By  on December 17, 2007

WJA AWARDS: Sybil Yurman, president and chief marketing officer of David Yurman, will receive the 2008 Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement honor at the Women's Jewelry Association's 25th Annual Awards for Excellence gala on July 28.

"Sybil Yurman is an extraordinary businesswoman, a visionary and a risk taker, who, by her example, has been an inspiration to so many women in our industry," WJA president Ann Arnold said in a statement.

Steven Kaiser, president and chief executive officer of Kaiser Time, will be given the Ben Kaiser Award. "Steven's generosity to WJA and the industry, like his father's, has been exemplary," Arnold added.

HELP IN A HANDBAG: Casting director Amanda Mackey has all the right celebrity connections, but she never thought they would land her in Africa.

But, after casting Ethiopian model Liya Kebede in "The Good Shepard," Mackey confided in Kebede that she wanted to help developing nations. Kebede suggested visiting women she knew who had a factory in her home country and were looking for work. Mackey and her daughter, Nicola Johnson, traveled to Ethiopia to meet local artisans and discovered true talent.

"We didn't think they were so capable and then we saw what they could do," Johnson said.

A few months later, Mackey and Johnson launched Naea, a handbag line with a name based on a combination of Amharic words, meaning "come on" or "let's go."

With two slouched styles so far — a handwoven jacquard print for $250 and a raw silk piece retailing for $450 — Naea is available exclusively at Barney's New York. As for mom and daughter, they want the company to get as big as possible, if for no other reason than to continue to support the women on a continent so far from home.

"I didn't know I'd get so involved in Africa," Johnson said. "But I really love it."

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