Jude Benhalim is a jewelry label you need to know. The young Egypt-based designer founded her eponymous brand in 2011 when she was only 17 and has quickly made a name for herself in the North African country’s burgeoning design scene with her unique, carefully handcrafted pieces. Benhalim employs a small team of marginalized women in Egypt to help with the production of her traditional yet contemporary rings, cuffs, necklaces, and chokers. The brand prides itself on its commitment to empowering women with job opportunities and a platform to spotlight their talent. Today, the Cairo-based jewelry brand benefits from both an international and regional reach, and most recently launched on Thouqi.com, a new e-commerce platform that stocks more than 80 exclusive Middle Eastern brands. Below, the young designer speaks to Vogue Arabia about her passion, inspirations, and personal style.
On the early beginnings of Jude Benhalim:
“Having lived my entire life in Egypt, I grew up in an ideal environment for pursuing design. My mother worked in the fashion industry and my father is an architect, which explains why my work is inspired by an amalgamation of architectural constructions and modern fashion. Growing up, I always loved creating stuff, I loved doing arts and crafts. I always knew I would end up with a career that would feed my creative side.
I started this business seven years ago, at the age of 17. I am part Libyan and part Syrian, but was born and raised in Egypt. I studied filmmaking at the American University in Cairo. Although film is unrelated to jewelry design, studying it opened my eyes to many gender-related ideologies that became a major conceptual force behind my brand. It led me to create pieces that encourage women to powerfully embrace and express their individuality. It also helped me develop an analytical eye, where I am able to see beyond just a moving image. This allows me to think beyond plain aesthetic when designing and to always maintain a strong yet subtle message behind every jewelry piece I create.”
On her design process:
“My jewelry brand caters to the fierce yet feminine, classic yet daring, edgy yet elegant woman. My jewelry brings a fusion of tradition and modernity, combining materials – 925 sterling silver and gold-plated brass – with colorful, custom-made resin stones and fluid Arabic calligraphy. I would describe the aesthetic of my work as being a combination of contemporary art and oriental Arabic craft. It is a young and modern take on traditional Egyptian jewelry, and that is what I think gives my work its uniqueness.”
I have a team of five women who work in my studio. I feel very thankful to have given opportunities for women to realize their potential and to break societal limitations. What our society overlooks most of the time is that these women have the creative capacity to embody Egyptian heritage and culture. I encourage more people to recognize the hard work and incredible talents of these craftswomen, and to shine a spotlight on the work of artisans that is slowly dying in our technology-driven world.”
On her newest collection, Urban Rebel:
“There is always a starting point that inspires a collection; a space where I draw my vision from. For my latest collection, Urban Rebel, the inspiration or ‘space’ that moved me (both on a personal and artistic level) was the city. The city life tends to get overwhelming, with a strict system that seeks to keep your individuality hidden. The Urban Rebel collection is about breaking away from the limitations of the urban life, which is something I have always felt strongly about. I love to get away from the city every now and then, it helps me gain perspective of who I am. Aesthetically, pieces from Urban Rebel are inspired by the city and urban structures, roundabouts, pipelines, skyscrapers, and cracked cement, and features cubes, hoops, and cut-out patterns.”
I would say the Cracked Concrete set has proved to be the standout pieces of this collection. Coincidently, it was my favorite design when I was still in the design process.”
On her personal style:
“I usually like to dress comfortably. Plain earth colors define my casual style. Accessorizing with the perfect statement jewelry piece is how I complete my outfit. I can’t leave home without earrings! They instantly make any outfit.”
On what’s in the pipeline for the brand:
“I will be launching a new collection soon. It will be different to anything I’ve ever done before, so I’m excited about that. I hope to keep growing the brand to someday be competing in the international market. That is what I’m working towards every day; putting Egypt on the fashion and design world map.”