an instagram of the brand. I was able to get serious about the Broq brand after February 24, 2022.

— Why was there such a pause?

— I needed money in order to study properly, so I went to work in a private clinic. At first I was an assistant, then a hygienist, then a therapist. There was a good team, a million of practical knowledge, excellent technique and my first experience of full-time work. But during my work in the clinic there were additional responsibilities, the work took up a lot of time, and it was not possible to deal with the Broq brand normally, it was morally difficult.

— What was the first thing you did after giving your boyfriend a gift? What was that piece of jewelry?

— It was the Bq_1 ring. In general, our model names are numbering to indicate the order of release. Some numbers are missing because the designs did not pass the test and were not fully released.

— Do I understand correctly that it costs a financial investment to create each new sample, so you need to be clear about what you want to get?

bq_01 ring

— Yes, but you always know roughly what you’ll get in metal. The other thing is whether the jewelry will be comfortable to wear, how it will feel on the body, whether it’s heavy, and where it will need refinishing. After that, I make a master-form from which to multiply the piece. But due to the fact that the dimensions are hand-fitted in the wax, there are slight differences within the same item. There are no two Broq items that are exactly alike.

“Broq is a cute loyal friend”

— Who are these people who buy Broq? Is it a certain Kyiv community, or are we talking about international sales? Who are you targeting, anyway?

— I actually had some idea of my target audience, but it turned out that I covered about 30 percent of it. The audience is very different, but what many of these people have in common is the phrase: «We finally found what we were looking for». When you hear that, it makes you feel so good that you just go crazy.

A cool story was in Berlin, when I went to a friend’s birthday party. We were sitting in a cafe with her friends, and at one point a very stylish guy comes up and asks: «Listen, are you making Broq by any chance?». And at that moment he and his friend were standing in our rings. I was shocked, and I almost started doing a lower break for joy.

— How do you promote your brand so that more people know about it? You don’t rely solely on word of mouth, right?

— It turns out that «word of mouth» is one of the things that works best. Sometimes I do target advertising, but I don’t want to go overboard with it, because the really active audience is the one that feels a certain personal connection to the brand. For example, when they associate a piece of jewelry with their circle of friends or their hometown. After all, Broq is a cute loyal friend.

— When you decided to enter the Ukrainian market with your jewelry, did you study it somehow, or did you decide that you would just do everything? I mean, I wondered what do you think about Ukrainian jewelers?

— When I started in 2019, I didn’t come across much unconventional jewelry in Ukraine or around the world. But over the next year, cool new brands started to appear! And I wanted something behind the form, I wanted there to be meaning. It is easy to get lost in an abstract form.

Broq lookbook

— What kind of philosophy are you putting into Broq?

— We see aesthetics in evolution. It’s not the brilliant newness, but the little scratches of history that make an item (and not only) really unique. Broq is about the power that comes with understanding and a genuine awareness of uncertainty and constant change. Broq dictates no rules. It is right there, in direct contact with you, reminding you of that freedom. Broq is support, Broq is an exoskeleton.

Society in general tends to perceive change as something negative; our brain likes stability, clarity, to have everything in place. But no matter how much we strive for it, life is completely unpredictable, and that is motivating.

I also tend to believe that it is impossible to give a clear definition of personality because it is in constant flux. Every activity or inaction we undertake shapes us in one way or another.

That’s why I wanted to make jewelry more abstract, not to define the essence of the person who wears it, but to remind of the moment, which takes place «now».

Anna Kharabuha. Production process Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

— And how does this philosophy translate into specific jewelry?

— For example, there was the idea that one part of the first earring symbolizes things that we are able to influence, and the other part symbolizes things that we are not. And the earring is a kind of symbiosis.

Silver in general is a very lively metal. Over time, it ages, becomes less flexible, and it can darken when in contact with the skin, when exposed to moisture or prolonged sun exposure. I think this is very cool. In general, the theme of wabi-sabi is close to me. It’s cool to notice the flow of life.

My favorite tabi are five years old, I love how their black color gradually fades and turns into a dirty orange. But these sneakers have been with me everywhere, for example on the seas, in deserts, in Kyiv puddles, they have experienced a lot with me, and because of this they have only become more precious to me. It’s the same with my favorite book about Bauhaus: it’s crumpled, with a torn cover and a «maccoffee» stain that showed up on the train to Odesa sometime in 2017.

Anna Kharabuha | Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

— How many people are on the Broq team?

— There are three people in the base of the team: Valik helps with product-management and draws attention to important fundamental things. Mark is a standup comedian who moved from Irpin in March. He came to learn the jewelry business just for fun, quickly learned the base and for about two months has been helping to close all of the operational assignments. And I try to sit on all the other chairs, sometimes it leads to burnout and the inability to get up in the morning and move. But at the same time it’s a sin to complain, because Broq as a project is very energizing, and every challenge and overcoming it is like a breath of fresh air.

In addition, there are many talented artist friends in the community with whom we are currently collaborating. Photographers, copywriters, 3D specialists, makeup artists, entrepreneurs, hairdressers and architects, people from completely different fields join in and enthusiastically produce or add something incredible.

“Our foundry closed, and then another one was hit by a rocket”

— Did you move production during the war to another city or country? Or did you put production on hold at all?

— During the first month everyone was paralyzed, convulsively donating the last of their paychecks and scrolling through the news feed. I was sending out the rest of our jewelry, our foundry closed, and another subsequently got hit by a rocket. I managed to find a new foundry and resume production normally only at the end of April. I don’t see the need to move from Kyiv with production abroad, and I have no desire to do so at all.

Anna Kharabuha | Photo by Anton Orekhov, specially for DTF Magazine

— Did the war affect your idea of developing the brand?

— Of course it did. In the first few weeks I even found my old Upwork account and monitored what hypothetical tasks there were. But I quickly realized that in a time when every moment could be your last, you need to enjoy your activities and surroundings as much as possible. It’s very clear what’s a priority for you and what’s the noise around you.

— How do you see Broq developing further?

— In the near future we plan to launch a new collection, which we have been working on since April. In general, we are constantly developing, collaborating with other artists and forming a community. In general I wanted to create a hub where people from completely different fields could meet and create something beautiful together. I am sure that our generation and the generations to come will also be inspired by such ideas, and we will be able to make society even more environmentally friendly (in all spheres).

Design partner —
Development — Mixis