Azza Fahmy, Egypt's foremost jewellery designer. Featured

Beloved by many, Fahmy has a flagship boutique at Emirates Towers in Dubai.

by 29 June 2009

Azza Fahmy is Egypt’s foremost jewellery designer. With a flagship boutique at Dubai’s Emirates Towers and a concession at Harvey Nichols, Azza has become one of the city’s treasures. Known for her dedication and integrity, she produces exquisite one-off pieces that adorn world leaders, the royal families of the Middle East and a diverse range of celebrities from Catherine Deneuve to Naomi Campbell.

With this international style status comes responsibility. One that Azza feels she owes to her beloved homeland that both sustained and inspired her very first efforts at the craft. As such, she is both artist and cultural ambassador, using her work to communicate the intensity and richness of the Arab heritage.

Born and raised in Sohag, in Upper Egypt, Azza visits her Dubai boutique regularly. It is one of three in the Middle East. She has an inevitable attachment to each of her handmade pieces. “I believe it was my destiny to become a jewellery designer,” she says. “Art and tradition run in my blood.” For Azza, her journey began when she discovered a book on classical European jewellery of the Middle Ages, displayed at Egypt’s first book fair. “I was mesmerized by the designs in that book. It was the light that inspired me, at that very moment I knew I had found my aim in life.”

Azza took a bold step towards the unknown, taking up an apprenticeship in Cairo’s ancient jewellery quarter, Khan El Khalil. This secret world did not welcome outsiders, especially women. Yet Azza worked tirelessly in the tiny workshop of her mentor Hadji Sayed, then a famous Egyptian goldsmith.

In 2003, Fahmy finally opened a large factory in Cairo, employing over 200 people, of which 20 were product developers and 50 skilled craftspeople. To this day, she retains her position as chief designer, supported by her daughter. “Now I have shops in Dubai, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and six shops in Cairo,” she explains.

Azza releases a new collection every year, each with a strong spiritual theme. One of her most typical collections was entitled Poetry Adorned. “It represented an intricate blend of beautiful, powerful verses of the most eloquent poets of the Arab world, with our signature designs.” It was a fusing of different inspirations from old Byzantine designs, Arab motifs and Egyptian necklaces of the 19th century. These were combined with rich verses from Elia Abou Madi, Fadwa Touqan and Ahmen Rami.

With such a strong niche identity to her work, it is interesting that her jewellery appeals to such a broad clientele. “I believe what makes our pieces so special is that they relate to people. Every Azza Fahmy piece carries an engraving, a personal message to its wearer. This seems to appeal to so many people, who not only choose beautiful jewellery, but also celebrate their souls with meaningful worlds and sayings. Of course, they also love our unique design. Because of the many special techniques we use to create each handmade piece, every person who purchases an Azza Fahmy creation has something original.”

To satisfy the many different demands from clients, Azza has created four different collections. The culture line features silver pieces inlaid with 18-carat gold. The exclusive line is fashioned from gold and gemstones, from turquoise to diamonds. The fashion collection is more trend-conscious and reasonably priced, while at the top end are the custom-made couture pieces, handcrafted to order and starting at US$40,000.

Building on her worldwide success and popularity as a cult brand among the fashionistas of London and Paris, it wasn’t long before her designs were taken out of the crowd and onto the catwalk by fashion icon Julien MacDonald. Their first collection together was a big hit, inspiring them to join forces again for Julien’s Autumn Winter 08/09 collection. Big, dramatic necklaces, striking brooches, bold bracelets and heavy rings were all very much her signature style, adorned the gothic-clad models at the show. With such a great legacy of work and hardship behind her, you can only expect Azza Fahmy to protect what she has rightfully earned.

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