With an immense passion for design, the renowned Azza Fahmy has cemented herself as one of the leading jewelry designers in the Arab world. With a BA in Interior Design, Azza's initial plan never involved jewelry. However, fate intervened back in the late 1960s and she found herself fascinated with a book about classical jewelry. It was then that she decided to enter the world of jewelry design.
Citing her home country Egypt as her major form of inspiration, Azza's designs are truly exceptional, reflecting a unique take on her background and culture. The special calligraphy, sometimes in the form of poetry verses, added onto some of her creations gives them a unique feel, not to mention her signature use of the combination of gold and silver in a single piece of jewelry.
It takes more than a simple paragraph or two to describe the talented designer. Fajer Al Farsi discovers the different spectrums that make up the illustrious Ms. Fahmy's character.
What first drew you towards this field?
It all happened in 1969, when I had stumbled across a book on medieval European jewelry and immediately realized that I found my true calling. That book truly changed my life. Since then I knew I had a deep passion for art and for jewelry-making.
So how did it all start? How did you get into the craft?
In the early 70s, I was awarded a fellowship to study Jewelry Technology and Manufacturing Techniques at the City of London Polytechnic School. In 1981, I opened my first boutique and debuted my first jewelry collection, “Houses of the Nile,” which was inspired by Nubian houses in the south of Egypt.
What are some of the obstacles you faced when you started designing?
When I first took an apprenticeship in Khan-El-Khalili, one of the most historic and celebrated bazaar districts in Cairo, I took on the challenge of entering a male-dominated industry (at the time). My mother did not comprehend why, as a university graduate, I would want to spend my time working among craftsmen. And as a wife and a mother myself, I had many other responsibilities to focus on. However, as I started becoming more successful, I gained increased support from my family and from the people around me, which pushed me to where I am at right now.
In what way do your designs reflect your background?
Born in a country like Egypt, I always like interpreting the different aspects of my cultural heritage. Whether in the form of poetry, design motifs, architecture or modernized jewelry, my interpretations always stay true to the source.
Describe the type of woman that wears Azza Fahmy?
The type of woman who loves to express herself through her jewelry; she is someone who appreciates authentic art, culture, beauty and heritage.
What is the piece of jewelry you are most proud of?
Like most designers, we grow attached to almost every piece that we design. I am especially proud of our latest Culture collection, the ‘Pharaonic’ collection, which took eight years in the making and is now finally available for people to wear and see.
Who are your favorite jewelry designers?
My favorite jewelry designer is Miriam Haskell. Her designs are highly artistic and refreshingly creative.
Who or what inspires your designs?
My number one muse has always been my country, Egypt. I look around me and everything in my country inspires me. It’s a country of infinite heritage and deep-rooted civilizations including Pharaonic, Coptic, Ottoman and many more.
What are your other interests?
I like designing other things like bags, shoes, belts, and sunglasses.
Any tips for young people trying to break into the world of jewelry design?
I would advise to believe in your dreams and to have the will to achieve them. Most importantly, please be original and stay true to who you are and never allow any obstacles to set you back.
What is in the future for Azza Fahmy?
There is a very interesting international collaboration in the making, to be announced within the next months. Also many celebrity placements are coming up.We are also currently working on developing projects under the Azza Fahmy Foundation, to be launched later this year. By raising awareness and enhancing the jewelry design sector in Egypt, my future endeavors will focus mainly on education and culture exchange. For example, we are opening a design school this coming year, in association with Alchimia School, from Florence-Italy, to offer a platform for anyone who wants to learn the craft.
Visit www.azzafahmy.com to view Azza Fahmy's latest collections.
Image courtesy of Azza Fahmy
This article first appeared in the Apr/May/June 2012 Fashion Issue. To view or order the print issue, visit our MagCloud page.