A rare gem: Meet the Saudi jewelry designer who is not afraid to shine

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The designer creates the pieces in her home studio. (Photographs supplied)
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Abeer Angawi has made a name for herself with her stunning designs.
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The necklaces are delicate and unique.
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The designer creates the pieces in her home studio.
Updated 06 March 2018

A rare gem: Meet the Saudi jewelry designer who is not afraid to shine

LONDON: Saudi jewelry designer Abeer Angawi is known for her unique style and handmade jewelry pieces. Arab News caught up with the designer to learn more about her ever-expanding business, creative drive and how a prediction by a market stall vendor could have sparked her success.
Her turning point, she explained, came in 2004 during a visit to Cape Town, South Africa. She was browsing the gemstones in the historic Greenmarket Square famous for its handcrafts. As she handled the stones, a vendor said: “You will be a great designer.”
Those words have proved prophetic as she has gone on to pour her energy into creating her handmade jewelry pieces which are now sold internationally.
“That was the beginning for me. When I returned home, I made just 10 necklaces. No sooner were they made than they were sold — so fast,” she recalled.
“One customer bought all 10 pieces. In the first pieces I used African malachite. It was an amazing color.”
Malachite is popular in jewelry and ornaments due to its striking green color and interesting, veined patterns.
“After that, I produced a new collection every two months in order to keep up with demand. I began to source stones from all over the world: Turquoise, jade, onyx, amber, agate, rubies, pearls, amethysts, opals, aquamarines, corals. I wasn’t doing any marketing — it was just word of mouth,” she explained.
The business expanded rapidly.
“In 2010, I sold 400 pieces in one year. One client ordered 14 pieces, which was a great support for me. My dream for the business is that it will sell all over the world,” she said.
Angawi has a warm and engaging personality and loves sharing her knowledge and answering questions about the particular gemstones used in each elaborate piece.
She described her design process, saying: “I work in a small studio in my home in Jeddah where I can focus on my designs. I work from my drawings. My designs come straight from my imagination — I feel a strong connection to the stones.
“I do commissions based on the wishes of the customer. Sometimes they are looking for designs for special occasions to complement what they are wearing. It could, for example, be for a wedding or an engagement. I spend many hours working on my designs.”
She described her personal feelings about the stones.
“For me, the green stones are the strongest — they give you power. The emerald is the strongest stone in the world — it immediately attracts the eye. The ruby gives happiness (and) the red color brings excitement,” she said.
Meanwhile, the designer added that “turquoise has a calming, relaxing effect and coral brings a feeling of freshness.” For its part, “the pearl, I call ‘the lady of the world.’ Pearls bring a smile — I love pearls! When I work with pearls, I hope that the wearer will have an inner purity like the pearl.”
Asked about her early creative influences, she recalled: “I was just seven when I started drawing necklaces as a hobby. My mother, who has passed away, told me to keep going.”
Her husband has also encouraged her creativity.
“When I got married, my husband told me to pursue my hobby. He strongly supports me in developing my creativity,” she said.
She is a dynamic woman who has somehow managed to follow her dream and build a business while raising a large family.
“I have seven children. Once I decide to do something, I do it. There is just something inside of me — I really want to do this,” she explained.
Angawi, who was born in Makkah, believes that Jeddah is an inspirational place for artists and designers. She founded her own local business, the Ruby Boutique, in the city.
“I feel Jeddah is rich in arts. For thousands of years traders have operated from this commercial hub, bringing in artefacts from all over the world,” she said.
She pointed out that all of the capitals of the Middle East and North Africa are within a few hours’ flying distance of Jeddah.
Even before being designated the port city for Makkah, Jeddah was a trading hub for the region. In the 19th century, goods such as mother of pearl, tortoise shells, frankincense and spices were routinely exported from the city. Apart from this, many imports into the city were destined for further transit to the Suez, Africa or Europe.
Angawi loves to collect antiques that reflect this rich history.
“I have many antique pieces in my house that inspire me. I particularly love the pieces from Italy and Morocco,” she said.
In her new collection, Angawi had added rings. She works with another designer who designs earrings to complement her pieces.
Her aim is to create jewelry pieces unique to her clients, whether they come from Moscow, Marrakesh, Kuwait City, Paris or London.
“For me — I see a lady as a lady — I don’t care about her nationality,” she said.
The key, she believes, is working closely with the individual and finding stones that match their moods and wishes.
“When I am designing, I am conscious that women are very sensitive. I think about their emotions and I want to bring them happiness through my designs,” she said.

