Syrian designer Yara Tlass’ Usfuur jewelry takes flight

Yara Tlass was born and raised in Damascus. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Syrian designer Yara Tlass’ Usfuur jewelry takes flight

  • The Dubai-based Syrian designer’s collections are a force for change

DUBAI: As the civil war in Syria worsened in 2012, Yara Tlass — born and raised in Damascus — relocated to Dubai with her family. The Swiss-educated MBA graduate was deeply affected by the troubles in her homeland and wanted to find some way to provide humanitarian assistance by combining her business knowledge with her love of jewelry design.

“It was life-changing on so many levels,” the 30-year-old told Arab News about her move to the UAE. “I honestly felt like it was some kind of responsibility to be able to do something and help out in any way I can. I was actually studying management and then completely switched to NGOs and humanitarian work. I just felt the need to create a positive change.” 

Along with friends — including activists, writers and filmmakers — Tlass set up a small grassroots charity organization called ‘Watanili’ (which translates to ‘My homeland is mine’) in 2014. It currently supports 50 displaced Syrian children in Turkey by hosting art therapy sessions and educational workshops.

In Arabic, the brand’s name means ‘bird.’ (Supplied)

An annual donation to Watanili’s centre and its activities comes from a percentage of the profit generated by Tlass’ delicate jewelry line — Usfuur — that she launched in 2015. Inspired by Dubai’s nascent yet vibrant cultural scene, Tlass claims that her decision to launch her own brand was somewhat random, made after attending workshops and various other creative initiatives. 

In Arabic, the brand’s name means ‘bird’ — an omnipresent motif in Tlass’ simple, elegant collections, which feature 18-Karat yellow, rose-gold and silver sterling rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Some of the pieces are also adorned with pearls, precious stones, tassels, and charms. It was important to Tlass to choose an Arabic name for her brand, she explained: “I’m very attached to my Arabness in a way, and I care about the Arab world in general. I think it’s important to put ourselves out there and remind the world that there’s talent and potential coming out of this region.”

It was important to Tlass to choose an Arabic name for her brand. (Supplied)

Tlass describes her personal style as contemporary and minimal, and that is also reflected in the aesthetics of her pieces. “I feel that jewelry is super intimate,” she said. “You wear it, touch it… It’s so close to your body, it really becomes a part of you. I find it very expressive of your personality and sense of style.” 

The choice of a bird as the brand’s logo fits with her philosophy for dealing with troubled times. “I wanted something to represent a message of hope and peace. And the bird seemed to be the perfect icon for that kind of ideal,” she said. “I really love that idea of being able to transcend borders and geographies, and to be able to manifest yourself as yourself and not be kind of boxed into nationalities, religions, or backgrounds.”  

Although Tlass relished the process of founding her brand and designing its identity, she admits there have been a few hurdles along the way. 

The choice of a bird as the brand’s logo fits with her philosophy for dealing with troubled times. (Supplied)

“It was very challenging, especially in a place like Dubai, where you have the most amazing designers and so many creatives. It’s really difficult to prove yourself and build a brand identity,” she said. Little by little, though, Usfuur has had a taste of success, participating in a number of pop-ups and making its way to prominent stores in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Lebanon. 

Making a statement through her pieces is essential for the designer, who plans to expand her creative process by collaborating with fellow artists in the near future. “When I create, I think of it as a statement piece. The whole idea of the project is to create that sense of inner peace, freedom, and being comfortable with who you are,” Tlass said. 

She also emphasized the fact that her brand is paired with an important cause. “We give back with every piece,” she explained. “The humanitarian aspect is inherent to the brand. The more we are able to expand as a brand, the more we are able to level up our humanitarian efforts in the future.”

Missing your salon? How to care for your hair while you #StayHome

We speak to a hair expert on the dos and don’ts of at-home hair care. (File/Instagram)
Updated 30 March 2020

Missing your salon? How to care for your hair while you #StayHome

DUBAI: As salon-goers face the closure of spas, salons and barbershops, we speak to Haneen Odeh, founder of UAE’s Snob salon for her take on the dos and don’ts of at-home hair care.

Many men and women who rely on salon visits to keep their lengths healthy could be left wondering what to do between now and their next visit to a professional hair stylist. But just as important is what not to do (read: DIY trim job) to avoid ruining your hair and having to impose your own personal period of self-isolation once the pandemic is over due to a ruined haircut you tried to pull off in the bathroom mirror.

Don’t bleach your own hair
“For those who usually go to the salon to dye their lengths blonde, roots may be starting to show now. And while it might be tempting, I would strongly urge to not bleach your own roots. Lightening dark hair is a very complex multi-step process that requires years of experience and professional grade products only available at salons. Bleaching your hair incorrectly might result in burning and damaging your hair. Instead, opt for a root spray such as the L'Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up Concealer Spray. Otherwise, you can always conceal your dark roots with a headband or try wrapping your hair up with a scarf.” 

Do deep conditioning treatments
“Use this time to nourish your hair with a deep conditioning treatment. A lot of people simply apply it in the shower on wet hair for a few minutes and call it a day, but that way means that your lengths aren’t getting the full benefits of the product. Think of hair like a sponge, when it’s wet, it’s already full of water and cannot absorb anything more. So to make sure the product is fully absorbed into your locks, towel dry your hair after shampooing and then apply the treatment. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse. You’ll see a huge difference.” May we suggest The Let It Go Circle hair mask from Davines, which is designed to boost hydration and revitalize dry and brittle strands?  

Don’t pick up the scissors
“When you’re bored, it might be tempting to pick up the scissors but, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t trim your own bangs or make any big changes to your hair cut on your own. It will inevitably go wrong and you will end up paying more to get it fixed in the long run. Try out some new hairstyles instead. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube so experiment a little and get your hair professionally cut once it’s safe to do so.”

 Don’t over wash
“The more you wash your strands, the more you strip the scalp of its natural oils, and that in turn makes the scalp produce even more oil, which causes you to wash your hair more often — and the cycle goes on and on. Now is the perfect opportunity to give your lengths a break and cut down on the washing. Your hair might get oily, but once the adjustment period is over, you will notice that it will require less frequent washing.”

Do try scalp treatments
“Too often, we pay attention to the lengths of our hair and give our scalp no attention. But caring for your scalp improves the overall health of your tresses, stimulates hair growth and gets rid of dandruff due to product buildup. Scalp treatments range from serums to salt scrubs, so pick a product that suits your hair needs. Le Labo's basil-scented Scrub Shampoo uses black sea salt and menthol to clear away dirt and cool scalps down.”