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Interview: When the Stars Align

Yesterday, Egyptian jewelry designer Azza Fahmy arrived in Dubai along with perennially charming British designer Matthew Williamson to launch her glamorous collection “Azza Fahmy for Matthew Williamson” at Bloomingdale’s in the Dubai Mall. Features Editor, Caterina Minthe, who was on-hand to first preview the collaboration showcased at both the Spring 2014 and Fall 2014 RTW fashion shows during London Fashion Week, once again caught up with the designers for a relaxed conversation ahead of the evening’s big reveal—showcasing fringe earrings, layered coin necklaces, and numerous pieces featuring star motifs. 

After our encounters in London we’re happy to welcome you to Dubai. With your much-awaited collection finally arriving in stores here in the Middle East, your design process has now come full circle. Azza, you’ve created many pieces here—share with us what you consider to be the most versatile piece in this collection for Matthew Williamson. 

Azza: The necklaces featuring the strand of stars—and I think Matthew likes it also.

Can you actually wear this necklace in many ways?

Azza: Well, no you can’t.

(Both Azza and Matthew erupt into laughter.)

Matthew: That was brilliant. I love that answer.

Azza: What I mean is, you can’t wear it as a bracelet, but you can wear it in the morning and the evening.

Matthew: You can get many different looking outfits around that. You can wear it with a white shirt in the daytime, or a black gown in the evening. I’m on the same page.

Good to see that the stars have aligned.

Matthew: You know, I was actually going to say that.

Azza, in your design process, do you have a go-to precious stone?

Azza: It depends on the mood that I’m in. It’s not the stone that leads me—but rather the mood and the idea behind a design. Sometimes I like to work in diamonds, but sometimes I like to work with amber. Right now I’m leaning towards diamonds. I think that is the character of artists.

And women! What’s the first piece of jewelry that you received that really meant something to you?

Azza: A friend of mine bought me a piece from London at an auction. It was a Miriam Haskell piece. She didn’t work with valuable stones—but rather, plastic—but her designs are amazing. I was shocked when I received it. I have since started collecting Miriam Haskell—because she’s really a genius on how she puts stones together and I’ve learned a lot from her.

What is the most special piece of jewelry that you have gifted either to yourself or someone else?

Azza: I’m now designing something special for my daughter, Fatma, and in the process, I’m starting to learn about Arabic calligraphy. Usually I work with a professional team to do Arabic calligraphy, which carries proverbs and special meanings but now I’ve decided to do it myself. This piece that I’m designing for my daughter and this calligraphy will carry all of her characteristics. I think she will always wear it because this proverb is exactly “her.”

Matthew, your clothes have always been very glamorous, bursting with color, and exuberance. But if you could be reborn, and design in any era, which would it be?

Matthew: The seventies.

The seventies…I’m shocked.

Matthew: (laughing) I wondered why you even asked!

I was hoping you would reveal an unknown obsession to us.

Matthew: I love the forties (laughing and rolling his eyes).

You’ve had a lot of success on the red carpet. Do you have a favorite red carpet moment? 

Matthew: Well, it’s nice that you think I have. I don’t know if I have a Rolodex of women to pick from, but those who have worn my clothes get the essence of what I’m about. The clothes aren’t about the center of the latest thing… it’s a little more left field—that seventies vibe.

The women who wear your designs always appear so effortlessly chic—like your friend Sienna Miller, for example. 

Matthew: Sienna actually embodies what I do. Her character, her way with clothes…she’s down-to-earth. The first thing she wore of mine was an emerald-green Grecian gown that we designed together for the Oscars in 2004. We’re on the same page; our eyes are drawn to the same things. Interestingly or not, we’re collaborating again now. Just yesterday we were finishing her bridesmaid dress—she’s going to be Poppy Delevingne’s bridesmaid in Marrakesh next week. Because it’s bridesmaid, I was thinking beaded but she said, “I want to look like a little milkmaid, with embroidery anglais.”

Let’s talk about London Fashion Week. Last season, Mary Katrantzou delivered a stellar show and almost immediately following the rave reviews she started stating that maybe she would move her show from London to Paris. And yet you have designers—renowned, internationally acclaimed designers—like Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith who have stayed loyal to London Fashion Week. What’s your take on that?

Matthew: While that may work for her (Mary Katrantzou’s) business, I think London is as key on the international scene as the other three cities on the fashion circuit and even more so in some regards. I think designers should pick a city and stick to it, and if people want to see your show, they’ll come. That said, the majority of buyers and press, as you know, go to Paris. We always sell from Paris. We’ve got two days selling in London and we’ve got a week in Paris.

Azza Fahmy for Matthew Williamson is now available at Bloomingdale’s in the Dubai Mall.
By Caterina Minthe

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