Wednesday February 21st, 2024
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Egypt’s Indira Jewellery Drop Collection With Architect Karim Al Assal

By melding art with architecture, the ‘BAB’ collection with Karim Al Assal evokes a seamless fusion of cultural narratives.

Ziyad El-Helbawy

“I yearned to explore life in the Middle East, a part of the world I hadn't lived in before full time as an adult. It was a decision fueled by the need to bet on myself and test the waters of entrepreneurship.”

Hidden within Cairo's alleys lies the Khalil production house, a family-run bastion of craftsmanship where jewellery-making expertise has flourished through generations since 1976. Here, the pieces of Egypt's eco-conscious fine jewellery label, Indira Jewelry, are meticulously crafted under the guidance of its founder, Marwa Saadawi.

Observing the artistry within Cairo’s workshop walls from a young age profoundly influenced Saadawi. She not only appreciated the cultural heritage ingrained in traditional designs but also saw the potential to preserve and innovate within these boundaries through a contemporary lens.

“Frequent visits to artisans, not just in Khan Khalili but across Cairo, deepened my appreciation for the artistry behind traditional jewellery.” Indira Jewelry Founder Marwa Saadawi tells SceneStyled. “Witnessing them meticulously crafting intricate pieces ignited something profound within me. It was a moment of realisation – the rich cultural heritage of Egyptian jewellery needed preservation and a touch of modernization.”

After an apprenticeship at Khalil, Saadawi launched Indira Jewelry in 2017. Her goal was to use time-honoured techniques to craft minimal, elegant pieces that tell nuanced stories at the intersection of heritage and innovation. Saadawi, armed with a psychology degree and business acumen, has created a values-driven brand that transforms craftsmanship into contemporary art while fostering a sense of community.

“Realising the potential for combining my love for creativity with a desire to help people, I took a leap of faith. I left New York, ventured to Egypt, and embarked on a journey that has shaped both my professional and personal life over the past seven years.” Saadawi shares.

Indira's aesthetic language draws influence from rich architectural history, and the intersection of East and West. Clean lines and subtle symbolic motifs reference design traditions in a refined, understated way. Each collection builds subtly upon the next to keep enriching Indira’s narrative legacy. Beyond luxurious pieces, Saadawi ensures craftsmanship is community-focused.

“See, each piece I design has a story, a narrative that goes beyond just being pretty. It's about cultural unity, creativity, and pushing the boundaries of what jewellery can be. I want people to wear Indira and feel like they're part of something unique, something that goes beyond the usual bling.”

Indira's ethos took centre stage at a recent Mobilia-sponsored event, uniting jewellery designers and architects for an inspiring exchange. It was during this gathering that Saadawi crossed paths with interior designer Karim Al Assal, leading to the birth of the 'BAB' capsule collection. “When I got called up to participate in the Mobilia Jewelry event, a friend of mine recommended Marwa [Saadawi] to collaborate with. I saw her work, and instantly recognized a mutual aesthetic; a connection that I immediately felt,” architect and interior designer Karim Al Assal tells SceneStyled.

Inspired by the historic gates of Old Cairo, Al Assal drew influence from the region’s architecture. “I found inspiration and influence in Fatimid and Islamic architecture, particularly the old doors of Cairo [Bawabat Al-Qahira]. Old Cairo used to have over 20 gates, with only three remaining today. Those three remaining doors inspired me. We started sketching and the process just flowed,” Karim Al Assal shares with SceneStyled.

For Saadawi, collaborating with Al Assal allowed Indira to further connect with architecture. “Indira has a strong connection to architecture, and ‘BAB’ became a perfect fusion of our works,” she shared. Pieces in the collection draw inspiration from Cairo's architectural lines and curves, reimagining the city's gates in minimalist forms. The collection, titled 'BAB,' pays homage to the city's mediaeval portals. Over six months, nine distinct pieces were meticulously crafted. Whether rings, necklaces, earrings, or cuffs, each embodies timeless narratives rooted in the streets of Cairo, encapsulated within their sleek lines.

The Mo ring draws its decorative arches from the ‘Moez street,’ the ‘Zu Zu’ ring finds itself named after ‘Bab Zuwaila,’ and the ‘Nasser’ ring symbolises victory, echoing the energy of ‘Bab Al Nasr.’ The naming technique behind the collection cleverly alludes to their architectural and historical sources of inspiration, while staying true to Indira’s own naming philosophy that bestows upon each singular piece the name of a person.

The process was seamless according to both designers, recognising parallels between their creative languages despite differences in medium. “Marwa and I both use similar materials - wood, weathered steel, natural stones. It was exciting designing for a micro scale in jewellery versus my usual large-scale buildings,” Al Assal shares.

For Saadawi, such collaborative initiatives are crucial to Indira's evolution and cultural impact. “It’s about cultural unity and pushing boundaries. I want people to feel as though they’re part of something unique beyond bling,” she explained. Her conviction empowers artisans while nourishing community through sustainability initiatives. Indira's new 18-karat gold line will see 5% of sales contributed to a mental health fund, reflecting Saadawi's own professional background as a practising therapist.

In addition to benevolent causes, sustainability is a core value for Indira Jewelry. Founder Marwa El Saadawi sources materials ethically and implements eco-friendly practices throughout the production process, encouraging her own patrons to do the same: “One thing I'm particularly proud of is our recyclable program. We encourage our customers to bring back any silver pieces they're done with, and in return, we offer them a sweet discount on their next purchase. It's a way of closing the loop and giving pieces a new lease on life.”

Under Saadawi's leadership and through enriching partnerships, Indira Jewelry continues elevating craft into contemporary art that preserves legacy while breaking boundaries. With each launch exploring new design territories at the intersection of heritage and innovation, her label promises to keep contributions to both industry and community vibrant. Through jewellery that nourishes spiritual and communal wellness, Saadawi's work ensures Egypt's cultural traditions remain for generations to come.

“Our mission is clear: we aim to create something that doesn't yet exist, something infused with meaning, and something that provides genuine value.”


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