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Career Q&A: Sustainable British-Lebanese jewellery designer, Alexandra Hakim

By Aileen Yu

26 Nov 2020

Fashion |INTERVIEW

Known for her innovative craftsmanship and dedication to sustainability, British-Lebanese jewellery designer Alexandra Hakim's creations have been featured in Vogue Italia and worn by Rihanna. Recently, FashionUnited interviewed Hakim via email on what inspired her to work with metal and her label’s zero-waste approach.

This year, brands and retailers have had to face unprecedented challenges due to the impact of the pandemic on the global economy. According to consumer data tracker, PSFK Research, the fashion industry is placing new value on sustainability, circularity and efficiency. In this Q&A series, FashionUnited is spotlighting four sustainable and ethical brands that were already on the path towards a more socially conscious and circular fashion future.

From discovering desolate shores of Lebanon’s polluted coastline to the vibrant citrus groves of the Mediterranean, Alexandra Hakim’s extensive travels have not only been a source of inspiration, but also led her to discover unique materials for her jewellery.

Background

In 2016, Alexandra Hakim launched her eponymous brand in Beirut and made waves on the jewellery scene, gaining the respect of the predominantly male industry of craftsmen and goldsmiths due to her technical talent and trademark methods. Now based in Madrid, Hakim first discovered her talent for jewellery while studying for an Art Foundation at Central Saint Martins in London. She went on to gain a BFA in Jewellery & Metalsmithing at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she specialised in design innovation and developed her collections inspired by sustainability.

Did you always want to be a jewellery maker and work in fashion?

I’ve always been seduced by fine art and the history of art. At school, I enjoyed making huge contemporary sculptures and colourful paintings. It wasn’t until I had tried a metals workshop at Central Saint Martins that I had decided to trade in my paintbrush for a blowtorch, and my clay for pieces of silver. I began to scale down my sculptures in the form of wearable jewellery, using the body as a canvas to share my stories.

What’s the greatest part about creating your own sustainable jewellery brand?

My brand revolves around a zero-waste approach, from concept to design to execution. I work from found materials and consumed objects, which would otherwise go to waste. I take these elements and repurpose them into pieces of jewellery, giving them a new lease on life in a way that preserves every detail of the original material. The beauty of working in metal is that it can be melted down almost endlessly so that nothing goes to waste. In that sense, the jewellery making process naturally lends itself to sustainability!

What’s the most challenging part?

I make everything by hand so that each piece is unique and authentic. The idea of creating something new everyday is the most exciting part of my work, but also the most challenging. It involves high levels of focus, a lot of trial and error, and good craftsmanship. Today, the importance of craftsmanship seems to be undervalued, but for me, it is essential to my brand’s DNA.

What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?

Learn when to say no. Not every opportunity is worth taking. It’s human nature to feel inclined to take on all of the interesting opportunities that come your way. But with time, especially as an emerging designer, you realise that it’s an exercise of self-discipline. Although collaborations and events are important, it’s about knowing which ones are worth saying yes to without spreading yourself too thin.

Hakim’s signature method involves casting found objects and used materials directly into precious metals so that nothing is wasted.

What do you envision for the future of your brand?

My dream is to have my own physical store/open studio – an experimental space to really connect with clients and to expose the behind the scenes of the brand. I like the idea of full transparency in an industry that seems to hide so much information from its consumers.

What is your go-to sustainable fashion look?

Vintage denim and a pair of gold Alexandra Hakim earrings.

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Photos: courtesy of Alexandra Hakim, ASV