THE REAL WONDER WOMAN: Delve into Azza Fahmy’s world to know the woman behind the scene-stealing and heart-warming creations
Delve into Azza Fahmy’s world to know the woman behind the scene-stealing and heart-warming creations.
Awoman that has taken the responsibility of restoring faith in the Arabic language and its poetic aesthetics, a mother that appreciates the value of educating the new generation, a craftswoman that says ‘yes’ to originality and authentic techniques, a businesswoman that runs an empire of her own and a designer that sees the invisible and transforms it into tangible magnificence - Azza Fahmy is the real wonder woman; the globally-acclaimed name which embodies everything beautiful about the Arab world. Upon launching her latest collection, we had the chance to delve into Azza’s world to know the woman behind these scene-stealing and heartwarming creations. Azza Fahmy’s 2015 jewelry collection “A Third Eye on the Universe”, which previewed at Matthew Williamson’s London Fashion Week show earlier this year, is divided into four parts: Crescent Moon & Stars, Key of Life, Hands and Wing – representing elements of the Third Eye. U: Trends are temporary, but you are a true trend setter that has established firm aesthetics in the world of jewelry design. How do you feel about that? AF: My aim from the very beginning was, and still is, to create something uniquely different and wearable with a timeless appeal. Azza Fahmy Jewelry as a brand combines both heritage and trends resulting in timeless pieces, each telling a story that is drawn from a time or place in history and I’m truly delighted that this makes us stand out. My daughter Amina, who is also Head of Design and my design partner, works closely with trend-forecasting organizations to research global trends every year and this enables us to react in terms of relevant elements that will influence our design planning process. U: Your work is the cultivation of 7000 years of culture. Do you feel that you are carrying a huge task? AF: I am blessed to have been inspired by such a wealth of culture and art. Wherever we can, we bring to life elements of our cultural heritage in our jewelry design. Our artistic interpretation creatively documents history; however, with that comes a huge responsibility towards the accurate portrayal of such heritage. As a consequence, research plays a vital role behind our designs. For example, the Pharaonic collection took eight years to research, and a considerable amount of time was also spent on our Umm Kulthum collection, which acted as a tribute to the legendary icon, and the composers and poets behind her music. U: You are a woman who values education and craftsmanship. Can you elaborate on that?
AF: Of course. Education changed my perspective and helped me achieve my ambition to become a jewelry designer. My training at Khan El Khalili and the London Polytechnic (courtesy of the British Council) equipped me with the skills I use today. Education is at the forefront of our company and we operate the Ottoman System at our design and manufacturing workshop to ensure that learning and skills are passed on through generations (from master artisans to juniors), which helps to preserve time-honored and rare techniques that would ordinarily be lost as the world becomes more reliant on technology. Two years ago, I opened The Design Studio by Azza Fahmy as an educational institution for design and those interested in becoming jewelry designers. Last month saw the completion of an exchange program that benefitted the students of both The Design Studio and the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design in London. We’ve also organized design workshops in Amman and Dubai. U: Tell us about the role your family had when you took the first steps of your journey. AF: I was lucky to have the support of my parents when I embarked on my jewelry design career. I was working as a graphic designer for the government at the time so I was taking a huge step, but when I found a book on medieval European jewelry at a book fair I realized that I had discovered my passion. They soon recognized it, too. I worked at my day job and then during the evenings at Khan El Khalili for two years. It was tough but immensely rewarding. U: Azza Fahmy, the brand and the woman, is an icon that has captivated the hearts of a generation of young minds who are now appreciating the Arabic language and its appeal. How are you restoring that trust in such a beautiful l anguage? AF: Many of our jewelry pieces are inspired by poetry, and through calligraphy we are able to bring these verses to life, while also communicating a message that is personal to the wearer. Part of what we do is to mix the classic and traditional in a contemporary way, and I think that using this context has worked successfully as a modern and cultural benchmark that gives a fresh perspective and helps to regenerate interest and appeal. U: If you get to choose an Arabic word that you have to incorporate in every collection from now on, what would it be? AF: ‘ Rida’ which means ‘contentment’ in Arabic. It is simply the best feeling anyone can have. U: Do you think you will expand your creative horizons and venture into the world of classical poetry in other languages? AF: We’ve used English calligraphy in our latest capsule collection for Valentine’s Day and it’s something we’re definitely looking into pursuing in the future as long as it sits with the essence and philosophy behind our designs. U: How would you describe Cairo? What does Egypt mean to you? AF: My home. Egypt is a country of rich heritage and a beautiful ancient civilization, one that I drew and will continue to draw inspiration from. U: What do the iconic Egyptian movie stars mean to you? Have you ever been inspired by any of them? AF: More than the Egyptian movie stars themselves, I’ve always been particularly struck by the beautiful ancient and traditional jewelry, headpieces and garments used back in the 30’s and the 50’s; especially the pieces worn by Egyptian dancers. U: If you could go back in time and design custom-made creations for an iconic woman in the classical era of Egyptian cinema, whom would you pick? AF: Taheya Karioka, the Egyptian belly-dancer and film actress, would be someone I’d love to have dressed. U: Any particular name you would like to see your brand associated with in the future? AF: There is a lot of speculation about a new Cleopatra film. It would be wonderful to create the jewelry for this should such a movie become a reality. U: You manage an empire. How do you get the best out of the people you work with? AF: I see everyone as part of the Azza Fahmy team and an extension of our family. It’s important that we all share the same passion and are motivated to achieve the same goal. Our company is based on a very creative entrepreneurial spirit and we encourage our team members to make equal decisions and share their input. Ultimately, this benefits the company as a whole. U: Any advice to young and emerging jewelry designers? AF: I would advise young designers to seek education and stay true to their dreams. Steer away from copying and embrace your own true identity. Something that we teach our students at The Design Studio is to learn how to think in an original way and to be creatively independent. U: What can we expect from you soon? AF: The coming period will see our continued focus on education with The Design Studio. I’m also working with Dubai Fashion Council as a board member and an incubator on mentoring upcoming designers in light of the launch of Dubai Design District. We have just launched our ‘Third Eye on the Universe’ collection that is inspired by the universe, creation and life. It was unveiled at Matthew Williamson’s LFW show earlier this year and is currently retailing worldwide including Amman, Jordan. We’re also working on our new collection that will launch towards the end of the year.