“It all started with Ricoré coffee,” smiles Shourouk Rhaiem. “Growing up, we would watch their commercials, hypnotized by the scenes of this perfect family. I wanted that family more than anything. My parents were always fighting.” Seven years ago, the Tunisian-French jeweler and artist began applying crystals to a Ricoré coffee container, covering it entirely until it shone as brightly as the image of familial unity she held to the highest esteem — a family that belonged, and had its place in society. She would do the same with dish soap, detergents, and boxes representing the perfume her mother wore — Eau de Rochas and Poison by Dior. Today, all these household items are placed on shelves, their Swarovski crystals catching the light at the Galerie Pixi – Marie Victoire Poliakoff in Paris’s Saint-Germain neighborhood. It’s Rhaiem’s first ever art show, and at the evening’s dinner, loyal friends like Aline Asmar d’Amman, Ara Starck, Gabrielle de Taillac, and Lamia Ziade are chatting animatedly. Most of her pieces have sold.
It has now been 13 years since Rhaiem’s namesake brand began creating impeccably made costume jewelry and art pieces. “When we started Shourouk, we were showing at a prêt-à-porter fair in Paris. First Lady of France Bernadette Chirac visited my booth. It brought us luck and just afterward, we were selling all over the world. A few years later, American First Lady Michelle Obama asked me to create a special piece for her — a jeweled belt for her voyage to Europe.” There have been numerous highlights in Rhaiem’s sparkling career: collaborations with Jean Paul Gaultier, Philippe Starck, the Paris Lido, and Sephora. Her work has appeared on shows like Scream Queens, Sex and the City, and Gossip Girl. Swarovski asked her to create an art installation at its Vienna flagship. “I was stunned by all the supportive people looking at it with a spark in their eyes. Finally, my idea to crystalize the world had found an audience,” she says.
Over the years, Rhaiem has searched for inspiration in farflung locations. India has always held a special place in her heart. “My love affair with India began when I was a young girl, watching a Bollywood movie named Disco Dancer. I later had the chance to visit India and I was enraptured with Rajasthan — the beauty, the colors, the people. My collections have been inspired by the Maharaja lifestyle and I have even collaborated with Indian artisans.” Recalling her early days, working for John Galliano, she adds, “He sent me to India to supervise the embroideries for the dresses for his show; India has always been a part of me.”
Rhaiem’s newest jewelry collection references cinema via an allegory of Elizabeth Taylor on an impromptu food shopping spree — with all the fruits and vegetables turning to jewelry. Today, she seeks to balance the paths between her jewelry and art. “To me, it’s two sides of the same coin. Of course, the goal of jewelry is to create a successful brand, but in terms of art becoming credible, as you can imagine, it’s very challenging. She offers that a future aspiration is an art exhibition in Dubai. “I have a strong feeling that my sparkling universe could fit there,” she says. Rhaiem’s voice always has a ring of optimism to it — today, even more so. Atop the table lit with candles is a unique art piece — a bag that reads ‘Just Married.’ It belongs to Rhaiem, whose very new husband Carl is sitting across from her speaking with Starck. “I became the woman I wanted to be,” she affirms. Indeed, any young girl walking down the Rue de Seine that day and catching a glimpse of Rhaiem — fresh-faced, flashing emerald crystal earrings, laughing among her guests — would think, “What a perfect life.”
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
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