Egypt's Rebel Jeweler: Jude Benhalim

BY Samantha Hamilton Rushforth / May 1 2017 / 16:16 PM

Meet the Cairo-based artisan blending traditional Arabic influences with modern motifs

Egypt's Rebel Jeweler: Jude Benhalim
Egypt's Rebel Jeweler: Jude Benhalim
Egypt's Rebel Jeweler: Jude Benhalim
Egypt's Rebel Jeweler: Jude Benhalim

Historically, Egypt has a rich history with the art of jewellery craftsmanship and is seen as one of the most revered regional hubs for traditional Arabian gems. Challenging conventional methods and muses, designer Jude Benhalim is keen to make her own mark on the ever-evolving jewellery landscape in the Middle East. Chatting to Bazaar about her individual aesthetic, the talented entrepreneur discusses current trends, business trials and and taking her label to new territories...  

Harper's Bazaar Arabia: What was the main inspiration behind your Urban Rebel collection?

Jude Benhalim: My designs are inspired by modern art and architecture, sharp edges and abstract constructions. 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 inspired me (both on a personal and artistic level) was the city. Aesthetically, pieces from Urban Rebel are inspired by the city and urban structures, roundabouts, pipelines, skyscrapers and cracked cement; featuring cubes, hoops, and cut-out patterns.

HBA: How long on average does it take you to create a new collection?

JB: It can take up to 5 months, from the design process to the production of 3-4 samples for each design until we are satisfied with the final piece. The process starts with a lot of research and a big detailed mood-board, I then create my sketches and hand them over to the workshop where our talented team of craftsmen begin hand- piercing the silver/brass to create the piece. 

Jude Benhalim

Jude Benhalim

HBA: Do you have any modern muses or do you prefer to look to the past for inspiration?

JB: Generally, I wanted to bring something new to traditional Egyptian jewellery; mixing it with modern art and avant-garde techniques. I maintained the essence of oriental look by using Arabic calligraphy and combining it with a modern approach.I am also inspired by women and their journeys. I design each piece of jewellery with a fearless female spirit in mind. Each stop she makes in her ongoing journey inspires a theme for a new collection, defining its story and aesthetic. I believe in giving more than just a piece of jewelry, I love to tell a relatable story with every piece I make, and inspire women to feel confident and empowered just like I am inspired by them every day.

HBA: Cairo has an internationally revered jewellery scene, would you say the fashion landscape in Egypt is generally evolving?

JB: Jewellery crafting is a very common art in Egypt, and has been for centuries. It was a challenge for me to penetrate a market that already has high competition, let alone compete on an international scale. The fashion scene is slowly starting to accept out-of-the-box designs, and experiment with avant-garde techniques. Egypt is also growing fonder of local designs and more supportive and encouraging of local production and craftsmanship. This allowed many Egyptian brands to emerge and find a great number of local supporters.

Urban Rebel Collection

Pieces from her Urban Rebel collection

HBA: How does your film degree impact the aesthetic you’ve created for your brand?

JB: It really opened up 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 as well as developing an analytical eye, where I am able to see beyond just a moving image.  

HBA: Would you say women across the Middle East have different tastes in jewellery? How does your Dubai customer compare to one in Cairo or elsewhere across the gulf?

JB: I don’t think women across the Middle East have different tastes in jewellery in particular, but I think it is a matter of convenience. Most countries across the Gulf have the traditional Abaya clothing, which often limits women to jewellery pieces that would show & go nicely with the Abaya. What I have noticed though, is that women from the Gulf are drawn more towards big statement pieces, mostly the gold-plated pieces. In Dubai, on the other hand, women are different than in all other Gulf countries, due to the nature of Dubai being a cosmopolitan city, with various intersecting cultures, which gives my customer base there a wide range of taste in jewelry.

HBA: What’s next for your brand?

JB: The woman that serves as a major muse for my designs has yet to discover a lot more about herself, her journey is only just beginning. I am excited to see where she goes next. Right now I am working on expanding my brand on a global scale and to compete in the international market. My work is already sold in Egypt, Dubai, Oman and Bahrain. I plan to showcase my collections at more tradeshow exhibitions around the world to expand to more selling point across the region.

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