DUBAI: Meera Toukan waves her hands as she speaks, a glint of turquoise blue flashing on her ring finger. She’s wearing a ring from her latest collection for her eponymous label: a colorful array of jewelry adorned with beautiful Arabic calligraphy carrying the words “Love,” “Freedom,” and “Peace.”
“I call it the ‘OG’ collection, a focus on these three pillars that spread a message of peace and positivity from our region,” says the young designer. “And I love to use color.”
Toukan’s work blends Middle Eastern and Western influences to form a new hybrid style. The Jordanian designer is adding to her existing repertoire of plexiglass clutches that have a cult following in the region. Made out of delicate material, the compact, fragile clutches are true works of art with Arabic calligraphy, Palestinian keffiyeh designs, and candy hues. The bright pops of color, along with the messages of harmony, have propelled her to popularity as a designer of regional accessories. Each of her designs is handmade by artisans in Jordan, with locally sourced materials, and custom orders take three-to-five days to make.
Toukan grew up in Amman but moved to London to study fashion business at the University of the Arts London, going on to attend Regent’s Fashion School London, where she specialized in fashion marketing.
“There weren’t a lot of other Arab students in my classes, so I felt this mix of East and Western influences was unexplored in the international fashion market,” she says. “This was my chance to stand out.”
She began to experiment with streetwear, including hoodies with snappy slogans, cheeky emojis, and Arabic words.
“I enjoyed creating this line of clothing, but the idea of developing accessories using plexiglass never left me,” Toukan says. “It’s an innovative material that can be used in jewelry and clutches, so when the pandemic hit and plexiglass became easier to source, I knew it was time to try.”
Although she continues to offer seasonal hoodie designs, her main focus became the unique plexiglass clutch designs available on her own website and on e-commerce site Kinzzi.com. The designer also showcases her collections at pop-ups across the region, including at Homegrown Market in Jeddah, and Filtered in Dubai. While her entire collection is available online, Toukan displays highlights at the pop-up locations, focusing on trademark pieces carrying messages of love, freedom and peace.
“I felt that during the pandemic people wanted to feel a little normalcy — wearing a nice clutch even for a quick supermarket run or a beautiful ring around the house,” she says. “It was a great time to experiment and ultimately confirm that accessories are an exciting market, especially as we all recover from the pandemic and start going out regularly again.”
Her family is supportive, with her older sister sharing her creative flair. Rather than fashion and accessories, her older sister ventured into home décor, however. She also creates custom pieces, handmade in Jordan by the same artisans.
“We both work hand-in-hand with local artisans,” Toukan explains. “Our artisans do intricate, custom embroidery, beaded flowers, all made to order.”
Meera Toukan clutches are sustainable. Her team makes each custom piece, never in bulk except for occasional samples for customers to see. She hopes to expand internationally. Some of her designs, including clutches that bear the word ‘Hob,’ or ‘Love’ in Arabic, are particularly popular with customers in London.
“My focus for now is the GCC, but I hope to expand my brand’s presence to European cities and experiment with other materials, including wood,” she says. “I found Dubai to be a great place for a fashion start-up.”
Toukan always carries a blue spiral notebook with her so that she’s ready to note down regular inspirations from her daily life. She says that she loves when customers order her clutches as personal gifts, particularly brides who carry them on their special day. Her only word of caution is to be careful with the plexiglass clutches, as they could easily break if they fall off a table.
“Fragile, yet bold, just like love,” Toukan says with a laugh.