Image Source: Ricky Alvarez
At 26 years old, New York City native Alani Figueroa — better known by her Instagram handle @wuzg00d — has cultivated a following for herself with her colourful styling, standout acrylics, and laid-back personality. Using the skills she picked up during her six years working retail for hip street style company KITH, Figueroa began working independently earlier this year, dabbling in creative direction, design, consulting, and styling. Her first big project since leaving the 9-5 scene is Herencia, a collaboration with the NYC-based company M Jewelers, which features six gold vermeil jewellery items inspired by Figueroa's Nuyorican upbringing.
In creating Herencia, Figueroa prioritised authenticity. She didn't want people to think she was a "poser," given how the fashion industry is notorious for exploiting cultural garments without attributing the communities of their origin (think of the Hailey Bieber brown glossy lip debacle).
"As a Latina, Nuyorican growing up, I think we can share that story of growing up in nail salons and being dragged along with your mom and running her errands with her," Figueroa says. Salon visits were particularly memorable for Figueroa and inspired much of Herencia's creative direction.
"I always loved the long acrylics, and I loved how hands looked with all the gold jewellery on."
"I always loved the long acrylics, and I loved how hands looked with all the gold jewellery on," she says. "The guys would come into the nail salons trying to sell jewellery off their little boards. So yeah, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring that all together and tell my story and showcase what I have."
Image Source: Ricky Alvarez
Once the M Jewelers reached out in March of this year to discuss collaborating, Figueroa pulled inspiration from her mother and father's own jewellery collection. She sent several designs over to M Jewelers before they settled on six pieces that met her expectations for the price point and quality. After months of product adjustments, talent scouting, campaign shooting, and zine production, the collection became publicly available on Oct. 28. Figueroa kept all the campaign visuals a secret from her mother, until the collection's release party.
"My mom is a tough Latina. She's not a sappy woman, and she cried when she saw the video. That's when I was like, 'OK, I did a good job,'" she says. "I still look for my mom's validation in everything that I do, and especially with it being for her, that was the most important moment for me as far as how the collection would have been received."
"People kept telling me, 'Oh, my god, this is so reminiscent of the way that I grew up. Wow, this brings back memories. This is so nostalgic.'"
Public reaction from social media has been equally validating for Figueroa. "People kept telling me, 'Oh, my god, this is so reminiscent of the way that I grew up. Wow, this brings back memories. This is so nostalgic,'" she says. These moments proved she had succeeded in her main objective of telling her story authentically. Figueroa also hosted an in-person event at the M Jewelers Mulberry street location, where she signed zines for customers and was met with another outpouring of support.
Many of Figueroa's supporters also came from her social media. The NYC native is active only on Instagram, where she goes by @wuzg00d, posting daily fashion, styling, and beauty content. Her account started gaining traction in 2017, which Figueroa attributes to her singular styling tastes at the time, separating her from other creatives on the platform.
"While my following was growing, some of the main feedback that I got back from girls and women — and men — was the admiration for me being fearless. I think that was my foundation," she says. At the time, Figueroa recalls the popularity of minimalism, which never suited her tastes. "I 100 percent always preach less is not more — more is more. And I think that was the first shake-up, where people were like, 'oh, that's so cool.'"
Image Source: Alani Figueroa
Figueroa recalls receiving DMs from followers thanking her for "paving this space" and showing how comfortable and confident she was in her colourful, maximalist clothes and her unique, elaborate acrylics. Her main wardrobe essentials consist of accessories, with a few must haves being grills, statement shoes, and seasonal staple pieces. Now, in the winter, she's a big fan of statement jackets. Like a true Gemini, her outfits fluctuate with her mood throughout the week:
"Do I want to be cosy today? Do I want to be girlie today? Do I want to be a streetwear girl today?" she often asks herself. Figueroa also hopes to evolve Herencia, even if it isn't with M Jewelers. "The special thing about Herencia is that it is mine, and it belongs to me, and it is my story. So it'll follow me with whatever projects I do moving forward," she says.
Three out of six pieces in the collection are still available for purchase, though sold-out products will be restocked soon. Currently, you can find the remaining, Tradicion hoops ($180), New York Double Ring ($250), and Noelle nameplate necklace ($250) all on the M Jewelers site.