Blue topaz stones sit on wiry gold lines – one straight and the other rippled, to mimic a needle and thread. The two mismatched earrings form a set by Dubai-based jewellery designer Donna Hourani, who’s latest collection, a tribute to her grandmother, launches tomorrow. Titled Jaroor El Teta (grandmother’s drawer), the range provides a fresh perspective gives a fresh and eclectic energyon simple, everyday knick-knacks. Jewellery motifs are inspired by trinkets from the designer’s grandmother’s sewing drawer: jewelled rings mirror the texture of thimbles, Lebanese coins form statement pendants, and single earrings, shaped like safety pins, hair pins and even cotton buds, are dotted with delicate gemstones.
Hourani launched her debut collection in August last year, but had never imagined that one day she’d be at the helm of her own fine jewellery company. “Before I started designing jewellery, I wasn’t into it at all; I wasn’t into fashion in general and didn’t know much about the industry,” she says. Hourani was raised in Dubai before moving to Lebanon to study interior architecture, and worked in the field there for a few years. A passion for dance led her to becoming a tango teacher, and she opened a dance school in Lebanon, before getting married, moving to Dubai and having two children – with one more on the way now.
“It happened by accident – I wasn’t planning on starting a business at all,” she says of her foray into jewellery. A cousin connected her with a jewellery designer and wholesale diamond seller in Lebanon, and Hourani asked if he would produce some designs for her. “When I started sketching, I got really excited about it and something came back [to me]. I felt productive, you know, I was doing something.”
She started posting images of her sketches on Instagram, and before long, began searching for local suppliers and workshops within the UAE, to avoid the hassle of travelling to Lebanon each time she wanted a design produced. “I wanted to be more hands on,” she says. “I started taking classes at the Gemological Institute of America in Dubai, and the more I got into it, the more I thought: ‘Hey, this isn’t so hard, and it’s fun’. It just grew into a small business very quickly.”
Hourani’s previous collection included kitschy, gem-studded critters. A tree frog, for instance, was encrusted with pink, green and yellow sapphires, with black diamonds for eyes, and its long, rounded arms moulded to grasp the finger of its wearer. Dainty gold chains were adorned with tiny elephant charms and gold hoop earrings were topped with fierce panther faces.
Hourani’s forte, however, is quirky earrings. “I use materials that are timeless and classic, and I make something more contemporary out of them, but there’s a twist to them that makes them different,” she says. Hourani is an advocate of the single-earring trend, and also creates ear-cuffs and mismatched earrings. Last season’s Dew on Tendril Coil Earring is the designer’s signature creation, and features a single, 18-k gold coil with scattered freshwater pearls. “It’s important for me to make them wearable,” Hourani explains. “For me, personally, I wouldn’t buy something high-priced that I’m not going to wear all the time.”
In the past year, she has launched two collections, and has just finished designing her upcoming spring/summer 2018 range. She has participated at two fashion weeks, but finds that trade shows are more efficient in terms of gaining exposure and meeting with industry buyers. “So far, pop-ups have [brought] the most sales,” she reveals. Locally, Hourani stocks her brand at S*uce Rocks and O’de Rose, but hopes to expand her reach. “I definitely want to go international, so I’m going to start working on that now,” she says.
Fashion spotting: Our favourite homegrown labels in Beirut
Exclusive: Zuhair Murad on the beauty of handwork and haute couture
How one lucky Dubai fashion student got the opportunity to work with Rami Al Ali