As luxury jewellery brand Azza Fahmy opened its first retail store in London this year, Professional Jeweller caught up with managing director, Fatma Ghaly, and head designer, Amina Ghali, to find out how business has been in Burlington Arcade…
How has the debut London store been performing?
Fatma Ghaly (GF): We are very, very excited about the store. We just opened in February, but there’s so much that has been happening and so much that we have planned for it. Having a store in London has really been a dream of ours for quite some time – over a decade – and I think it just happened perfectly. We never found the right fit before. We wanted the right location and I think being in the Burlington Arcade that’s so iconic with jewellery, is the right fit.
Amina Ghali (AG): The Burlington Arcade a couple of years ago was very different, but the way they are now taking something so iconic and giving it this new facet is pretty much everything that we do with the brand. We take things from heritage and culture and give it a new feel.
What has been your focus for the first year with a retail presence in London?
FG: For us really the first year has been about understanding the market. Because, we’ve been working in London for quite some time, we have done a lot of collaborations, but having a store is very, very different. For us it was really a learning experience. We want to understand more, and everything, about the market. So that’s the focus. And now going into the second year, planning for it, we are much more knowledgeable than we were when we were starting off, because when you are starting off you are making plans but you are not sure because you haven’t been there. So the focus for year one has been understanding the market and learning.
What have you learnt about the market so far?
FG: One of the key things has been seeing the very diverse clients. We have clients from all over the world and that is very interesting, and understanding what each group wants and how we cater to them and how that reflects on design has been important.
AG: We always thought consumers in the European market would be more drawn to dainty pieces, but we are very shocked and surprised that the majority of our customers that are coming into the store are actually drawn to the more statement pieces. That’s amazing, and it is reflecting on how I think about the design. They are looking for something different, they are looking for something unique, they are looking for a story and they are relating to the stories we are telling.
Do you think you will extend your retail presence in London/ the UK?
FG: Definitely. Our focus now, when I am asked what next, I say next is more London. We are not decided yet — is it keep this store and expanding in another location? Or do we expand this store to another location and into other retailers? But the focus is, how do we become stronger in London? And that’s currently what we are working on.
What are women now looking for in jewellery?
FG: I think people are looking for something that works in multiple locations. So they are looking for something that is timeless, something that they can invest in today, but they can wear today and tomorrow. There is also a big trend about personalisation – something that is theirs. People are moving away from mass product and even with mass product they are looking to curate it in a way that makes it personal to them. People are looking for something more than just a nice piece of metal, they want something that is timeless and tells a story.
What women do you have in mind when designing?
AG: We think of a lot of women because our clients are very different, but they mostly all have one thing in common – they all want something that speaks to them. And when I am designing I am always taking into consideration how it is going to be worn. It is actually more important than who is going to wear it. So I look at the modern day woman today, who is working and has a very busy life, and I think about what she needs to be able to easily put on a piece of jewellery herself. It’s not like the old times where it takes to three hours for women to get dressed and there’s someone to assist – so I always take into consideration the practicality and the wearability. When she is sitting at a laptop how do the rings feels? If she is on the underground or wearing a woollen jumper, how do the pieces sit? Do they feel safe in it? Like shoes, jewellery can be something that is very comfortable or very uncomfortable. Women need to be able to wear it and go to work, then go out for dinner, and not worry about it. We don’t want people to be scared to go on the underground, or worry it is going to snatch something.
There’s an inspiring team of women behind Azza Fahmy, what advice would you give women looking to develop in the jewellery industry?
FG: For me, I never thought because I was a woman I was at a disadvantage. I think if you don’t put that obstacle in your mind, and just go for it, people react to you differently because you are not coming to a place of feeling you have to prove yourself.
AG: Being true to yourself is very important.