RANDA TABBAH

Executive Magazine - - Executive Life -

A rel­a­tive of another fam­ily dy­nasty of ewel­ers, Randa Tabbah launched her line in 1993 as a hy­brid be­tween ne ewelry — like her fam­ily’s House of Tabbah — and the fash­ion ewelry she saw so much of in Paris dur­ing her stud­ies and early work. “I wasn’t in­ter­ested in the clas­si­cal way of mak­ing ewelry. I wanted to make ewelry that is spe­cial,” she says of her lim­ited edi­tion and one-o pieces. Sim­i­larly to Mar­cha, Tabbah uses un­usual stones, in­ter­est­ing pieces of wood, ex­quis­ite pearls and other ma­te­ri­als, o en let­ting the stone in­spire the de­sign. She also em­ploys dis­tinc­tive ewelry mak­ing tech­niques that she learned abroad, which is what she says sets her apart from other de­sign­ers.

Tabbah works on the ewelry her­self in her ate­lier in Ashra eh un­like many ewel­ers who know and fol­low the process but don’t ac­tu­ally use their hands , only out­sourc­ing cer­tain steps to other Le­banese cra smen. Her mostly re­peat cus­tomers come to her bou­tique in Sai il­lage when they are look­ing for some­thing unique, she ex­plains. In ad­di­tion to ne ewelry in gold, she has a line of sil­ver ewelry for those with a smaller bud­get.

Re­cently Tabbah col­lab­o­rated with her daugh­ter, who is an ar­chi­tect and now works with her, on a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of map-based de­signs, where clients can choose a speci c area of Beirut and cus­tom­ize gold or sil­ver bracelets, rings, pen­dants, ear­rings or cu links, with di­a­monds mark­ing the spot where spe­cial mem­o­ries were made.

CRE­ATIVE HUR­DLES

Like any in­dus­try with a lot of cre­ativ­ity, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is an is­sue for Le­banese ewelry de­sign­ers. Mar­cha sites the fa­mous say­ing that im­i­ta­tion is the high­est form of at­tery, but emo­tions run a lit­tle higher with the Mukhis. Maya re­marks, “You re­al­ize [peo­ple copy­ing you] are not very ed­u­cated or eth­i­cal and don’t see things the same way we do,” ex­plain­ing that Le­banon lacks ed­u­ca­tion when it comes to re­spect­ing other peo­ple’s work. On the other hand Mouzannar shruges that it’s ac­tu­ally sad for the copy­cats “ hy would you copy? Make some­thing you be­lieve in.”

But over­all he is hope­ful about the fu­ture of ewelry in Le­banon, list­ing sev­eral up-and-com­ing de­sign­ers (many of whose work is avail­able at his Ma­cle store in Ashra eh who are build­ing strong brands. The grow­ing num­ber of ewel­ers, many of whom copy or don’t put a lot of thought into their de­signs, means com­pe­ti­tion is tough.

ith de­sign­ers that stand out, their strength is also their weak­ness. The masses tend to look around and buy sim­i­lar things and while anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests the Le­banese are a na­tion of trend­set­ters, some de­sign­ers dis­agree, cit­ing the ten­dency to buy brand names and get iden­ti­cal plas­tic surgery. Ra oul’s ex­pe­ri­ence is that peo­ple might come to the shop and ex­press in­ter­est but ul­ti­mately buy what their friends are buy­ing, not ven­ture to try her rel­a­tively new brand. “A trend­set­ter is some­one who dares to be di er­ent. They do what they re­ally like and they are who they re­ally are. A lot of peo­ple in Le­banon are not liv­ing how they would like to,” she ex­plains.

This not­with­stand­ing, th­ese de­sign­ers and oth­ers are tak­ing cre­ative risks with their work, each in their own way, striv­ing to­ward what they be­lieve in and hop­ing more Le­banese will in­deed be­come real trend­set­ters. If clients start to look out­side the de­signer brand box at the real lux­ury of th­ese o er­ings, they might dis­cover a new aes­thetic, and with it the kind of hap­pi­ness that only be­ing true to your­self can bring — a real lux­ury in­deed.

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