KHATT, which features beautiful, vibrant colours, unique aesthetics and a personalisation option, is Nadine Kanso’s latest collection for her ever-evolving Bil Arabi line. The collection stays true to the Lebanese designer’s trademark Arabic letters and distinctive approach to designing jewellery, which entails coupling traditional craftsmanship with her authoritative edge. Yet KHATT has undoubtedly pushed Kanso’s creative boundaries and signifies a new era of design for her acclaimed brand, which she launched to express her ideas about her culture and identity.
Kanso, who is also known for her photography, has additionally worked on art and design projects with international brands like Cruciani, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. We talk to the Dubai-based designer about her new collection that features all 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet in a combination of statement bangles, pendants, rings and ear cuffs. We also ask her about finding inspiration, her mentors and her other exciting projects.
What first led you in the direction of making jewellery?
After completing my studies in Communication Arts and Advertising Design (from the Lebanese American University), I developed a true appreciation for graphic design, typography and fashion. My first collection, Meen Ana (Who I Am), was launched in 2006 and served as the backbone of the Bil Arabi jewellery line. This was the catalyst for me to enter the world of design and photography when I relocated to Dubai, where I was inspired to create pieces that reflect my version of the contemporary Arab life and culture.
Name some of your biggest mentors in the industry. Plus,what is the best advice they have ever given you?
I have had many! Although I feel it is best to learn from your peers as opposed to your mentors, so perhaps Khalid (Khalid Shafar, an Emirati furniture designer based in Dubai) who told me to always stand my ground and continue to be my authentic self is someone who has been a great support throughout my career.
What is the single most important jewellery-making skill you’ve learned and why?
I have learnt almost everything from scratch. Every collection we finish, I learn something new and of course that influences the creative direction of the collection. I can’t single out one specific skill, but definitely with the advancements in technology and design, this has made me explore alternative design techniques and acquire new skills.
You are known for your trademark Arabic letters. What draws you to this style?
Being an Arab and growing up in Lebanon, the Arabic letters are a form of expression to me. I am experimenting with the format of how the letters are used on the designs and incorporating words as opposed to just single letters. I am very proud of my heritage and would love to continue to pay tribute to one of the most important alphabets.
How does the KHATT collection, which pays homage to the traditional Arabic phrase meaning calligraphy or line, signify a new era for your brand?
The abstract approach based in its pure design emphasises less focus on the letter and is a bold step for me. I have explored taking this idea forward in my work for a long time now and after having created the KHATT collection, I believe this novel style will lead to further revolutionary design in my work.
Who do you envision wearing the collection?
I see anyone with an open mind and experimental style wearing the collection. Whether it’s on a daily basis or occasionally, the items really do represent a part of you based on the letter or piece you choose. Those willing to take an edgier route in their fashion expression are likely to be drawn to the KHATT collection.
Tell us how the pieces can be personalised.
You can customise with the first letter of a person’s name on a piece of jewellery, a very sentimental gesture.
Which piece of jewellery are you wearing the most at the moment?
My favourite Hobb (Love) cuff, I never take it off.
What do you do when you’re looking to get inspired?
I am constantly being inspired by everything around me; when I meet new people, Iearn new skills, travel to new places, this always inspires me. I regularly strive to do something out of my comfort zone when it is easy to fall into the same routine.
Are you working on something new?
I am focusing on this year’s Design Ras Al Khor (DRAK) initiative, the collective that was co-founded by Khalid Shafar and Khulood Thani. This year, ‘Industry To Luxury’ at DRAK is taking place during Dubai Design Week 2017. I am truly passionate about the design movement, along with my co-founders. We are determined to encourage design research, innovation and material exploration. The projects showcase our emerging brothers and sisters and place them at the forefront of design and art. DRAK 2017 also displays a special project by ECAL University and showcases four incredible projects from the main designers, along with one of two guest designers’ projects. I am so proud, this is the third edition of the initiative since 2015, when we first launched and when the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary was used as the predominant driving theme.
I am also working on the Khawatir collaboration with Fadi Sarieddine (architect and product designer). This is the first time I work with furniture and products to create a limited-edition collection featuring a unique collection of mirrors and seating.
Last of all, I am working on my project for Apical Reform, where the design studio is a key driver for innovation in production technology and offers artists a creative voice.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
I have learned a lot through trial and error and various explorations based on my experiences during specific phases of my life, therefore I don’t know if I would necessarily change where its led me to. The journey of the unknown has forced me to push past my own boundaries and curiosity has fuelled my growth. Energy is an important power and you should let things come to you.
The new KHATT collection is exclusively available at Sauce Rocks at The Galleria Mall, Dubai.