In an unprecedented collaboration, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Al Nahyan partners with Bulgari in a project that bridges cultures and celebrates the rich heritage of the UAE.
Under the dramatic dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, walls are projected with images of Sonam Kapoor riding a stallion in the Arabian desert. Dripping in the most glorious jewelry, the Bollywood leading lady next reappears in the streets of Rome, before being finally transported to inside the no-less-impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Excited, VIP clients of Bulgari and Arabia’s biggest personalities applaud the short film that could be one of the Indian star’s latest box office successes, but is, in fact, a magnificent interpretation of the new Jannah collection (meaning “paradise”).
Developed over two years, the 35 high jewelry pieces represent an unprecedented collaboration between the Italian jeweler and a leading UAE royal. Working together with Bulgari’s creative director, Lucia Silvestri, HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Al Nahyan supervised every step of the process, dedicating this collection to the UAE and the legacy of her revered grandparents: the late HH Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
No stranger to the worlds of beauty, design, and craftsmanship, HH Sheikha Fatima Al Nahyan is an ambassador of cultural development in the UAE and a patron of art, sports, and culture. Her roles include chairwoman of the Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Cultural Foundation, chairwoman of the Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, founder of Al-Shiraa, an international organization focused on breeding Arabian horses and organizing showjumping competitions, and chairwoman of the Ladies Clubs in Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain.
The Bulgari collaboration, discussed here exclusively with Vogue Arabia, is another example of Her Highness’s creative spirit and, most importantly, love for her country.
What are the values of Bulgari that drew you to partner on such a special project?
Connecting in values is a key foundation for me in any partnership and I am glad to say we connected in our visions and aligned our goals. I have always admired Bulgari’s culture and integrity and its commitment to innovation, where it constantly reinvents to cater to different markets and generations. I also admire how Bulgari manages to balance modernism with a classical DNA, which has been part of its 130(plus)-year legacy. I appreciate Bulgari’s authenticity, open-mindedness, and eagerness to collaborate and embrace our culture and identity, which was key to the success of Jannah.
At the heart of it, the Jannah collection is a tribute to your grandparents. Can you share a memory of a special time you spent together?
My grandfather, the late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, and my grandmother Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak are my idols in life. From my grandfather, I learned my first lessons in leadership. He was an extraordinary example of humility, generosity, and ambition. He shared with me his vision for the UAE, and to make it a Jannah, a heaven for everyone to come and live in harmony, no matter what culture or background. This was the foundation of the success of the UAE as a model, which sets it as an example for acceptance and understanding. My grandfather was a universal man, and yet he was proud of his roots. He was a man of the environment and was an advocate for saving water and protecting animals. As a child, I remember him taking me to Sir Bani Yas island to show us how to care for animals and appreciate nature. He had saved a lot of endangered animals and bred them in the UAE and in Morocco before releasing them into their native environments. The Jannah he imagined the UAE to be was indeed a green Jannah. My grandmother Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak inspires me every day with her commitment to the growth of our nation and people. She is committed to a fundamental mission to support and empower women. She entrusted me with key roles in the Emirati society, where I implement her vision and support women in different fields, such as entrepreneurship, culture, and sport.
You are a great supporter of art and culture. Where does your admiration for the craftsmanship of high jewelry stem from?
As an artist, founder of a cultural foundation, and an art collector myself, I appreciate the immense creativity in jewelry making and the immaculate intricacy and technical complexity that it entails. Jewelry is an important part of our culture and I learned early to appreciate the masters and artisans dedicated to its craftsmanship. Jewelry goes beyond adorning the body to adorning our clothes, in the form of embroidery, for example. I exhibited a body of work titled “The Black Garment: An Oriental Story” years ago, where I celebrated the jewelry adornment of our Emirati abayas and thobes using photograms, which is a cameraless photography technique. To me, jewelry is one of the best manifestations of the balance of creativity and craftsmanship.
Jewelry has a long, rich place in Arabian history. How do you see its place in the Arab woman’s life today?
I believe that jewelry shall continue to have a special place in our society as it is deeply rooted in our culture. It is deeply integrated into our happy moments and we celebrate it throughout various stages of life. In the UAE, jewelry is not a way to show glamour, but an intimate relationship with something that is timeless. Some of my favorite jewelry pieces were given to me by my grandmother, who has exquisite taste. Jewelry is a legacy to share across generations and has a great symbolic value of memory, happiness, and love.
