Connect with us

Daily News

Azza Fahmy opens jewellery store in Burlington Arcade



As gender equality and female empowerment rise to the top of the agenda in every industry, Egyptian jeweller Azza Fahmy continues to blaze the trail she started almost 50 years ago.

In 1969, when she was in her mid-twenties, the interior-design graduate happened upon a German book about the jewellery of Medieval Europe. “My heart started beating very fast and it was like a lightbulb moment,” she recalls. “It had never entered my mind that I might make jewellery, but as soon as I saw this book I thought, why not?”

One major reason why not was her gender: at the time, the goldsmiths’ quarter of Cairo’s Khan el Khalili souk was entirely male-dominated, and society didn’t look kindly upon a female fine-arts graduate working alongside them.

Undeterred, Fahmy insisted they let her in and teach her their craft. It was a move that would eventually lead to her creating the first Egyptian global fine jewellery brand, with over 200 employees and 14 stores worldwide – the latest of which opened this week in London’s Burlington Arcade.

Her experience in that bazaar, learning how to understand and communicate with goldsmiths, would prove critical in her success. After her apprenticeship, she received a scholarship to study jewellery design in London in the mid-1970s, before returning to her homeland and opening her first shop in Cairo in 1981.

Since the beginning, Fahmy has made jewellery which pushes the boundaries of craftsmanship to its limit. Each piece is handmade in the Cairo atelier, fusing ancient techniques such as filigree and hand-piercing in jewels which are as much about cultural and historical storytelling as they are decoration.

“I’m a bookworm, I read a lot, so culture and literature inspire me,” says Fahmy. “I started off by using my favourite poetry and proverbs in jewellery – especially classics from the Arab world – because everyone can find something they relate to.”

Many of the jewels feature Arabic script portraying messages of love, friendship and peace, along with traditional symbols from across cultures – from the hand of Fatima and the evil eye to snakes, the symbol of rebirth. “I might take inspiration from Libyan architecture, or a textile in the Islamic museum – I’m into beauty, and I translate it into modern jewellery.”

The result of scrupulous research, collections generally take between 18 months and two years to develop, which Fahmy nowadays does alongside her youngest daughter, Amina. Her eldest daughter, Fatma, is the company’s managing director, and has spearheaded the new London store.

“London is one of the most important markets if you want to be an international player, and Azza and Amina were both educated in the UK so they have an affinity with it,” says Fatma.

“Burlington Arcade has a lot of heritage when it comes to jewellery, and now they are revamping it and bringing in interesting new brands. We felt that combination of heritage and modernity made it the perfect fit for Azza Fahmy.”

With raw concrete walls, pale wooden floors and subtle bronze accents, the bijoux new space puts the jewellery front and centre, on a background of Egyptian blue. And once you’re familiar with the Azza Fahmy style, there’s no mistaking it for anything else.

A long necklace of green fluorite beads is flanked by extraordinary chandelier earrings which merge both Victoriana and Eastern influences.

Many of the symbols and motifs have their roots in ancient Egypt, which hugely influenced jewellery design during the 1920s Egyptian revival, so there are hints of deco too, wrought in precious gemstones, 18ct yellow gold and silver – a mix that has become a house signature.

Azza Fahmy doesn’t design differently for the various markets, rather the team “curates” from its broad collections. In London, this means big, bold cuffs and intricately engraved neckpieces that are almost armour-like in their stature, alongside more “everyday” jewels to which the Western market is more accustomed: stacking serpent bangles, gold filigree hoops and dainty gold pinky rings. Without exception, all are laden with meaning.

“People are yearning for a story to connect with – that intangible, emotional value is very important,” says Fatma. “We consider ourselves storytellers rather than just jewellers.”

The stories that Azza Fahmy jewellery tells encompass art, culture and history, but none are as compelling as the story of the house’s founder herself – the trailblazing woman in a man’s world, who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Fahmy might have an international brand and a design studio that bears her name, but she remains as unfazed as ever by this latest step in her global expansion.

“It’s been a long journey from when I first arrived in London to now,” she says. “But do you know what, I saw this store from the very first day. I believed in myself, I knew I had something special. I just knew one day this would be here.”

Courtesy: telegraph.co.uk / Image credit: Egypt today

Continue Reading

Latest News