Jewellery designer Heba Makled proved her artistic talent through turning her passion for jewels into a successful career that grabs the interest of many women and girls, although her major in university was not actually related to this type of art.
Daily News Egypt sat down with Makled to learn more about her work and vision regarding the jewellery industry in Egypt and the region.
How did you start your jewellery design career?
I used to work for a tourism company, and then quit for family reasons. At that time, I was trying to figure what to do while staying at home. After several attempts, I decided to make pieces of jewellery and sell them online. I then started to market my products on social networking sites.
Afterwards, I tried to develop my jewellery design skills through studying at the Jewellery Technology Center at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
I also gained experience from working with international fashion designer Marie Louis Bishara, the owner of the BTM brand. I learned how to create pieces of jewellery that match different types of clothes. I also learned to give a special character or trend to each collection of jewellery, to avoid confusing customers with different unmatched design ideas.
I also took a course at the American University in Cairo to study management and marketing at the American University in Cairo’s WEL Program.
What are your most prominent jewellery collections?
I used “cashmere”, which is a motif from the Indian heritage found in clothes, to create a collection of bracelets, necklaces, and brooches.
Another jewellery collection was inspired by Arabic calligraphy, constellations, shells, and stones.
Some of your jewellery collections were used in cinema and TV series, how does this type of jewellery differ from ordinary one?
I designed some jewellery pieces for Egyptian actress Mai Ezz El-Din, in her film “Omar and Salma – Part 3” and in the TV series “Al-Shak”.
Indeed, the design of a jewellery piece for cinematic purposes is different from normal designs because it requires studying the psychological and social aspects of the character in the film or series. And this was evident through the character of “Wassila” that Mai Ezz El-Din played in the Al-Shak series. Wassila had a paranoid personality and was self-centred, so I put her name in all the jewellery pieces she wore in the series, to show her as a psycho-paranoid.
How did you obtain a patent for one of your jewellery designs?
I tried to create unconventional pieces of jewellery, so I used a real head of a mummified crocodile in a collage of silver, and it was displayed in an exhibition at the Cairo Opera House, launched by artist Hassan Al-Shark in 2011. Later, I hired a lawyer to take required legal procedures to register it and I finally obtained the patent.
What are the biggest obstacles and problems that you faced in this industry?
I have faced many problems and challenges in jewellery design, mainly plagiarism. Many of my works are imitated and sold on the market without my permission. There is no law in Egypt that protects the copyrights of designers.
Upon entering some European countries, visitors pay financial fines if they possess counterfeit products for international brands, in an attempt to preserve the rights of designers and companies, as well as prosecute companies that do so in these countries.
Also, the creation of handmade products is very expensive, and the customer may not appreciate it. Handmade products are completely different from quantitative production, as only one piece of each design is produced.
Presence and continuity in the markets is a difficult matter for designers. It requires a great effort in introducing products with new ideas and opening different marketing paths, to preserve the position and fame achieved by the designer.
Funding is also one of the most prominent obstacles, especially when participating in international forums or exporting because the cost is very high.
What are the materials you use?
At first, I used copper in my works, and then I went to use silver and seashell. I also used gold upon customers’ desires.
How do you deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis?
The pandemic has negative and positive aspects. The sales movement has decreased dramatically, especially with the decline in the purchasing power of citizens. Coronavirus has led to major social changes, and there are many citizens who have lost their jobs or were subjected to salary cuts and some projects were closed.
But it also led to an acceleration of online sales, and gave customers the culture and confidence in dealing online. International brands have tended to expand their e-marketing activities.
E-marketing is the future, but it requires huge costs for advertising as well.
And most of the sales during the Coronavirus period were through special orders, from former customers.
How do you deal with your customers?
I try to advise my clients and help them choose pieces that match the shape of face, neck, body, and clothing, and the trust between me and the customers pushes them to respond to that.
What is your latest design?
There was an idea to launch products inspired by the imaginary photos of COVID-19, but the fear of customer’ reaction limited the designers’ tendency to implement such ideas.
I also plan to put up pieces of jewellery related to the sporting milieu, and I think that it will be a new theme in the market during the coming period.
What are your tips for young designers?
If young people want to enter the jewellery industry, they must avoid imitating others and present different products that bear their identity and personal imprint.