How did you go about the technical and complicated work required for jewelry design?
I always enjoy creative challenges and the Jannah collaboration was an exciting journey of learning and growth. It took two years to realize the collection, where we had several meetings and workshops between Abu Dhabi and Rome. One of the biggest challenges was to present the signature Jannah flower, the five-petal flower, in all the designs, while keeping each design unique. Another challenge was the mixing of stones, as we have a big variety in the Jannah collection including emerald, amber, and turquoise, and carefully choosing the right combinations with the golds or rose golds. The biggest challenge, however, was to create a collection that captures the UAE heritage and identity, combined with the Bulgari signature identity while keeping it modern and fit for today’s woman. You will notice in the collection a prominent use of pearls, for example, as pearls hold a significant place in our history and heritage; pearl diving used to be our trade in the past. One key design highlighting the UAE heritage is the headpiece, which is unique to the Gulf and the UAE heritage and is presented in a modern and elegant design.
What special significance does Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque hold for you?
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of my favorite places in the world. It was my grandfather’s dream and he passed away just before it was completed. The mosque is more than a place of worship; it is a symbol of tolerance and a space for visitors from around the world to experience our culture and heritage. The mosque itself is inspiring on many levels. The design was inspired by different architectural references in Arabia and central Asia, thus reflecting a distinct identity composed of a rich mélange of cultures. The energy in the mosque is so tranquil and uplifting, and part of it is from the use of natural materials such as stone, marble, and gold as well as the fine balance and harmony in the design. The carpet in the main hall is a symbol of unity and empowerment; it was made by more than 1,000 artisans, women included, commissioned to create one of the world’s largest carpets. It’s not only a beautiful canvas, but a tribute to artisanship and craftsmanship. I asked Lucia and the design team at Bulgari to spend some time in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I was so happy to see how the mosque – my grandfather’s dream – inspired Jannah and gave birth to this meaningful collaboration with Bulgari.
There are many emeralds in this collection. Is this your favorite precious stone? How did you select the gems for each design?
I have a special connection with emeralds and the color green. Green was my grandfather’s favorite color as it is the color of nature, and my father loved and respected nature and all living creatures. That’s why we have the Zayed necklace in emerald. Lucia has an immaculate expertise with gems and Bulgari is known for having unique and sought-after gems, which, at many times, inspire the design. I am not afraid of mixing stones and colors together, although that was indeed a big challenge! Some of the designs in Jannah are reflective of that bold approach. Pearls, on the other hand, are another favorite and they were the favorite of my grandfather Sheikh Zayed, because of their deep connection with the UAE heritage and history.
The necklace with your grandfather’s name engraved is a deeply personal piece for you and your family. Can you share the journey of this significant piece?
In the planning of the collection, which comprises 35 pieces, I wanted to have a single iconic design; one that truly captures the spirit of the collection and absolutely narrates and tributes Sheikh Zayed as an inspiration. This particular design is the Zayed necklace, with the iconic five-petal flower in emerald at the heart of the design. On the back of the flower, my grandfather’s name is engraved in eloquent Arabic calligraphy, close to the heart where it belongs. Every detail in the design, from the flower to the emerald stone and the Arabic calligraphy, is reminiscent of my grandfather Sheikh Zayed.
Sonam Kapoor appears in the communication for this project – what drew you to working with her?
Sonam, beyond being a talented actor and public figure, is aligned with the mission and values of Jannah. Her beauty and grace perfectly reflect the elegance and sophistication of Jannah. Sonam comes from a rich heritage of jewelry making and appreciating craftsmanship. I also learned that she is an art collector herself and appreciates art and artists. It was a true pleasure to work with her.
Would you say that your appreciation for high jewelry has grown?
I have always appreciated art in all shapes and forms, including jewelry. Jannah gave me the opportunity to experience the other side of jewelry, which is the design and making part. This discovery made me recognize the magnitude and complexity of this art, only to appreciate it more, especially when you collaborate with a heritage house like Bulgari. Indeed, jewelry is both an art and a science.