Time moves like the sea — it shifts and flows, adapting to the world as it changes around it, and because of it. Style works in a similar way, and it’s no surprise brands like LAIÉN have found considerable inspiration in the ocean’s waves.
For its debut collection, LAIÉN looked not only at seawater but the shells that form within it — shells that are both imprints and reflections of the sun’s movement on the water’s surface. With Arabic roots, the emerging jewellery label creates entirely modular pieces — putting aesthetics, functionality and sustainability at the forefront.
Here, Schön! speaks to LAIÉN’s lead designer to get the inside scoop on the brand’s ethos, the inspiration behind this collection, and the brand’s ideal wearer.
Could you describe for us your history in jewellery design?
When I was little, my mother, who is an avid appreciator of old jewellery, would always take me to the old silver bazaars in Cairo’s Khan el Khalili. We would spend hours digging for antique pieces and creating new pieces therefrom or simply fixing them to be used for redecorating. Seeing her as a lady of simple yet fine taste, I absorbed her love for a well-made piece of jewellery at a young age and grew with it.
As I was graduating from law school in 2016, I started frequenting Khan El-Khalili again, buying every gemstone I could find, reading books thereon, and creating incessantly. That is when I rediscovered my passion not only for jewellery, but also for design. I started playing with pieces and techniques, learning new ones from craftsmen, books and again from my mom who had accumulated a fair amount of knowledge on the art of creating jewellery.
LAIÉN to me is basically the fruit of an ever-growing learning process, and a discovery journey. It has been full of moments of excitement generated through reconnecting with my inner child and creating something worthwhile in the process. I believe that the day I stop enjoying such a process would be the day I would cease to create, and that is why I am keen on always learning about the craft, art and design.
How did you settle on the name LAIÉN for your designs?
LAIÉN in Arabic means adaptable or flexible, something which is found at the core of the brand. As all pieces are modular, they can be worn in different ways, and hence, are adaptable to suit the wearer’s mood. I chose the Arabic language because it is my mother tongue and the closest to who I am that it can be my own voice and carry the name of my brand.
Why did you turn to the sea for inspiration for this collection?
I always found my peace and reconnected with myself by the sea like nowhere else. I think that when we start anything new, it should always be from somewhere familiar, or something we know well, then grow from there.
Being the sea fanatic that I am, I was inspired by abalone shells, and when I learned about how they gain their opalescent hues of blue from the refraction of sun rays through the water on the shell’s surface, I was utterly fascinated by how all these elements interact together to create this spontaneous occurrence. I instantly felt like this was something I wanted to explore and experiment with through my work.
As you mentioned, the pieces in this collection are all modular. Is that something you set out to do from the beginning? And why is it important for this collection and the brand as a whole?
When I first started, I was more focused on the craft itself — how to perfect a piece — and I wanted to keep my work as sustainable as possible in the sense that it would get the closest to being zero-waste, besides of course, treating all of the people working on the brand fairly. But as I learnt further about design, I’ve come to believe that a good design is not just about the aesthetic thereof, but it must solve a certain problem as well — I just didn’t know what problem I could solve through my designs.
I discovered how a piece can be modular by pure coincidence as I was playing one evening; but thereafter, I explored it further and that is how I set out to create modular pieces ever since. Being modular has become important to the brand, not just because it is perfectly in line with our sustainability goals and values as we feel responsible to the environment, but also because it gives our brand an edge that is rarely found in jewellery — that is, adaptability and functionality. As most jewellery designers tend to be primarily focused on creating art, and less on solving problems in parallel.
Let’s talk about the shoot. How do Youssra’s photographs play with the same ideas that guided this collection?
As we were brainstorming, Youssra and I wanted to stay as loyal as possible to both the collection and its inspiration, and we were keen on capturing their overarching playful essence. So just as the abalone shells’ opalescence seemed like a beautiful example of nature’s spontaneity, and the collection was designed by playing around and experimenting on my workbench, Youssra too decided to also take a similarly playful approach and draw inspiration from the optical phenomena that the shells’ opalescence gives off.
To capture the process’s true essence, Youssra used all kinds of refracting materials — crystals, pyramids and mirrors, etc. — to add rainbows and reflections to her close-ups, creating this interesting mood that depicts chicness while including the right amount of light that answers to the shells’ palette and brings out their beauty.
When you envision a LAIÉN wearer, what do you see?
I see a woman who’s intelligent, pragmatic and does not get caught up in distractions. She embraces minimalism and focuses her attention on the core things that matter to her the most and bring her joy. She seeks practicality in every aspect of her life and has a thorough understanding of what’s ultimately good for her and what isn’t.
What I believe makes my pieces special is that they are not extravagant in the sense that they would impose their identity on the wearer but are instead created with the intention of imbuing a chic subtle touch that brings out or highlights the wearer’s beauty, whoever she is!
How do you personally connect with nature?
I always go to the beach, as it is where I find the most comfort. Also, whenever possible, a sailing trip is to me the best way I could ever connect with nature, switch off my mind and let go.
What does the future have in store for LAIÉN?
We plan on taking our concept to new and fascinating places and have some very exciting things that we’re excited to share with the world. So stay tuned.
make sure to follow LAIÉN on Instagram to keep up with the brand’s future ventures.
all jewellery. LAIÉN