As fine jewelry brand Marli turns 10, its founder reflects on Big Apple energy and creating a brand that empowers women.
“When I came to New York, it’s like they dropped me from the parachute and then I came and walked in my jeans and I was like okay, I’m ready,” laughs Armenian born in Syria Maral Artinian, the designer, entrepreneur, and founder of Marli fine jewelry. Her family boasts a jewelry heritage that goes back a century and spans Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. But ultimately, it was the architecture and energy of New York that seduced her, and Artinian subsequently founded her company that creates minimal, contemporary, and refined pieces in 18ct gold and with diamonds and gemstones.
Artinian shares that she has vibrant memories of her childhood surrounded by jewelers. “I used to go to my father’s boutique and just absorb everything,” she recounts. “I started working when I was 18 and I did a bit of everything.” She adds that her Armenian heritage plays a big role in her life. “It’s my race, it’s my mother tongue,” she affirms. Equipped with a strong sense of self, she began traveling to the diamond hub of Belgium, and slowly but surely, began creating her own designs and pieces. “I worked closely with our craftsmen, going to the workshop, and then spent hours just watching whatever was happening.”
Once in New York, Artinian began to create her brand on the principles of modernity but also woman empowerment, which she says was always part of her journey. “I experienced it on a personal level – women came, and they were confident in knowing what they needed and what they wanted to buy as jewelry.” Working today with her two brothers as business partners, she says they are all committed to acquiring new workshops, growing their business, and creating jewelry that speaks to women. The brand started working with black onyx, “an iconic color because it represented the eyeliner of Cleopatra as this is where [the collection] Cleo is inspired from,” adds Artinian. “And then we started adding colors – jade, lapis lazuli.”
Ten years on, with an elegant and vibrant New York boutique in Hudson Yards, alongside some of the world’s most established fashion and jewelry brands, the founder’s focus is as sharp as ever. Her jewelry is worn by the likes of empowered women Scarlett Johansson, Emma Roberts, and Balqees Fathi. “When I was working with an artistic director and he asked me how I would describe Marli, I said – happy luxury, and this is what I still want to translate today. When consumers put the jewelry in their hands, the pieces have a certain lightness to them and a flexibility that makes them easy.” Artinian is the embodiment of her brand. She practices yoga, contributes to New York culture via her support of the Metropolitan Museum, is forever delighted in the presence of her dog, whom she refers to as her shadow, and is fearless with her fashion – from wearing a Dior Bar jacket, to all-denim. The day of her interview with Vogue Arabia, instead of her usual elegant, deconstructed bob, she showed up with an unexpected long, chunky braid, showing a playful side reflected in her jewelry. And where does this real New Yorker love to hang out? Her favorite haunts are Avra restaurant on Madison Avenue and the L. Raphael Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel. Forever active like the city that never sleeps, she enjoys jogging by the Hudson River on the West Side.
From New York, the brand has expanded with boutiques in the Middle East, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are the latest store openings. “My dad would have been so proud of me if he was seeing all this happening,” she reminisces. “Every moment for me is celebratory. I have so many such moments actually. I’ve had many, many customers come to the store who’ve wanted to meet with me and congratulate me on my brand. One customer told me, ‘Thank you for creating.’”
Originally published in the October 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia