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Azza Fahmy: "I hate bling bling"

  • Story Highlights
  • In the 60s, Azza Fahmy was the first woman to apprentice in Egypt's jewelry district
  • Today she heads up international luxury brand, "Azza Fahmy Jewelries"
  • Her designs are worn by Naomi Campbell and Queen Rania of Jordan
  • She tells CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh what it takes to make it in the luxury market
  • Next Article in World Business »
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CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Azza Famy is used to breaking new ground.


18ct gold and sapphire earrings from Azza Fahmy's "exclusive" collection

In the 60s, she was the first woman to apprentice in Egypt's jewelry district. Today, she is heads up "Azza Fahmy Jewelries." A family business that has evolved into the first Egyptian designer brand and gained global recognition.

Her blends of Islamic motifs, modern design and gold, silver and precious stones are worn by the likes of Naomi Campbell and Queen Rania of Jordan.

In 2007, Fahmy collaborated with British fashion designer, Julien Macdonald, to provide jewelry for his catwalk collection at London Fashion Week. They worked together again in 2008.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh (AM) sits down with Azza Fahmy (AF) and begins by asking her what makes her products so special.

(AF): We take a lot of research before we do our collections. We use a lot of cultural elements and items, using the great philosopher, Saz. Great motifs. We turned a great motif to a modern motif. Each collectin takes a lot of time before you produce it. I think this makes the collection and the products very personal and very special.

(AM): Tell me about your collaboration with British fashion designer Julien Macdonald.

(AF): I think we met up when Julien saw our work and he liked it and came to meet me. I have something in common with Julien -- I think the flow of understanding. He showed me the collection and the colours of his work and we fantastically understand each other.

(AM): Will the designs be different for clients in the West?

(AF): Maybe they will not understand the verses and not understand the words. For Europe we are planning is taking motifs from various civilisations like Islamic and turning them into modern jewelry which people will understand.

(AM): Why did you look towards Europe in order to build your brand?

(AF): Maybe because we don't have a lot of Arab names, so all the rich people are buying foreign brands. Maybe we have to make a name and then go back.

(AM): But you did go West?

(AF): I do go West because I see my work is very strong and it has to be the West. I am very proud to take and Egyptian brand and an Arab brand and market it internationally. Not because I want to take it back to the Arab world but because I am proud of what I produce and I want foreign people to wear an Egyptian brand.

(AM): Now you have become this global name, you have started to target Gulf arab countries. Why?

(AF): As a family brand, I think we decided to expand and the nearest countries we had a good name in were in the Gulf. We have expanded in Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain and we are working in Saudi Arabia because they are the nearest markets in which we have a very good name.

(AM): Is it a challeng when it can be perceived in these countries that only European names can offer high-end products?

(AF): Of course, to have a product which stands beside [brands like] Cartier. it's a challenge but we are very sure of ourselves because we are presenting something special. Something which is different from these brands.

(AM): Why is there a tendency for consumers to buy silver and gold, not for their design but for their weight?

(AF): When you talk about the masses of people in Egypt and the Arab world, gold for them is their investment. People don't put their money in banks, they put their money in the hands of their wives and the ears of their daughters. They don't want to invest in added workmanship. It's a simple, fabricated jewelry which if he sells after five years he will more money than he paid before.

(AM): Tell me about the exclusive collection

(AF): Very few pieces are produced in this line - maximum 10 to 12 pieces based on precious metals, precious stones and handmade jewelry using techniques from our masters in the workshop. We don't repeat it. We can do pieces for a client if she has a stone or would like something unique.

(AM): As the industry is dominated by men, was there a glass ceiling for you?

(AF): Yes, it is a very dominant business. Most of the big names in jewelry design are men and there are not a lot of women working in this business.


(AM): Does it bother you when people call it designer 'bling'?

(AF): It is quite a deep and nice collection not bling bling. I hate bling bling collections!

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