Forbes Life Romania

Before our Time

Interview held with Ioana Iosif, founder of KOGAYON, by Diana-Florina Cosmin, Editor Forbes Life & Fashion

After 19 years in advertising, Ioana Iosif gave up everything to create a brand of accessories "KOGAYON” inspired by the ancient Dacian totems.  The Dacians were the ancient inhabitants of Eastern Europe.

How can you conquer the world with a traditional weapon - the garlic, Sanzienele - the fairies or the wolf snake that decorated the battle flags of our ancestors - the Dacians, before our time?

“The great discoveries mean to observe exactly the things everyone sees and knows, but to create something that has never been done before.” - Jonathan Swift. The story of Ioana Iosif and KOGAYON is reflected in those words. A year ago, she started reinventing symbols that dated from thousands of years ago, reminding us of images we have seen in history books, that we have looked at dozens of times, but previously never bothered paying attention to.

The nesting stork, a symbol of home protection, the Dacian wolf-snake that symbolizes personal success, the new born lamb that brings luck, the garlic clove as protection against evil or the fairies, as guardians of love are some of the first KOGAYON jewelry charms. In total, the first KOGAYON collection - brand named after the sacred mountain of the Dacians - contains 13 totems to be worn on the wrist, on hand dyed silk cords, and it is just the pre phase of an entire series of accessories inspired by Dacian symbols.

“We are asked to make cufflinks, pins, earrings, rings”, explains Ioana.  “I even received an order from an American club who wanted our wolf snake symbol - ZALMO as the official badge for their members, because they felt that it reflected their vision.”

The Dacian amulets, as a charm jewelry idea, came to mind when she was researching another project and the “seed was sown”.  

"I realised that everyone has superstitions relating to objects, like psychological anchors that are channeling us,” she explains. The classic four leaf clovers, hearts and horse shoes, as well as the Egyptian, Celtic or Indian symbols exist, but there lacked locally inspired symbolism, that can be offered as a gift or a souvenir for foreigners coming to Romania.

"Our traditions are not highly valued, the result often looks cheap” she believes. “I wanted something to live up to our history”. She began to intensive research, reading everything that fell into her hands about Dacian and more recently Transylvanian symbols. Although, you can find them on gates, pottery and traditional objects, they are not expressed as charms. "I realised I had to go deeper into history and I then found that the Dacians have some of the most beautiful and sophisticated jewelry in the world”.  And this is how the KOGAYON project was born. Together with a good friend, Cristina Jansen and their joined advertising experience they formed a strategy and gathered resources from production to the design team,  to whom they gave the brief to transform particular symbols into charms that we can wear around the wrist and believe in. “It's very complicated, because some symbols that look good on paper may not translate successfully into jewelry," she explains, "and some symbols I had no great confidence in at first, actually thrived in the three-dimensional form.”

A winning bet actually turned out to be the garlic clove, currently the best-selling product.  Everyone I have talked to said “that nobody would like to wear a pendant in the form of a garlic as protection against evil,” she recalls. But I felt it would have success, and so I went ahead with the idea." Ioana is not discouraged by the negative opinions of others, especially when she feels she is on the right path. “I find that credit does not belong to those who have great ideas, but to those who have the power and the will to see their ideas through the end, regardless of any obstacles”.

“Barriers are only in our heads, because there is always a solution to what you want”. "Of course the path to those solutions is not perfect and sometimes on the way plans may need to be revised, but there is always a way.” All her good ideas so far in her career have come from having patience and the curiosity to research and seek out answers to her questions. It was, moreover, the most precious gift that school gave her (University of letters, and journalism). "I learnt where to look and to have the patience to look, no matter whether I had to stay for ten hours in the library, reading one book after the other".

Since she created KOGAYON, she feels like she is the right person in the right place, doing exactly what she has always wanted: to discover, to write and to create.

With every new order coming in on the site, she feels closer to her dream of turning KOGAYON into a successful brand beyond the borders of Romania.  And the first time she sees a new prototype coming out of production, she has butterflies in her tummy. With KOGAYON we tell real and beautiful stories, brought about by history, " she smiles. “When, after 20 attempts, you finally see your idea in the perfect 3D form, how can you not feel excited?





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