After the Ready-to-Wear, Accessories, Debut Talent, Evening Wear and Guest Country nominees, it is time to dig deeper into the last category: Jewelry.

Here, we’ll discover why Lebanese Alexandra Hakim, Egyptian Fatma Mostafa and Moroccan Youssra Nichan (Dihyan) decided to apply to this year’s FTA Prize, and uncover everything about their relationship with fashion, their goals, loves and their plans for the future.

Who will succeed the talented Alia bin Omair, the winner of last year’s edition? A woman, for sure, but who…?

ALEXANDRA HAKIM: “WE NEED MORE FEMALE ARTISANS IN THE MENA REGION’S JEWELRY AND METALSMITHING INDUSTRY.”

1/ What pushed you to send in your submission to this year’s FTA Prize? What do you expect from this experience?

I was a finalist in 2020, the year that FTA happened 100% online. I really wanted to get the full, in-person experience, so I decided to try again!

2/ What was the first object related to fashion (a piece of clothing, jewelry, an accessory…) that dazzled you when you were a kid, and why?

My grandmother’s gold rings always stood out. It was the way she wore them with such poise and confidence. That’s when I first understood the power of jewelry, and the emotional connection a beautiful piece can hold.

3/ What was the trigger that made you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer and nothing else?

I have always been seduced by fine art and the history of art. At school, I enjoyed making contemporary sculptures and vibrant paintings. It wasn’t until I had tried a metals workshop at Central Saint Martins that I decided to trade in my paintbrush for a blowtorch, and my clay for pieces of silver.

4/ Which fashion designer, Arab or international, inspired you, and why?

Azza Fahmy, the jewelry powerhouse of the Arab region. I had the opportunity to visit her studio in Cairo and her work ethic has been a source of inspiration ever since.

5/ What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?

Pleather.

6/ What was your worst fashion faux-pas?

Also pleather.

7/ If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

Anything from the Schiaparelli SS21 collection. It’s the perfect balance between playfulness and elegance, minimalism and maximalism, art and fashion, the past and the future.

8/ Who do you dream of dressing?

Iris Apfel, the 100-year-old fashion legend herself.

9/ What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?

My brand revolves around a zero-waste approach, from concept to design, to execution. I work from found materials and consumed objects, which would otherwise go to waste. I take these elements and repurpose them into timeless pieces, giving them a new life in a way that preserves every detail of the original material.  The beauty of working in metal is that it can be melted down almost endlessly so that nothing goes to waste. In that sense, the jewelry making process naturally lends itself to sustainability.

10/ What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?

The lack of female artisans in the jewelry and metalsmithing industry.

FATMA MOSTAFA: “WE NEED THE MENA REGION’S FASHION INDUSTRY TO BE MORE RELEVANT.”

1/ What pushed you to send in your submission to this year’s FTA Prize? What do you expect from this experience?

I felt it would be an opportunity to develop my brand in more ways than one. I expect this experience to give me a deeper knowledge of the fashion industry, and up-close experience of the inner workings of the industry, not only in the Arab region, but on a more global level.

2/ What was the first object related to fashion (a piece of clothing, jewelry, an accessory…) that dazzled you when you were a kid, and why?

When I was a child, during my first visit to the Egyptian museum I was utterly captivated by the jewelry of the ancient Egyptians, they still amaze and inspire me to this day.

3/ What was the trigger that made you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer and nothing else?

For me, there are many motivations, one of which is that I regard jewelry making as an art in itself, from sketching to design to implementation. In addition, there’s my love for experimenting with different materials and merging them together. Working through these stages I always discover new things about myself.

4/ Which fashion designer, Arab or international, inspired you, and why?

There are many inspiring Arab and international designers with amazing work and awe-inspiring success stories, but the most inspiring experiences for me are to be found in the ancient civilization and traditional jewelry from each city, such as Nubia in Aswan, or jewelry from Fallahy and Siwa in Egypt, because they stem from instinct and natural inspiration and are truly in tune with their surroundings.

5/ What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?

Crocs.

6/ What was your worst fashion faux-pas?

Uggs and those shoes with socks.

7/ If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

I would choose one of my earrings called “Royal Water Lilies” because I would feel special when wearing it.

8/ Who do you dream of dressing?

