A striking visual contrast of the beautiful and the unexpected, Gaelle Khouri’s fine jewelry designs are avant garde sculptures set with diamonds and precious stones. Below, the designer unveils new pieces from her Soft Deconstruction collection.
“I grew up in Tripoli, a city in the north of Lebanon, where the perception of success is largely dictated by a handful of academic fields: medicine, engineering, law, and economics,” says Khouri. Her upbringing led her to study a major in science; however, her time in New York as a graduate student opened her up to the exciting world of design. Equipped with internship experience at Oscar de la Renta and Elie Saab, and with a solid understanding of economics, she launched her eponymous line in 2015 with the otherworldly collection Garden of Earthly Delights. “As I am self-funded, it took just over three years to fully launch the brand,” she explains. “Jewelry design satisfied my thirst for exploring and expressing the creative side of my personality that had long been suppressed,” she says, adding that her academic and professional background contributed significantly to developing entrepreneurial skills crucial for her endeavor.
Khouri moved back to Beirut and undertook private jewelry lessons with Lebanese painter Bernard Renno. Portfolio in hand, she was soon faced with the challenge of producing her pieces. “The jewelry industry in Lebanon is notoriously secretive and closed. It is privately controlled by a small number of families, making it very hard for an outsider to penetrate,” she explains. “However, over the past five years, I developed a solid network of highly competent artisans and trustworthy stone suppliers that continue to assist in the creation of my intricate designs.”
The designer continues, “Another challenge I faced related to the fact that I am a woman working in an industry controlled by men – in the production world – which required me to be sharper than I usually like, to be to be taken quite seriously.” The designer credits her tenacity for enabling her to overcome experiences of discrimination. “I have developed a personal relationship with the artisans and suppliers, which has completely changed the dynamics.”
Khouri explains that when starting her design process, she does not relate to what she sees, but to what she experiences emotionally. “I think that the ability to create something physical out of abstract and conceptual things like feelings is what drives my passion,” she says, referencing Italian architect Renzo Piano and Jean Tinguely’s sculptures as relatable designs. “Piano has such complexities in his work, there are so many different perspectives, when looked at from various angles.” Visuals aside, her reflective thinking is influenced by philosophical thoughts, which impact her creative process. “I have always been greatly inspired by the writings of Michel de Montaigne, Hegel, and Nietzsche, each of them providing me with the strength to pursue my love for jewelry design and endowing me with the emotional depth that I work to translate in my designs.”
Gaelle Khouri is the co-founder of Tripoli Alpha One Leo Club, which teaches youth how to better serve its community. Her pieces are available at Browns London, Talisman Gallery Harvey Nichols London, Stanley Korshak Texas, Bibi van Der Velden’s Auverture.com, and Sylvie Saliba in Lebanon. Gaellekhouri.com