They say “Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you will land among the stars”. Well, spectacular star Nadine Kanso has surely aimed for the moon, only this time she has gone way beyond the stars. This Beirut-born wonder is the embodiment of talent. With her unmatched creativity and her relentless drive to empower the Arab woman, she has gained worldwide recognition. Her move to Dubai has inspired her to portray her modern views on Arab life and culture through her incredible pictures and breath taking jewelry designs. Over the years, Nadine has collaborated with prominent fashion icons such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christofle, Bernardaud and Maserati on specially commissioned artistic projects. She has also showcased her work at several prestigious shows and auctions around the world. We have had the wonderful opportunity of speaking to this remarkable photographer and award-winning haute jewelry designer, as she shared with us sparkling moments of her passion-filled career.
Tryano: Tell us about Bil Arabi, how it started and how it evolved over the years?
Nadine Kanso: Bil Arabi began after I realized that the most prevalent message behind all my work was ‘Celebrate your Heritage’. I take pride in my identity, and I wanted to portray my contemporary views on what it means to be an Arab in today’s world through the unspoken beauty of Arabic calligraphy in jewelry. The Arabize Me collage had laid the foundation for Bil Arabi as it guided me to expand and pursue another line of art making, but I kept the identity consistent with the Arab heritage always on my mind. I started this project as an experiment back in 2006. I tried to combine my love for typography and bling bling with my background in design and express strong cultural messages in my mother tongue. The experiment lead to the creation of “noon” – the letter N in Arabic. I used 18-carat gold and embellished the ring with a semi-precious stone, and was so happy with the outcome. As people admired the ring, I decided to take a bigger step and create the whole alphabet. Gradually, I started to create words, then phrases and I finally realized my dream of seeing people express themselves “Bil Arabi”.
After Bil Arabi’s initial success, I decided to take another chance and include earrings, bracelets, pendants and cufflinks into the jewelry line I was creating. Using yellow, white, and rose gold along with dazzling precious and semi-precious stones, I tried to enhance the look of the traditional letters with my own funky twist. My goal was to create a new contemporary visual language that celebrates our culture and tradition in an aesthetic way.
My most popular pieces speak a variety of different local dialects. The first word I designed on a pendant was “Bhibbak” meaning I love you, which I had initially created for the love of my home country, Lebanon. With ‘love’ as an everlasting inspiration, I knew that people could wear the word to express their feelings to anything in the world.
Another popular item that I created was the “fdeitak” bangle. Fdeitak is a local Emirati expression of endearment and love. I wanted to articulate the emotions behind the word through the use of rubies, diamonds and emeralds, and I was blown away as it was auctioned off at Christie’s.
T: Can you tell us about your latest collection and how the UAE inspires you when creating a collection?
NK: My latest collection Nojoom is all about stars. Everybody likes stars and everything they represent. They’re romantic, they shine and give hope. They put people in a good mood, and I wanted to create something that generates happiness. The UAE is a very inspiring young place that is very welcoming and it blooms with the opportunity to rise like a star. My collections are inspired by Arabic calligraphy, but my mood often invites many other inspirations. My last photography exhibition was about Dubai, and the countless stories on how it evolved over the years. The pictures spoke of old and new eras capturing the Arab heritage over time.
T: How would you describe the Emirati woman?
NK: The Emirati woman is both strong and gentle. She is a hardworking woman who aspires to dream and achieve. With a lot of empowerment and support from the government, I believe that Emirati women can get to places that other people don’t have the chance to get to.
T: How long have you been living in the UAE and what has this country brought you personally and professionally?
NK: I have been living in Dubai for the past 19 years. I have found a balanced life here where I can feel safe and stable, and at the same time it has given me a platform to grow and succeed. Dubai continues to inspire me to create. I have had the incredible opportunity of meeting other talents and wonderful designers. I am very grateful for all the welcoming doors this country has opened for me.
T: Being a female entrepreneur in the region, how would you describe your journey here, and do you feel empowered as a woman living in the UAE?
NK: My journey has been very smooth, I have pursued my passion because I love what I do, and believe in it. The support I have always felt here has driven me to success. I admire the huge support that is devoted to women empowerment in the region, but it always has been that way in the UAE. I feel very lucky to be living here.
T: On the occasion of the UAE National Day, what are your wishes?
NK: The UAE makes us all very proud. On this special day, I wish the UAE endless peace and boundless growth. I also hope that the flag would always rise high... Like the stars.
After this amazing journey with renowned designer Nadine Kanso, we are proud to invite you to view her collection now available at Tryano. Her incredible designs await you eagerly in store and online! You are also welcome to place an order of any piece that you may not find available in store and online, and we will be happy to assist. Happy National Day!