A lot of celebrities, but for now, Bella Hadid.

9/ What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?

Sustainability means a lot of things to me, starting from my consistent effort, to producing my pieces under humane working conditions, allowing each piece and everyone to take their time. Extending that, I put an emphasis on good quality that extends the longevity of the piece, and minimizing waste in both raw materials and packaging.

10/ What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?

The fashion industry in our region still faces many challenges, we need it to be more relevant and to support itself through dedicated events. On the other hand, there is a greater appreciation of craftsmanship, an availability of good quality materials, and support for emerging designers.

YOUSSRA NICHAN: “IT WOULD BE GREAT TO SEE LESS PRESSURE ON HOW WOMAN SHOULD DRESS IN ARAB COUNTRIES.”

1/ What pushed you to send in your submission to this year’s FTA Prize? What do you except from this experience?

I discovered FTA through Zyne in 2019. At that time I had not yet created Dihyan, I was working in a completely different environment. The incredible story of Zyne and its founders Zineb and Laura inspired me and made me want to jump in and follow my passion. The day Dihyan became eligible to participate in FTA I submitted my application.

Being chosen as a finalist in FTA is a dream come true. It is a great opportunity to celebrate Moroccan craftsmanship and the hard work put into Dihyan from all the parties involved in the creation of our label. It is also an amazing opportunity to take our brand to the next level.

2/ What was the first object related to fashion (a piece of clothing, jewelry, an accessory …) that dazzled you when you were a kid, and why?

The first object related to fashion that dazzled me as a child, was a Joher necklace (a necklace made of pearls). I’ve never forgotten this traditional henna ceremony that my mother organized for me at the age of 7. I remember being amazed by the white pearls that belonged to her and that she passed on to me, that special moment when it was delicately placed around my neck by her soft and reassuring hands and the Negaffa. I was mesmerized by the moment when my mother’s hands delicately laid down the “Taj”, a tiara that she made for me, on my little head.  I felt like a princess with all those jewels and I remember not wanting to take them off. I have always loved jewelry, especially the Moroccan jewelry that I have always worn outside of traditional occasions.

3/ What was the trigger that made you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer and nothing else?

I never had the courage to make it my career until the [Covid] confinement took place. Shortly after this was the catalyst for my passion. I realized that life was too short and that it was important to seek happiness and do what we love.  I decided at 35 years old to change my life and to start creating Moroccan jewelry pieces, to send them from my heart to the world. This was despite some important people in my life not approving. I broke free and succeeded with my call from high above. This was my breakthrough as a woman and what has given me purpose in my life. Today, the ones that thought this was a bizarre idea hold me in great esteem. I encourage all woman and humans to follow their gut and to conspire with what the universe has in hand for them. It is just never too late.

4/ Which fashion designer, Arab or international, inspired you, and why?

Edgardo Osario, the Creative Director of Aquazzura, who said once: “The greatest gift life can give you is to allow you to discover what you love to do. I started Aquazzura when I was years old, with no money and just a suitcase full of shoes and a head full of dreams”. Osario is one of my biggest inspirations. A man who started from humble beginnings, who followed his passion and dreams and made them big. His success, and most of all his humility, are examples that I respect highly.

5/ What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?

Micro trends that don’t fit the person’s true sense of style.

6/ What was your worst fashion faux-pas?

Low-rise jeans back in early 2000.

7/ If you were to choose one on your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

I would definitely choose an oversized black suit with a cinched waist and big buckles. For me it’s very important to be comfortable, chic and sexy in our daily outfits, and the oversized black suit with the big buckles is for me the ultimate outfit that is sophisticated while remaining simple. Besides, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

8/ Who do you dream of dressing?

Meryl Streep.

9/ What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?

For me the word sustainability refers to three aspects, social impact, economic impact and environmental impact. I think it is very important to be able to create your business while respecting and enhancing these three aspects and creating awareness about how these affect our planet. Whether on a small scale or a large scale, if each one of us were to commit to sustainability we would leave a better world for our children.

10/ What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see change?

I believe that this is a delicate and controversial subject. But one thing I will say is that it would be great to see less pressure on how woman should dress in Arab countries. Both women and men should be able to choose their fashion preferences. I would like to see more freedom in the Arab fashion industry, especially for young girls.