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A jewellery label with a distinct affinity for utter simplicity. Here we get to know the visionary designer behind jewellery brand WAIF, Gisele Human.


What inspired your venture into jewellery and accessories?

I grew up under my mother’s bench (she’s a jeweller too), so from an early age, I was making things. As kids, we were encouraged to be creative and I always loved working with my hands, making garlands out of clay or turning my mother’s wardrobe into an ornate headpiece decorated with dangly earrings and held together with a belt. The kind of goldsmith my mother is, is particularly unglamorous, which is what appealed to me the most. It’s dangerous, there’s a lot of open flame work and molten metal, and it requires a lot of physical strength. It’s also really finicky which can be frustrating, I can never drink any coffee while working because shaking hands aren’t in the least bit useful!

When was the brand born?

In 2012 I started making things that I thought needed to exist. I started out with geometric totem necklaces in silver, and mainly made it for myself. I jumped at the opportunity to create the brand when I realised I could get my designer friends to do the logo, get my photographer friends to do the shoots, and perhaps even make some money, and suddenly it all looked like a big opportunity for a lot of fun. Since then, I’ve developed the aesthetic to the point where I’ve totally ruled out geometry and symmetry and opted for a more organic, asymmetric approach that is entirely informed by the laws of nature. This direction is proving to be even more fun!

Why the name ‘Waif’?

The word ‘waif’ has some negative connotations. It’s a lonely word, and is often associated with lost dogs (a waif and a stray). But if you read the word, there is so much beauty in it. It’s a soft word. It’s feather light, and thin and weird, and actually, the perfect description of the things that I make. So when a close friend and I were brainstorming names, and she suggested the word ‘Waif’ I was like, yes. That’s it. These things are waifs, and now they have a name that also describes what they look like. I’m not one for candy floss happiness, so I’m okay with my brand’s name not being in the happy-clappy spectrum.

Tell us more about the look book. 

My wonderful boyfriend who happens to be a photographer Travys Owen shot Alexa Corlett, with Diana Asherson on hair and make-up. The intention was to be as uncomplicated as possible, working with the best model in town, is all you need when you’re showcasing your work. After the studio shoot, we ventured out for a weekend and stuck the pieces into the sand and soil out on the East Coast, creating correlations with nature in various forms, and got really excited when we found the grey bunny leaves that were basically identical in shape and size to the earrings we were shooting. That moment resulted in some serious high-fives.

We love the hair clips! What’s your favourite piece?

I’m most proud of the cotyledon pin. I’ve always aimed to create something unique, and with the pin, I think I actually did that.

Where can we find the collection?

You can find the collection at Mungo & Jemima on Long Street, at the Watershed and at the Biscuit Mill design market in Cape Town on Saturdays. The online store is currently under construction – I’ll keep you posted!

View WAIF's lookbook in our gallery below

For more from WAIF, visit

Images: Travys Owen

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