Jude Benhalim’s striking Jewellery designs look like they’re straight out of an Arabic Musée des Merveilles. Mixing Arabic calligraphy with modern fashion, J’s Designs hybridize culture with international trends to reflect the bold, yet elegant character of modern Arab women. We had the pleasure to speak with the mastermind behind this sumptuously unconventional brand, and she has opened up to us about the secrets behind her iconic designs.
By: Mayar El-Shamy
What can you tell us about yourself and your business?
I founded my jewellery brand six years ago at the age of 17. It took one creative design project in high school to motivate me to pursue jewellery design –that was when I established this business with my mother and partner, Rana Alazm. Having lived my entire life in Egypt, I grew up in an ideal environment for pursuing design, with my mother working in the fashion industry and my father an architect, my work is inspired by an amalgamation of architectural constructions and modern fashion.
What do you major in and how has it helped shape your style?
I studied filmmaking in the American University in Egypt. Although not related to jewelry design, it 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 and empower women to embrace and express their individuality.
Is there something that drew you into designing in general and jewellery design in particular?
It was actually a school project that drew me into designing. As part of the IB program in High School, I had to complete a creative design project of my choice. Since jewellery was always a big interest of mine, I chose to make a debut collection of beaded jewellery and sold it at a bazar exhibition for charity. The event was a big success and everyone was very encouraging of my work and thought it was impressive, especially because I was only 17. That’s what gave me the first push to turn this project into a start-up business.
How far do fashion trends influence your designs?
My designs are influenced by fashion trends to a great extent. I always try to make sure my work can meet international fashion standards while bearing in mind that trending fashion is key to this.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My designs are aesthetically inspired by modern art and architecture, sharp edges and abstract constructions. I find inspiration in almost everything around me. There is always a starting point, usually a space that inspires me, where I draw my inspiration from. My designs end up being a very abstract interpretation of that space; how I visualize it. Conceptually, each collection builds on the one before it, creating a pattern; a journey towards ultimate individuality. I design each piece of jewellery with a fearless female spirit in mind. Inspired by her journey, each design is an expression of this muse and each collection moves with her, reflecting a specific sequence from her ongoing story. Beginning with her curiosity, she starts to explore spaces outside of her comfort zone and through these experiences she grows; discovering new and exciting ways to feed her soul.
In your opinion, what makes your brand unique?
I always make sure to create unique designs that mix traditional Arabic art with modern-day trends, and that is what essentially gives my brand its uniqueness. The modernization of Arabic calligraphy in jewellery is what gives my work its boldness amongst other designers. The materials used in my jewellery are meticulously chosen combination that also gives my work a high sense of uniqueness; mixing sterling silver and gold-plated brass with custom-made resin stones. Each of the coloured stones are custom-designed and handmade from a special resin material particularly for my jewellery. It is also the signature element that defines my designs and makes them instantly recognizable.
What fashion icons do you look up to the most?
Fashion Icon Iris Apfel, would love to see her wear one of my pieces one day.
What are your favourite jewellery pieces to design?
I love the design process in general, so I don’t really have a specific preference. I think seeing my sketches come to life is the best part of it all.
Did you have to face any obstacles on your way to making your name a brand?
I think the biggest challenge was having to juggle my work and my studies. It would become stressful at times, but thanks to my mother and business partner, I was able to find a good balance between the two.
How would you describe the women who wear Jude Benhalim?
The woman that wears my jewellery plays a major role in the design process. She is confident, bold and daring, and that is what my designs speak for. I want the woman that wears my designs to always empower her individuality and feed her curiosity.
Do you have a favourite item among your own jewellery collections?
My favorite is the silver Bullets collection because it is an armor that symbolizes everything my brand stands for. It is my signature collection and bestseller and will always be a special collection to me.
What do you envision for the future of Jude Benhalim as a brand?
I hope that the brand will be competing among international names on a global level one day. I believe that the mixture of Arabic culture with Western modern fashion is what allows my brand to really stand out in the international market.
Anything you would like to say to fans of your brand?
Stay tuned for my upcoming collection! It is quite different than anything I’ve ever done and I’m very excited to share it with you.