Charmaleena: Jewelry in freedom

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Updated 19 October 2012
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Charmaleena: Jewelry in freedom

Leena El-Khereiji is co-owner and the main designer at Charmaleena Fine Jewellery, a Saudi brand of conceptual and contemporary wearable art.
Leena and her sister Hala founded Charmaleena in April this year, to make original, art-inspired jewelry. The brand was launched at the prestigious Jewelers Salon Exhibition (Al-Sunaidi) in Jeddah and Riyadh, and was well received by the international jewelers' community.
Prior to launching the brand, Leena gained over three years of work experience in creative design when she was trained at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in London as a jewelry designer, with an added accreditation as jewelers professional (AJP). Leena participated at the Al-Sunaidi Exhibition Competition in Jeddah in April 2011. She was awarded first place for the best design inspired by Islamic architecture, which gave her the affirmation she needed to launch her jewelry brand.
Leena's first collection, the Freedom collection, was inspired by her belief that freedom is a powerful and inspiring word, which has many interpretations.
As a Saudi designer, a lot of her pieces are inspired by her heritage, Arabic poetry and calligraphy, and capture influences from time she spent abroad. Leena believes her jewelry creates a cultural and artistic bridge between east and west, thus capturing a strong niche in both the national and international fine jewelers' arenas.
Arab News met Leena El-Khereiji to talk about her latest participation in the Young Creative Entrepreneur (YCE) competition that took place under the auspices of the British Council.

Why did you take part in the YCE competition?
The YCE competition recognizes achievements in the sectors of design, music, fashion, screen, interactive, performing arts, visual arts in addition to communications and publishing to celebrate the best and brightest entrepreneurial and creative talents and give them a platform to engage and collaborate with the UK creative sectors. The program is considered unique as it rewards the talent and initiative of young creative entrepreneurs from across the creative industries globally. It recognizes the central role they play in the development of a competitive and sustainable creative economy. It champions those who find new ways to take creative work to audiences and communities and highlights the wider social, economic and cultural benefits in doing so.

What was the most challenging part about joining the competition?
Taking part in the YCE competition and gaining international experience was an incredible opportunity to expand my understanding of the design world and benefit from international exposure. Moreover, I believe that by participating in the YCE I could help dispel stereotypes about Saudi women as being sedentary and showcase the potential that lies within our desert dunes. There are so many talented young people in Saudi Arabia that lack support and encouragement. I am grateful that the YCE award exists and is trying to build a positive design infrastructure to promote designers like me.

What did you learn in London during the London Fashion Week in September, where you received a master class from top fashion designer Paul Smith?
YCE award recipients from around the world were flown to London for seven intense days of design workshops and lectures, which covered the correlation between business and design, innovative business in the digital age, fashion sustainability and production.
Paul Smith, who is incredibly humble and down to earth, shared so many things that will stay with me forever. The lessons that I will never forget are that structure and routine are very important for the creative process to truly flourish. Also, you have to learn about yourself, what triggers parts of your brain to develop creative ideas. If you are blocked, then you have to take a step back, giving yourself time to harness your potential.
I have to confess that the YCE was a genuinely inspiring experience and gave me the encouragement to be myself and to be original.

How did jewelry experts and clients in the UK receive your collection?
Charmaleena was so enthusiastically received by people in the UK and international creative industry experts. This exposure has helped me realize that if you feel something, just do it, and don’t wait for approval from anyone.
Becoming recognized as a designer of fine jewelry from Saudi Arabia, as a YCE award recipient, competing on both international and national levels, is the first step towards positively contributing to the design industry in my country.
I would like to use the YCE award as a platform to inspire young designers, promote creativity and to encourage other nationals to believe in their ideas when no one else does and to persevere until their dreams become a tangible reality.

What vision did you have when you started your business and what won you the YCE award?
My vision for Charmaleena is to embrace innovation and translate this into attractive timeless pieces of fine jewelry. The multifunctional feature of each design is something unique and original within the national and international fine jewelry market place.
I won the YCE award based on two designs: The multifunctional aspect incorporated into the Freedom collection and my Calligraphy bracelet.
In the Freedom collection necklace I used the motif of very delicate wings in a trendy yet sophisticated way. All the necklaces can be worn as either a pendant or separated into a pair of earrings.
The flexibility and multifunctionality of the design is uncommon in fine jewelry. I wanted to give my clients the flexibility and enjoyment of owning a piece that can be worn in more ways than one.
The Freedom collection was inspired by the world around me. Over the course of the last year, everything on the news and around me was about freedom. Everyone wants to be free. Freedom can be interpreted in many ways: Freedom to love, a person’s desire to be physically or mentally free from the past, present or future, or the freedom to choose one’s personal life path. In essence, freedom is a powerful and inspiring word, which has many interpretations as reflected in the flexibility of the collection.
The Arabic calligraphy bracelet came from my second collection. I wanted my brand to reflect my love for poetry and Arabic calligraphy and recognize these elements as recurrent themes throughout each of my collections.
By the way, to be able to share my love for poetry, words and Arabic quotes I designed creative gifts made from 18 carat gold, which women will keep forever.
Each handmade Arabic calligraphy bracelet can be customized with an inscription in Arabic of the client's choosing.