Fashion Forward Dubai pop-up store returns to Saudi Arabia

Fashion Forward Dubai will present a carefully curated selection of the best apparel and accessory designers from the region. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 23 May 2018

Fashion Forward Dubai pop-up store returns to Saudi Arabia

  • FFWD will present a carefully curated selection of the best apparel and accessory designers from the region
  • The pop-up is driven by Fashion Forward’s mission to promote, celebrate and develop the region’s leading fashion talents

DUBAI: Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD), the Middle East fashion platform, returns for a second edition of their pop-up store in Saudi Arabia’s Rubaiyat department store in Jeddah from May 25 to June 15.

FFWD will present a carefully curated selection of the best apparel and accessory designers from the region including Anaya, Atelier Zuhra, Arwa Al Banawi, Baruni, Beige, Bint Thani, Hessa Falasi, Lama Jouni, Nasiba Hapiz, Sara Altwaim, Shahad Rehami and Sarah’s Bag. 

The pop-up is driven by Fashion Forward’s mission to promote, celebrate and develop the region’s leading fashion talents. Endorsed by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC) and supported by Dubai Design District (d3), the initiative is dedicated to supporting the evolving regional fashion ecosystem in its pursuit of attaining commercial success and widening reach into new markets.

“Fashion Forward has decided to partner with the prestigious Rubaiyat for its second edition as we firmly believe in the synergy that this partnership brings to all parties involved. We were thrilled with the success of the designers in last year’s pop-up and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue nurturing our designers in growing retail markets, such as KSA,” said Bong Guerrero, CEO and co-founder of FFWD.

ANAYA: Named after the designer’s daughter and inspired by her creativity and drive to follow her dream of building a fashion empire for the power women of the new era. In 2010, Chathuri won the International Young Fashion Entrepreneur award from the British Fashion Council at London Fashion Week for her startup company ANAYA. 

ATELIER ZUHRA: Atelier Zuhra was established in 2015 under business entrepreneur Mousa Al-Awfi, who supported her dream to build a couture atelier in Dubai and dress up women with glamor and perfection. Zuhra passed her dream to her daughter Rayan Al-Sulaimani, who raised the bar by scaling up the designs to a more sophisticated and outstanding quality. 

ARWA AL BANAWI: Like her eponymous label, Saudi-born designer Arwa Al-Banawi is an eclectic mix of contrasts. Designed for the subtle woman, her aesthetic is both classically cool and feminine — earning her recognition from Vogue.com and a finalist position at Jeddah Vogue Fashion Experience.

BARUNI: Created by Fadwa Baruni, the Baruni brand is strongly led by regional and local cultural influences as well as the colors and textures of nature, developing a signature style for the Baruni collection. 

BEIGE: Launched in 2017 by Muna Al-Othaiman, contemporary womenswear brand Beige fuses clean silhouettes with impeccable tailoring, evoking timeless modernity. 

BINT THANI: Inspired by art and architecture since its inception in 2012, BINT THANI offers curated collections that amplify the brand’s DNA of feminine and wearable styles for an international, design-orientated customer. 

HESSA FALASI: An Emirati brand established in 2011 in Dubai and inspired by Arabic culture, where traditional abayas are given a modern twist with a variety of high-quality fabrics, a kaleidoscope of colors in on-trend fashion. 

LAMA JOUNI: Lama Jouni is a high-end ready-to-wear label created in November 2013 in Paris. The name of the brand represents the designer and founder of the company. 

NASIBA HAFIZ: The woman who wears Nasiba Hafiz is not afraid to try new things and is not restricted by background, place or time. She has traveled the world and knows how to inject her heritage into a style that is particularly hers. 

SARA ALTWAIM: Born to a family of art lovers, Sara Altwaim has a passion for everything artistic. She took up writing poetry as a hobby and fashion design as her life’s passion. 

SHAHAD REHAIMI: Shahad Rehaimi’s Abaya collection is extravagantly unique and caters to trendy women. She aims to demonstrate every woman’s perfection through different fashionable styles.  

SARAH’S BAG: Dynamic, passionate and determined, with an epicurean’s delight in beauty and art, founder and creative director Sarah Beydoun designs handbags and accessories that are known for their intricate craftsmanship, attention to detail and vibrant, high-spirited appeal.