Many people in the Arab world do not appreciate the artistry and talents needed in jewellery design, instead seeing design as a simple and effortless job, says Moroccan jewellery designer Hicham Aguedach.
Because of this lack of appreciation, most people in the Arab world do not evaluate art, he added. Aguedach is Artistic Director at haute couture jewellery makers Bachtale Jewellery and also lecturer in jewellery design at Casablanca’s Royal Academy of Traditional Arts.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Aguedach describes how he got into jewellery industry and what inspires his creations. He also tells us more on some of the challenges he has faced during his career.
From a young age, I had artistic tendencies and a love of painting, and I also had an interest in clothes design and fashion, but I studied physical sciences based on the desire of my parents. I went to study design and arts after finishing college, and got a diploma in graphic design software, which helped me express art in various forms.
Then I got a Master’s degree in jewellery design from the Royal Academy in Casablanca, before going to Paris to refine my talent in the art of designing fine jewellery, which polished my skills.
I must refer to my teacher, Nathalie Sokierka, who should take great credit for helping me. She had great experience through her work with many French jewellery houses, and I stayed with her for a long time, allowing me the opportunity to become acquainted with the codes of ancient French jewellery art.
She told me that she expected me to have a great future in the Arab world and in Europe as a jewellery designer, because I possess Arab and European culture, and that I had an understanding of market needs as a result of Arab upbringing and also Morocco’s openness to Western culture.
What challenges did you face at the start of your career in jewellery?
In the beginning, there were no difficult challenges whilst dealing with clients outside Morocco, because they know the design profession and its significance, compared to the Arab world. This is especially since the Arab region lacks this kind of job, starting with the idea of specialising in jewellery design, and ending with the way of dealing.
Many people in the Arab world see design as a simple and effortless job, and most people in the Arab world do not give art its rights and value.
The biggest problem facing designers in Morocco is that companies and factories do not depend on specialised designers, because there are no experienced designers. Instead, they use traditional drawings and classic designs from foreign magazines, or some people who have the talent of drawing imitate some foreign pieces or drawings without having to study in the field.
Most companies in the Arab world have a perception that they can offer products without relying on designers, which has weakened the quality of products. They do not welcome the comments of designers to develop products and put forward new ideas and technologies that can boost sales, but they tend to imitate old products.
Designers are not well appreciated by some companies and suffer from inappropriate wages. These are all challenges that I tried to overcome, so that I can change the view that designers have the ability to change and offer products that help improve corporate sales and meet the needs of different customers.
What design style do you follow in your work?
First of all, the designer must know the needs of customers and markets in order to meet their desires. I put a lot of effort into finding the stones that I require to design and create unique pieces. Also, I love to present contemporary designs with a mixture of international arts.
What are your most favourite pieces?
I have made many pieces of jewellery that contain rare gemstones, but the best and most loved of my designs is the wedding ring that I designed for my wife, which used a Colombian emerald stone that I bought from Paris.
What materials do you prefer to use?
I like all materials, whether precious or traditional, as each has its own value and nature. Designers have to inspect the nature of the material and the best technique in which to use it in the design to match customers’ purchasing ability. For example, silver has different features from gold and diamond.
What are the pieces or shapes of precious stones you prefer?
I like emeralds in the octagon cut, as I see it as the best to express luxury and fine jewellery as it reminds me of Paris and in particular La Place Vendôme, which is the centre of the world’s jewellery industry.
What are the most unusual pieces that you have designed?
Once I was asked by a client to design a bracelet with the names of her twin children, a boy and a girl, inscribed on them. The condition was that the names would be from the Holy Qur’an and that they be related to one another. For me, it was a bit of a challenge, and it took me some time to choose the two names and create the design ideas and implement them, but I called them Shams and Kamar (Sun and Moon).
What are the sources for your design ideas?
I take inspiration from nature, heritage, and everyday life. Everything that has moral value touches the heart of whoever sees it. Jewellery is simply a mass of feelings that address the soul and mind, and this explains why the humankind is attached to it. Also, I always strive to get to know other Arab and foreign cultures and traditions to create new pieces that tell a story.
What are the current trends in jewellery industry?
The global jewellery industry is focusing now on producing pieces of contemporary jewellery with new ideas that suit the needs of consumers, especially with the low purchasing power of large sectors in different countries. There is also the perception held by some that jewellery is a non-essential commodity. The trend now is minimalistic and contemporary, and designs tend to be made for daily use not for special occasions like in the past.
Who is your favourite designer?
Because my beginnings were in fashion design, I love the work of [Lebanese] fashion designer Elie Saab. He was able to change and develop fashion in the Arab world, and I would love to work with him in the future.
What exhibitions have you participated in?
Unfortunately, I have not yet participated in jewellery exhibitions, due to time constraints, but I have participated in several exhibitions of drawing and plastic arts in Paris and Casablanca.
What provision is there for young people to develop their skills and projects in the jewellery field?
In my opinion, they should go to specialised institutes to develop their skills in jewellery design, in addition to studying the history of art because it is rich in ideas and fertile in techniques. It also polishes the talent of the designer, and enhances their artistic innovations.
Since I am a teacher at the Royal Academy of Traditional Arts in Casablanca, I try to focus on creating a generation of designers who are proud of their culture and who have the ability to present contemporary and new products. In particular, I wish to convince them of the importance of design and innovation and steer clear of used and consumed ideas. We, as designers, must respond to the requirements of the times, taking advantage of all available trends and tools, to put a fingerprint on the history of art.
How do you see the Arab jewellery market, and what are your expectations?
I am optimistic about the development of the gold and jewellery industry during the coming period, thanks to the technology that the world has reached that facilitates the manufacturing process.
In my personal opinion, we need to give more attention to this art, especially jewellery design and artistic creation, and to create unique and new pieces to be considered as the first building block for any project in this field. Unfortunately, in the Arab world, there is a great slowdown, so we do not see the role of the region’s jewellery industry in international artistic events.
Also, Arab countries lack many artistic and commercial exhibitions in the field that contribute to the popularity of the sales movement, the growth of the gold industry, knowledge of technology, technologies and modern machinery, and the interaction and exchange of experiences that occur through them between companies and designers.
The increasing global focus on sustainability in the fashion industry has also raised questions about the environmental impacts and jewellery ethics we adorn ourselves with.
The world is turning to environmentally friendly jewellery that does not have any negative impacts, from the beginning of the gold and precious stones extraction process from mines. This includes processes that do not harm the environment or use children, and many customers are distancing themselves from so-called blood diamonds extracted from areas of armed conflict, where diamonds are exchanged for weapons.
Consumers must check this through companies and designers producing the parts as well as certifying stones and diamonds through formal laboratories such as IGI or GIA.
How can the jewellery industry open up the world and create exposure to culture and people?
The art of jewellery is one of the arts that best expresses cultural identity. We have the examples in the Arab world of Pharaonic and Islamic jewellery. These have been present for thousands of years. They have also been used to express the extent of progress and prosperity of this nation, whether in its arts or craftsmanship. For example, Pharaonic arts have been imitated and developed through the ages. Also, the Moroccan heritage is still alive in the jewellery that our ancestors left for us.
We now find many international artists and celebrities such as Hillary Clinton and Madonna, on many occasions wearing kaftans and Moroccan jewellery.
What advice do you give consumers when buying gold and jewellery?
Many people may be reluctant to buy gold for fear of being cheated by some stores. The consumer should go to reputable shops and check the stamp on the gold and the quality of the stones before purchasing them, and then have an invoice and weight when purchasing.