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Colette Harmon – Captivated by Her Charms

Fact checked by Charmaine Gooden

Colette Harmon is a Toronto-based jewellry designer specializing in high-fashion pieces that reflect her unique beadwork. Her creations have been featured in Elle Canada, Flare, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Nylon magazine. Her unique jewellry designs have assured her place as a prominent influencer in Canadian fashion history. 

(Photo courtesy of Colette Harmon)
(Photo courtesy of Colette Harmon)

Early Life and Career

Harmon was born in Sister’s Village, Guyana, South America, as the middle child and only daughter of hard-working Guyanese parents. Her father was a police officer and her mother a teacher. Harmon believes her creativity comes from her mother who was also a seamstress. “She could create without a pattern, simply cutting the fabric and sewing for herself, me and my dolls,” says Harmon. “Sometimes, I’d come home after school and find a matching outfit for me and a doll,” she remembers. “Plus she was a singer and piano player as well.”

Searching for new opportunities, Harmon’s parents moved to Toronto when she was five. She attended Brampton’s North Park Secondary High School and Huron Heights in Newmarket. She continued  her post-secondary education at Seneca College, studying Fashion Design and working part-time at Lizanne’s Fabrics.

After graduating, Harmon worked at Princeton Leathers while also designing accessories independently, until a customer asked for a pair of earrings to go with her belt.  She fullfilled that order and her jewellry design career began.

“I started with what I now consider ‘cheesy’ earrings,” she says laughing. “I cut out triangles, circles and squares, covering them in leather.” Today Harmon’s designs are one-of-a-kind using crystals, semi-precious stones, metal and occasionally silver from around the world.

Renee, Photo courtesy of Colette Harmon
Lil' Kim wears Colette Harmon Jewellry, Fashion Cares (Photo courtesy of Colette Harmon)

 

 

This special section creates a spread of 2 photos that will jut out into the side margin.

 

 

Carole Tanenbaum, a collector and owner of an international vintage custom jewellry business for over 40 years, helped Harmon succeed. A supporter of Canadian designers, she describes seeing Harmon’s work and meeting her for the first time.

“She brought, I think, a suitcase full,” Tanenbaum recalls. “Beautiful beaded necklaces, wonderful original designs. She was a struggling artist, so I bought 10 pieces,” she adds, expressing her admiration for Harmon’s talent.

Tanenbaum describes Harmon as being,“very sweet and dedicated. She’s like this life spirit, which is quite beautiful. She has an angelic face and I could feel her vulnerability,” which she explains, “is one reason I took her under my wing for a while. I believed in her, but I’m not sure she believed in herself. There was mutual respect and we worked well together.”

Breaking Barriers

Instead of following trends, Harmon is inspired by the beauty around her, which makes her designs undoubtedly unique. She considers herself an artist, not a designer. “I’m an out-of-the-box thinker, always have been,” says Harmon. “I’ve never worn anything because it’s fashionable or worn by masses,” she adds. “I’ve never owned skinny jeans.”

“Once I sold a favourite necklace, one I’d worn for two years, right off my neck,” she recalls, “and I’ve sold unexpectedly before. Another time, at the Four Seasons Hotel, a woman bought a charm necklace I was wearing,” she says, but admits “trying to redo pieces doesn’t work; it’s never quite the same.” Harmon’s personality shows in her work and she only makes and sells what she likes. “I think I’m my own muse,” she reveals. “If I wouldn’t wear it, I can’t make it.”

Harmon doesn’t believe her ethnicity is represented in her work. “I don’t think of myself as a Black jewellry designer.  I think of myself as a designer, but people do characterize and label you,” she says. “You’d never read ‘Mark Jacobs the white clothing designer’,  but whenever it’s a Black person it’s mentioned,” she explains. “I know I’m Black. It’s not a conscious thing. I’m just a person.”

She doesn’t recall experiencing racism throughout her career. “Because I look a certain way, because I’m, quote-unquote ‘attractive’, people have always been nice to me,“ she says, “but I know racism exists, I just haven’t encountered it personally.”

Harmon recounts her parents having difficulties renting an apartment because of race. “There would be a vacancy sign, but when the superintendent opened the door and saw Black faces, they’d be told there were no vacancies,” she tells us. Also her father was refused a promotion due to his skin colour.

She also shares her outlook on racism in the fashion industry, specifically how often agencies keep one token Black or Asian model for the sake of “diversity.” Changes to begin resolving these issues in the industry are recent, but further reflection is still needed.

(Photo courtesy of Colette Harmon)

I think I’m my own muse,” she reveals. “If I wouldn’t wear it, I can’t make it.

Influence and Legacy

Harmon’s unique jewellry designs assure her standing as a prominent influencer in Canada’s fashion history. Her hard work has evolved into many accomplishments, including her pieces that sold in Saks Fifth Avenue and Holt Renfrew Canada.

Her personal aesthetic and meticulous beadwork has provided many opportunities. She was featured at the Canadian Fashion Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum from December 3, 2022 — July 2023. She’s also mentioned in the book “Fabulous Fakes: A Passion for Vintage Costume Jewelry,” by Carole Tanenbaum.  

In the future, she wishes to do a capsule collection of fine jewellry utilizing a mix of gold and coloured gemstones. “I would love to create art objects,” she reveals. “Something’s in the works, but it’s in the talking stage and I don’t talk about anything until it happens,” she adds at the end of our interview.

Nothing like leaving us in some suspense.

You’d never read ‘Mark Jacobs, the white clothing designer,’” she says, “but whenever it’s a Black person it’s mentioned. I know I’m Black, it’s not a conscious thing,” she explains. “I’m just a person.

(Photo courtesy of Colette Harmon)

About the authors:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

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Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

About the author:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

Archive of images at BFC:

With passion and dedication, she continues to create mesmerizing, unmatched jewellry.

With passion and dedication, she continues to create mesmerizing, unmatched jewellry

NameColette A. HarmonBirthNovember 1BirthplaceSister’s Village, GuyanaEthnic OriginGuyaneseOccupationJewellry DesignerWebsitecoletteharmon.comShare

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