It’s no secret that the pandemic has challenged the entire luxury industry at every level and has forced brands and designers to re-think the very manner in which their businesses operate on both a regional and global scale.
Dubai-based jewellery designer Hiba Jaber utilised the downtime to pivot her brand to meet the evolving needs of her clients, helping them mitigate some of the challenges they face today.
Hiba Jaber fine jewellery, founded in 2017, is renowned for its signature aesthetic turning special stories into jewels, often combining two or more characters and seamlessly fusing elaborate fine jewellery craftsmanship with a contemporary Arab perspective, creating bespoke pieces that have become a must-have for the industry’s “it” girls.
BAZAAR caught up with the talented fine jewellery designer to talk about her career, her brand and how she managed to beat the market crisis to come out stronger than ever before.
Harper's Bazaar Arabia (HBA): When did you decide that you wanted to be a jewellery designer?
Hiba Jaber (HJ): I have always known that I wanted to become a designer, but I didn’t know I would end up focusing on jewellery. I chose my educational and career paths with a focus on getting more experience so that it would help me in building my own brand one day.
I started with an Art & Design Foundation Degree and then went on to complete BA in Fashion Management at London College of Fashion, then I worked as a junior buyer then as an editor at a leading digital Arabic publication that focused on luxury, and it was during those experiences that my interest in jewellery started to grow.
In 2016, I went back to university to study Jewellery Design and Making at Insituto Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, and it was during that time that I started prepare for the launch of my own jewellery brand which I launched immediately after graduation.
HBA: How did the vision of Hiba Jaber jewellery come about?
HJ: The concept of the brand came to me in early 2013 when I designed a bespoke fine jewellery piece for my friend’s birthday, and then another for my friend’s wedding. For the wedding gift I wanted to capture the spirit of the unity of two soulmates, and thus I decided to combine the initials of their first names to create a pair of duo rings that commemorated their relatinship. Friends who saw the rings wanted their own versions and that was when Hiba Jaber jewellery was unofficially launched.
The duo rings are my most popular pieces and formed the foundation of my brand. Three years later I have expanded the brand to include more than nine product categories, each merging the sentimental aspect of customisation with the luxury element of highly technical fine jewellery design.
HBA: Your brand is known for its customisable pieces, can you tell us a bit about the design process for each order you receive?
HJ: My customisation process has a simple yet highly personalised approach. You choose the product type, the characters, the color of gold, the diamond setting and we send you the design mockup within four days for client approval. Following the client’s confirmation of the design draft, we move on to production which typically takes anywhere between two to three weeks. It is a very straight forward and simple process.
Our custom pieces are always developed with a specific concept, often combining two or more characters that are designed to seamlessly intertwine together. I don’t abide by fonts. I prefer to create each design from scratch, depending on the customer’s choice of letters or characters.
The characters customers often choose are their parents’ initials, their childrens’ initials, their own letters along with their partner’s and so on... There’s always a special story and a lot of meaning, and I make sure the process is personalised every step of the way, so that their special story is meticulously relayed through one-of-a-kind fine jewellery pieces.
HBA: Arabic calligraphy plays a prominent role within your designs. How has this been received on a global level?
HJ: My designs include characters and symbols of all different sorts; English as well as Arabic - it just so happens that most people love the visual aesthetic and symbolism of Arabic. As mentioned, I make it a point to never use pre-existing calligraphy or fonts but instead focus on designing the characters in ways that best compliment each other. There are no rules or boundaries so this enables me to create without any restrictions.
We definitely have customers from all different nationalities, Arabs and non-Arabs, both regionally as well as internationally. I am proud to say that the Arabic language is so beautiful that it is loved across cultures!
HBA: COVID-19 has had a major impact on the industry. How has the pandemic affected your brand? Are there any changes you have made to adapt to the evolved consumer mindset?
HJ: Our services have always been personalised every step of the way, with a focus on creating meaningful, timeless, stand out fine jewellery pieces that will forever be cherished. This pandemic has actually helped us to think outside of the box to create an even better version of elevating the customer experience.
We have just introduced bespoke services like the ring size concierge service and the "try before you buy." Our driver comes to you to measure your ring size, brings you pieces to try on and purchase from the comfort of your home.
At the same time we are the first emerging jewellery brand to have launched Tabby, the innovative regional leading service that enables clients to buy now, pay later. So they can buy their jewels and pay in installments without any additional fees or interest, which is very exciting!
And lastly, because our customers often choose our jewels for gifting, we now give them the option of including a personalised note so that they can send gifts directly to their loved ones anywhere in the world.
HBA: Can you share any learnings that others can apply to succeed in this 'New Normal?'
HJ: The most important thing is to treat your customers in the best way possible, think of their convenience and make the experience as personalised as possible. Be transparent in your communication – it really goes a long way. Dedicate a little bit of extra of time to answer all of their inquiries and questions, it sounds minimal but it can be the differentiation factor between you and your competitors. In short, take care of your customers, focus on the service and quality you offer, build relationships and, in turn, they will support you during tough times!
HBA: How important is sustainability to you and how do you incorporate it into your business operations?
HJ: Sustainability is important and essential for the future. My approach to material selection is very selective and if certain designs remain unsold for a while I disassemble them, melt the gold and create something new to minimise wastage.
We also offer our customers the services of upcycling their jewellery, which gives new life to pieces that may have been forgotten in the safe.
HBA: Do you have any advice for aspiring jewellery designers?
HJ: Be passionate about what you do, work hard and get as much experience as you can. Stay true to who you are and be sure to find an angle that lets you stand out. Also, always share your knowledge with your clients, especially when it comes to gemstones and diamonds – it makes a huge difference when they see your expertise and passion shining through!