Azza Fahmy, chairwoman and creative director

Calling all jewelry designers... This one's for you! Everyone across Egypt has heard of the name Azza Fahmy. She's a true inspiration to many and definitely one for me. When I got the opportunity to be able to interview her, I was ecstatic. I wanted to learn more about Azza Fahmy Jewellery. The way she portrays culture with her fine metal and precious stones is truly a work of art. The best part about the interview is that I saw the passion and drive she still holds and the love she has for Azza Fahmy Jewellery.

In the last few years, the jewelry and fashion industry have become extremely competitive. What is some advice you would give to upcoming designers starting their own line?

The most important thing is to always present a new idea, which is probably the hardest thing to do in our industry. You have to always be yourself and introduce something new. Creating these new ideas require hard work and dedication. 

If a jewelry designer decides to expand internationally. What is the first step he/she should take?

The designer should study and understand that specific market very well. Each market will have it's own needs, and it's the duty of the designer to understand and analyze them. When Azza Fahmy Jewellery  went international, the whole team sat down and analyzed the market we wanted to go into well. As well, we had a consultancy in Europe that was guiding us in the right direction. We wanted to see what that specific market needed from Azza Fahmy Jewellery  and vice versa. When I dealt with designers in England, we all benefited from each other. They wanted to benefit from the market I have a great name in, and I wanted to learn something new about their market. 

What are some important qualities a jewelry designer should have?

A jewelry designer should be creative and to always introduce new ideas. The hardest part about being a designer is having the skills to create something new.   

During the mid seventies in Egypt it definitely wasn't easy starting your own journey in the jewelry industry, especially for a woman. How did you manage to break the stereotypical rules?

Once you're convinced with what you're doing, then no one can stop you. It definitely wasn't easy, but once people can sense the passion in your work, then they will always help. Probably, the weirdest and most unique thing was that I was a woman. I was one of the first women in Egypt that started something like this. Of course, it was strange for my family. It wasn't a field that was looked upon once you were finished with college. They didn't understand what I would become. However, no one judged me, actually people pushed me and wanted my products to succeed. There was always room for success.

What was the greatest challenge you faced in creating Azza Fahmy Jewellery ?

When I first set out, I did not find any schools in Cairo which could have helped me develop my technique. My mind had become so much more advanced than my technique and I needed to learn. I was then offered a grant from the British Council to learn at the London Polytechnic.

Another challenge I faced was when I needed to adapt from a small scale operation- a one woman show-to a structured business. The transition from a workshop to an institution needed to be made. This was when my craft shifted into becoming an industry and a full-on business. I soon recognized and trusted that with the right team and the right skills, I could reach my ambitions.

However, the biggest challenge of them all was balancing between a career and raising a family. There weren’t any good or proper day care centers or facilities that could take care of children while the woman is doing her job. So, in the end the woman is forced to stay at home for three to four years taking care of her children. This makes it extremely hard to focus on a career. 

How was it working with skilled workers in Khan Khalili? Do you recommend all Egyptian jewelry designers to start there?

It was a great experience. I learnt the basics of the craft at a time where there were no local institutions that could help me develop my skills or passion. I was lucky enough to be granted a scholarship by the British Council at the time to study at the London Polytechnic where I was able to expand my horizons and creativity. Nowadays, aspiring jewelry designers can benefit from several local and regional institutions which offer design majors. In Egypt, they can join our school, The Design Studio by Azza Fahmy in collaboration with Alchimia, Contemporary Design School of Florence, Italy, where they can compete on an international level.

Traditional culture and calligraphy has always been Azza Fahmy's trademark. However, the new collection is quite different. What inspired this collection? And why the change?

Yes. So, for Spring/Summer lines, we work work with trendsetters in Europe that help us figure out a path or theme that would coincide with global trends. Nature was one of the those trends which we selected a couple of years back as we designed this collection and decided that it would be the main inspiration. While we’re always on the lookout for the latest trends, you’ll always spot the Azza Fahmy Jewellery DNA and design philosophy in the way we present or get inspired by those trends.

Like the fashion industry, there are definitely upcoming trends in the jewelry industry as well. What are the steps in your creative process that would incorporate these trends in an upcoming collection?

The first step is to start working with our trendsetters and research team with whom we brainstorm about different upcoming themes. All of these trends are constantly around us. For example, they take a look at the spirituality movement, which has been a huge influence on several industries, including the Fashion industry. We get inspired by buildings, movies, fashion, colors and fabrics, which eventually develop into an inspirational board for the upcoming collection. Then, we start sketching out ideas and creating models until we reach to our final piece.

How did Azza Fahmy evolve since it first started?

Azza Fahmy is constantly evolving. We are always working on ourselves. We constantly come up with new ideas, research upcoming technology and stay on the lookout for trends.

What inspires Azza Fahmy?

Culture. It's always been about culture and the depth of it. When referencing a culture in our collections, we always dig deep into its inspirations and meanings through a long research process. Traveling really does help, and I've definitely traveled a lot and it really does inspire me. I always make it a point to visit as many museums and cultural exhibitions as I can during my trips. Aspiring designers today can also make use of books, credible online resources and industry portals that can help them with their research process to learn about different cultures. 

Below are some images of Azza Fahmy's latest collection.

A love message paved on 18kt gold T-Lock necklace adorned with 0.94 ct diamonds. Inscribed: "Love joined us, who would part us". 

A one of a kind 18kt gold and sterling silver locket watch necklace.

Applying our hand honored piercing technique in the making of our masterpiece 'Hoopoe Collar'.

Filigree- one of the most sophisticated and ancient techniques applied in our workshop entailing lace-like wire work, used to create protective amulets.

Inspired by a Degas painting in the MET museum in NYC. Designer Amina Ghali was inspired to create a butterfly that was entirely made of nature.

Locket necklace adorned with Sapphire and filigree. Inscribed: "For compassion and fulfillment".

Nature inspired 18kt gold and sterling silver Hoopoe collar adorned with pearls and diamonds.

This 18kt gold and silver Victorian ring is designed around a 50cat Amethyst stone, with an Ottoman influence of the star of moon adorned with 0.47ct pave' Diamonds.

Are you a jewelry designer? Do you have an unanswered question? Comment below and I'll be happy to help. xxx