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.

U Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Ayy­oub T ams

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.

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