Designer Interview – Joanna Dahdah
Beirut born designer Joanna Dahdah made waves with her bold debut jewelry collection, Muse, which was inspired by painter Gustav Klimt. It won her “Best Newcomer” at London Jewellery Week and a dedicated following of customers all over the world. We sat down with the young Lebanese designer to learn more about how her international experiences and upbringing have influenced her career and outstanding first collection.
What is your unique story?
I am originally Lebanese. I grew up between Paris and Beirut, so I was lucky enough to have both a European and Oriental upbringing. This allowed me to learn French, Arabic and English. I have been exposed to a fusion of different cultures, which has enabled me to build my very own view of the world we live in. I then moved to London at the age of 18 to pursue my undergraduate studies at Central St Martins in Jewellery Design.
What first inspired you to become a designer?
I grew up very close to my grandmother who had her own line of baby clothes in Lebanon. I used to love watching her sowing and knitting delicate fabrics. She was definitely a big influence for me and it was from her that learnt the skill of working with my hands.
When I was 10, I discovered how to make Brazilian friendship bracelets and started selling them to my friends at the beach. I was always very passionate about crafts and art. I had a revelation at the age of 16 in a fine jewellery shop in Lebanon and decided that I wanted to make jewellery designing my career.
Who do you envision wearing your pieces?
My clientele is very modern and fashion orientated. They are not afraid of wearing big statement jewellery pieces or to take the plunge and experiment with new shapes that push design boundaries.
What have been your greatest challenges as a designer?
One of my biggest challenges as a designer has been to put together a trustworthy team to work with, which includes everything from production to sales and marketing.
As a designer it is also very challenging to always find new inspiration and maintain a high standard when creating new collection. I usually find my inspiration in painting, in fact the works of Gustav Klimt was the inspiration of my debut collection.
Could you describe how your process works?
First I pick a theme and research around the theme. I look into the emerging trends of the season, colour ways and gemstones, and then I research the relevant materials to use, whether that is silver or gold, genuine gemstones or man-made materials.
I start drawing ideas in my sketchbook and then create a mood board focusing on all of the elements I like and find most inspiring. I then sit at my bench and start experimenting with different materials and techniques, this is usually when I get most inspired, when I am using my hands and create something tactile and in 3-D.
What is your favorite piece you've created and why?
One of my favourite pieces is the 18k gold plated drop earrings
. I love their delicate silhouette their versatility and the fact one can wear them during the day and the evening. They are also very light which means you can wear them comfortably all day.
I also love the hollow ring
; it is one of my best sellers, and looks really impactful on.
Which other designer on Boticca do you admire most?
I love Domakaya
! Their pieces are fun, fashionable and easy to wear. I’ve got one of their scarves and they are amazing to keep warm and stylish in winter.
So what’s next for you?
I have just launched my flagship store in Beirut, which I’m thrilled about! It is one of the first contemporary multi-brand stores of its kind. So there has been much hype and attention around it.
I am also working on a new collection at the moment, which will be online very soon.
I have also just finished a big commission for Swarovski using genuine Swarovski Gemstones, I was asked to make a piece for their 2012 Trends Forecasting book. It will be on display at Basel World at the end of March.
I am really excited to be working with Swarovski as I started my career with them, so it’s nice to be working with them again.