As the future for independent brands remains at risk, it’s more important than ever to #BuyArabDesigners.
Next month, Egyptian jewelry designer Jude Benhalim will launch her latest collection, Etruria. The young Cairo-based creative has drawn on her experiences of a vacation spent in Italy to design pieces that are reminiscent of the various symbols and motifs used by the country’s ancient Etruscan civilization. Combined with her now-signature interchangeable aesthetic and use of mixed materials including gold-plated brass and resin, there’s a simultaneously modern and historical feel to the collection.
“For me, the spirals and semi-circle shapes in vibrant colors are redolent of a beautiful and carefree summer stroll,” says Benhalim. “The techniques used in hand-crafting these pieces include engravings, cut-outs and 3D circles to bring the shapes and symbols of Etruscan to life.”
Created in 18ct gold-plated brass and sterling silver with vibrant stones in blush pink, burgundy, emerald green and sky blue, each piece feels like a small work of art – yet utterly wearable. Having launched her namesake label when she was just 17-years-old in 2011, it’s all the more impressive that a young talent has been able to develop and sustain such a mature and profitable signature.
“The whole thing actually started as a school project – I just really enjoyed the design process and making beaded jewelry with my hands,” says Benhalim. “I was too young to understand the potential of my designs or the gaps in the market but my mother saw the potential and funded the initial capital; she’s now my partner and CEO of the business, and a main driving force behind the success of the brand.”
Fashion jewelry is certainly having a moment, with runway designers placing greater emphasis on statement accessories to complement their collections, and celebrities and fashion’s ‘influencer’ models (Gigi, Bella et al) making sure the market for standout pieces remains strong – Kendall Jenner has already been spotted in a pair of Benhalim’s architectural earrings. But given the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, we have to question the resilience of independents and if they will manage to find light at the end of the tunnel?
“I am trying to be as positive and productive as I possibly can be,” says the designer. “It is scary to think that the crisis might be prolonged…but with everything slowing down, it is giving me a chance to contemplate and reflect, both in my personal and professional life. I’m now focusing on revisiting my business model, strategies and structure, past projects and productivity. I can’t predict what will happen but what assures me is that it would be a global impact and I wouldn’t have to deal with it alone.”
Bouncing back from adversity is something the fashion industry does particularly well: economic instability tends to blossom newfound creativity. And this seems true for Benhalim who shares a particularly positive outlook. “Read a book, paint, solve a puzzle, reflect, meditate – this is a beautiful chance to feed our souls and creative spirit.”
The Etruria collection launches mid-April – available at JudeBenhalim.com and the Jude Benhalim showroom in New Cairo