How do you balance your creative drive with entrepreneurial requirements and what are your future plans?
My sister and I work very hard on our upcoming collection, which will be launched in April 2013. In the meantime, Charmaleena Fine Jewelry is very excited to be internationally sold exclusively on www.giftvault.com, with selected pieces showcased at the Gift Vault boutique on Bond Street in London. We are also looking forward to launching our Jeddah showroom, which will be open to the public by appointment.

— For more information, please visit: www.charmaleena.com
Email the author at [email protected]


Startup of the Week: Coco Sabon’s natural skincare

Coco Sabon. (Supplied)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Startup of the Week: Coco Sabon’s natural skincare

  • Coco Sabon’s customers are mostly Arab women aged between 20 and 40, “though we have many loyal fans that span different age groups and come from all over the world”

RIYADH: The healing and relaxing powers of nature are at the heart of Coco Sabon’s philosophy.
Launched by Dr. Cynthia Mosher — an American living in Riyadh — the skincare firm is committed to sourcing high-quality, natural oriental ingredients that provide the skin with gentle care and nourishment.
“I launched Coco Sabon in November 2015 at Alfaisal University’s first bazaar,” she said.
Mosher, who completed a bachelor of science in natural health sciences, said she hoped to do something more than simply diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments. She also wanted to have time for other important things and people, so now she is working as an educator, training a new generation of medical students.
She encourages people to make healthy choices when it comes to ingredients they use on their bodies.
“I fell in love with formulating and creating beautiful, natural skincare products. I continued my creative journey while pursuing my medical degree, which deepened my commitment to develop ‘do no harm’ skincare based on natural ingredients,” she said.
“Layered with my admiration of Arabian culture, the rich regional ingredients, and my passion for integrative medicine, I developed a deep sense of holistic self-care that guides my formulations. My love for the fragrances, natural remedies and skincare routines of the Middle East are the heart and soul of Coco Sabon.”
There is a growing demand for Coco Sabon products. “After years of requests from family and friends to make and sell my products, I tested the waters, so to speak. We sold out of everything that day.”
She added: “About six weeks later we were invited to participate at the Gathering in Al-Bujairi in January 2016. We had a crowd of customers nonstop for three days and again sold out of everything. It was a decisive weekend. Coco Sabon was born and we have not looked back since.”
Mosher’s family and friends offered encouragement, but one of her strongest supporters was her best friend, Audrey Wilkinson. She said: “Audrey was my supporter, helper and adviser. She now works with me, formulating and producing our candles, cremes and face care line.”
Coco Sabon’s customers are mostly Arab women aged between 20 and 40, “though we have many loyal fans that span different age groups and come from all over the world.”
The brand offers a wide range of products, including soap, bath bombs, scrubs, cremes, face and body oils, perfumes and candles.
“Everything is produced by hand in small batches here in Riyadh using natural, safe and organic ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible,” Mosher said.
Coco Sabon believes in supporting local businesses and in sourcing the best ingredients possible. The store also designs its packaging and hand packages, labels and wraps each item, selling through an online store (cocosabon.com), Instagram, WhatsApp, and local popup shop events.
Mosher has also started offering workshops on making her products.
“Some might think that to be unwise because I could very well teach a future competitor,” she said. “Well, that’s true for the medical students I teach now. Should I withhold my knowledge for fear of them becoming better doctors and doing better? Of course not. The more knowledge we put out there, the better our society will be. The workshops also help build community.
“I connect with people who are curious, who want to learn how to create and how to make good choices for their health. I welcome workshop students young and older (my youngest so far was just 6 years old), and I encourage them to take what they learn and use it to improve their lives and that of others around them. If they make a business out of doing so, then good for them. We all have something to offer the world,” she said.
Mosher is happy that she created a job she loves. “Sometimes I miss practicing clinical medicine, but I remind myself that I am helping people make healthier choices for their bodies, their minds, their souls and the planet,” she said.
“That’s a special kind of medicine that I believe can help heal the world.”