“Find something that you love and hold on to it while staying unique.”

On the occasion of the release of My Life in Jewelry: A Memoir by Azza Fahmy, AUC Press spoke with the author.

In this exclusive Q&A, Azza Fahmy offers a window into her journey as an entrepreneur and the inspirations behind her internationally renowned jewelry brand, giving readers a glimpse of the stories within her memoir.

What inspired you to write your autobiography? Can you share some insights and what surprised you the most about the experience?

Time Magazine review quote and a picture of Azza Fahmy's jewleries

I wrote my autobiography as a life experience from which young generations can learn and realize that achievement doesn’t come easily—it requires perseverance, grit, and passion. I aimed to make my autobiography a readable and beneficial experience for anyone looking to start their own business.

Writing my autobiography allowed me to discover a lot about myself. It was the first time I thought about all the things I’ve gone through over the years. It was a challenging journey, but more beautiful than I could have imagined.

To succeed, you need a lot of work and must overcome challenges. Throughout these stages of my life, I was learning from myself and healing myself.

What inspired you to be a jewelry designer?

My upbringing had a profound and lasting influence on who I am today. My father instilled in me a deep sense of connection to Egyptian history, heritage, and culture, encouraging me to study, explore, and travel to broaden my knowledge and understanding of the past and the world around me. He also played a pivotal role in shaping my Egyptian identity.

I originally started as an interior designer. Then in 1969, I attended the Cairo Book Fair and my eyes fell upon a German art book about the jewelry of Medieval Europe. And now, fifty-five years later, here I am, with Azza Fahmy Jewelry having become established as a globally recognized brand.

What were some of the challenges you faced as a woman entering the predominantly male world of Historic Cairo’s jewelry district in the 1970s? How did you overcome these obstacles?

Beginning my journey in 1969 in the heart of Khan al-Khalili, Egypt’s ancient jewelry quarter, I dedicated every available moment to learning under one of the craft’s most respected masters, thereby also challenging traditional gender roles by being one of the first women to do so.

My passion and dedication ultimately earned the respect of those around me. The community there was very helpful; they provided me with all the information I needed, on both technical and historical levels.

Your jewelry designs have gained global recognition and have been worn by royalty and celebrities. Can you share any memorable moments or experiences related to working with such prominent figures?

Our jewelry transcends borders, appearing at film festivals, fashion weeks, and in TV placements, and being worn by high-profile figures and celebrities. Each royalty and celebrity placement or campaign holds its own unique experience.

Azza Fahmy Jewelry has been worn by Rihanna, Julia Roberts, Vanessa Hudgens, and Shailene Woodley. Notably, Halle Bailey wore our bustier from the Azza Fahmy X Balmain collaboration. Also, in our latest campaign, we showcase our newest Lotus collection, featuring a friend of the brand, the Lebanese actress Carmen Bsaibes.

What I find most special about our campaigns is the preexisting admiration of the people we work with for our brand. Collaborating with someone who already cherishes our brand is always a memorable experience. We dress people, not based on their visibility, but on what they stand for and who they are. We strive to build lasting relationships with them because it’s about the person, not just their placement.

Looking back on your life and career, what advice would you give to aspiring designers, particularly women, looking to pursue their passions and make a meaningful impact in their communities?

Find something that you love and hold on to it while staying unique. Go the extra mile, succeed, learn, and fail, but never give up. Nothing comes easy, but you must make sure you always stay passionate about your dreams and goals.

To celebrate the release of the English translation of Azza Fahmy’s memoir, AUC Press is hosting a book launch event on Wednesday, 26 June 2024, at 7pm Cairo Time.

The event will take place at the historic Ewart Memorial Hall, located on the American University’s Tahrir Square Campus. Pre-registration will be necessary for attendance.

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