BY ALI AL-BANA
We all look at jewellery as something valuable and significant, be it a pearl necklace, a diamond ring, or a crystal adorned cuff, that piece is bound to have meaning. What if jewellery had meaning, in your native tongue, your language, your heritage, and possibly your tradition? That piece would be a preserved item, passed on from one-generation, to the other.
Bil Arabi in English means “In Arabic”, a brand that captures the core Arabesque essence of the language, and enriches, as well as modernizes, it’s presence in a piece of valuable art. Nadine Kanso, the woman behind that brand was modernized, culturally enriched, kind hearted, and had that motherly instinct – she was a woman to be treasured.
Perle Magazine got the chance to interview her about her brand, her fashion flair, and her opinion on the Arabic culture infused in her pieces.
Tell us about your infatuation with the language and why you chose it to define your pieces.
I’m a great fan of the richness of our language, and the simple yet beautiful shapes of the Arabic alphabet. Each letter has a character of its own, it portrays feminine curves, and solid lines that represent vigor & charisma.
Bil Arabi was born to express what many of us, at one point in time, were afraid to claim. I wanted to express our identity in its beauty, and show the world that we have rich history, culture, and heritage that are by far more interesting, and rich than many.
Tell us about how you blend in your rich Lebanese roots, within the contemporary uptake of a cosmopolitan city like Dubai?
I have lived in many cities; my roots are Lebanese, and Beirut inspires me, and will forever do so. It’s the nostalgia in my work, the old scent of the coffee on my grandmother’s balcony, the trips to the Bekaa, the late Mankousheh after a heavy night out, and much more.
Dubai has become home to me, and it’s a place that I value, and wouldn’t want to depart. It’s my present, and my future – It’s where I blend my past with my present.
Earrings, bracelets, bangles, rings, and pendants – Walk us through the process of developing an idea, into a wearable work of art.
The process is mostly in my head – the inspiration comes and goes. Some ideas are sketched on paper, while others just vanish; some ideas come back to become pieces that I’m happy with to produce eventually. My inspiration comes from people, events and places, words I have heard, and words I’ve loved.
Do you feel emotionally attached to the final product?
Some pieces I just want to keep, and some pieces I wish I never had to sell, especially the ones that have meaning and a story behind. Sometimes the commissioned pieces are the ones that I truly fall for.
Which piece is your favorite from all of your collections?
There are many pieces that I favor from my collections, like the Fdeytak Bangle, or the Oshq piece. One in particular, that I always wear is my TOUL Ring, it has my boys’ names on it.
Besides Bil Arabi, you’re a photographer; tell us about your photographic identity.
I mostly work on socio-political subjects when it comes to photography, and this is where Beirut plays the big part. I know its history, and its pains so I can express my views on that in my work.
Have you shot any campaigns for fashion houses, brands, or ad campaigns?
No, I have not done any campaigns really, but I’ve worked with magazines and on several fashion shoots back in the day – I worked on a Gucci look book for Kuwait, and I must say that I got to shoot some cool individuals.
On which platform, Jewellery, or photography do you find yourself more fluid in expressing yourself? Why?
Both have become part of who I am and I can’t say I have a preference. I can say that I spend time in research and in working on my subject and theme in photography more.
Tell us more about your education, and child hood moments that influenced you, and made you who you are today?
I majored in Communication Arts (Radio, TV, and Film) as well as Advertising.
I guess those two majors prepared me for what I’m doing today.
I loved design, and I was always inclined towards fashion, and photography while growing up. I admired the way my mom dressed herself, and I can say that it inspires me with my style today.
A mother, jewellery designer, a photographer, and probably more, do you struggle to manage it all?
I’m thankful to God for creating women with the ability to multitask, we sure are very good it. At times it’s difficult, and things are rushed, and I’m bound to become a tad crazy! My kids, and husband are great at being responsible, they’re supportive, they love what I do, and that makes things easier.
Besides jewellery, do you plan to take your brand into another corner in the fashion industry? Clothing, bags, foot wear?
As much as I love fashion, I don’t think so! I am content with what I have, I might venture into another line, but it’ll surely be jewellery.
Anything you’d like to say to aspiring individuals, that are creatively blooming, yet can’t find their pathway at the moment?
Life’s a journey, and it’s full of moments and experiences. Things happen at a certain moment in time, and that’s for a reason. Never give up, the time will come for sure, you will find the way and path.
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