It all started with a project. Like Kenyan designer, Brian Kivuti, Jude Benhalim was sent down her design path by a requirement from her high school. Her task was to complete a creative design of her choice. Fascinated by jewellery, she decided to make a beaded jewellery collection. Once completed, she sold it at a charitable sale and it was an immediate hit for her. The reaction led to Jude’s decision to start her own brand at the age of 17 years, with her business partner and mother, Rana Alazm. Keeping in mind, standing out in an internationally revered jewellery scene like Cairo isn’t a cake walk. Jewellery making has been rooted there for centuries! Yet her brand, founded in 2011, has managed to make a name for itself. So, how has Jude Benhalim done it?
Born and raised in Egypt, with Libyan and Syrian roots, Jude has always been surrounded by an environment that inspires her as a designer. And it starts with her parents. Her father is an architect while her mother has worked in fashion. Hence, her design style’s strong nod to architectural and geometrical shapes in a contemporary package.
Her timing also helps the situation. Egypt’s jewellery industry is at a point of its evolution where it’s more open to out-of-the-box designs and techniques. She’s able to create Avant-garde methods, as well as, utilise a mix of materials ranging from sterling silver and gold-plated brass to custom-made resin stones. But that doesn’t meant that she shies away from the rich history of jewellery craftsmanship that lives on in Egypt. She’ll add traditional elements such as Arabic calligraphy to show that she appreciates and understands the need for balance between modernity and tradition.
The country, as a whole, is also more inclined to support local production, allowing young designers like Jude to thrive. It also doesn’t hurt that she works with a team of skilled Egyptian craftsmen that work on her sample trails until they derive final handcrafted products she’s happy with.
Despite her epiphany in high school, she still went on the American University in Cairo (AUC) where she studied film direction. It’s this course that provided her with the gender related ideologies that have shaped the conceptual force for the brand. As she elaborates in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, “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.” Because a woman’s spirit is intricate, each of her pieces are carefully crafted to honour this. To further encourage the power of originality, Jude gives all her customers the opportunity to customize the statement piece of jewellery they want to purchase.
Additionally, she has been known to promote Egyptian women in the craftsmanship industry. In an interview with Vogue Italia, she expounds why her studio chose to work with a team comprising of five ladies. “I feel very proud for giving a chance to some women from my city to express their potentialities and push the boundaries imposed by society. I try to encourage people to appreciate the hard work and amazing talent of these women, and raise their awareness, because craftsmanship is slowly disappearing in this technological world.”
Each collection unfolds into the next
Motivated by the fearless female spirit, each piece would naturally have a unique story that reflects the journey of a modern woman. Thus, as Jude said in an interview with Enigma Magazine, she has structured her collections such that ‘each collection builds on the one before it, creating a pattern, a journey towards ultimate individuality’. It reveals the next chapter of the brand’s muse as she ‘realizes her potential and pushes her limits to reveal her inner beauty and strength’. Here’s a brief description of the metamorphism:
This fearless woman’s journey begins with ‘SHE’. Dynamic and boldly creative, Jude’s muse has ventured outside her comfort zone to discover novel and exhilarating ways to feed her soul. It’s brought to life through elegant materials with expressive sculptural design.
‘HER COSMOS’ uses sterling silver and gold-plated brass that’s embellished custom-made acrylic stones to bring out a mixture of authenticity and eccentricity. This collection is inspired by asymmetric space constructions and cosmology, taking SHE on a galactic journey, where SHE is more versatile, powerful and boundless in the whirlpools of infinity.
SPECTRUM Collection is inspired by the prism of light. Characterized by colourful radiance, flexible geometry and multiple materials, this collection empowers and nurtures the creative and independent spirit.
URBAN REBEL Collection is the part of the evolution where she knows herself, and finds comfort in who SHE is. Despite the metropolis that tries to cage her into a stereotype, she revels in her individuality. A form of strength SHE gathered from her SPECTRUM and HER COSMOS phases. She further expounds, “I wanted to create a collection about breaking free from limitations, and the system that forces people into things, like limiting women to becoming housewives, and turning people into workaholics. You tend to lose sight of your individuality in a city.”
Her most recent collection is the summer capsule collection, URBAN VIBRANCE, which is an extension of Urban Rebel. ‘It’s a colourful take on a selection of existing Urban Rebel pieces, only this time translating the vibrant energy of the chaotic city into colourful, wearable structures.’
As we’ve mentioned severally on this blog, there’s beauty in collaboration. Even more so when the creative isn’t necessarily in your wheel house. In the seven years her brand has been in operational, Jude has had the opportunity to do just that.
*Jude Benhalim x NäP*
This collaboration saw the jewellery designer team up with a Hungarian Egyptian writer and poet who also shares the same vision of women empowerment. The project, known as Metamorph Luna, is a concept that represents the 10 stages that most women go through. They chose to narrate it through a journey of self-exploration found in the solitude of the galaxies around them and within them. You can see how the power and expression of prose and jewellery come together in more detail here.
*Jude Benhalim x Shadden Fahim x Naila Marei*
The Goddess of Dawn collection was a collaboration that saw artists Naila Marei and Shadden Fahim hand-paint three original designs onto Jude Benhalim Aurora chokers and bracelets. On the surface, these paintings were inspired by goddesses of ancient civilizations as well as symbols and traits from mythology. But underneath it all, it was a manifestation of simultaneous power and vulnerability. To further drive home the message of individuality, only these six pieces were created – with minor differentiations – to ensure that the owner would be the only one to own that version. Shadden Fahim created the Mighty Aphrodite, The Hex of Hecate as well as Lilith and the Sins of Saints, while Naila Marei produced the Serene Selene, A-then-a Conquered and Fortuna-Tely. Read each piece’s story and inspiration here.
*Jude Benhalim x UNICEF*
As part of her constant effort to dedicate her art towards a good cause, she teamed up with UNICEF on their campaign to end violence against children. This particular part of the campaign’s goal was to ‘raise awareness towards the importance of good parenting and to end both physical and verbal violence against children’. Jude Benhalim has created a bracelet with the message to #EndViolence, which was gifted to Egypt’s top influencers to widen the scope of the campaign. For more on this campaign, click here.
At first, it’s the geometric shapes and architectural constructions that draw you to this jewellery brand. However, it’s the way she chooses to tell the story of the ‘fierce yet feminine, classic yet daring, edgy yet elegant woman’ that keeps you hooked. With a range of statement pieces to choose from, brought to life through a fusion of traditional and modern techniques, we can wait to see what Jude Benhalim has in store for the jewellery world in 2018. We encourage you to visit her pages to get read each of the pieces stories in detail and let us know what you think about the band’s approach in general in the comments below.