Announcer: Good morning; Azza Fahmy; a great story that started in Sohag; what motivated this young girl to be interested in arts and jewellery making in particular
Azza Fahmy: My family, my father has great artistic sense, my aunt was a painter, my uncle a sculptor so I would say it was in my genes
Announcer: That was the backdrop? AF: Sure alongside reading up on the latest trends and so forth, when you get yourself used to seeing beauty it engulfs you Ann: In Sohag your preliminary work mainly showcased pigeon homes and other such elements readily available in Sohag
AF: Exactly in Sohag I used to see these pigeon towers and palm trees so it definetly impacted me, they say the female cancer loves modern elements but also enjoys classics and myself being a cancer I would say that is for me as well Ann: Here we have images from Sohag and the elements you discussed and how you were inspired by these elements to create your jewellery
AF: I turned many of the shapes you see in such places as Sohag & Aswan into Jewellery and that particular line was one of our most successful lines Ann: Lets talk more about your beginnings, in the late 1950’s your father passed away
AF: Correct, we then moved to Cairo where I earned my highschool degree in Helwan, cairo and graduated from the faculty of fine arts after which I gained employement with the government where I worked for 8 years designing covers for governmental books, I was also doing freelance work in interior design but I always felt that I should be doing something else and one day I found a book about jewellery and it changed my life, there are no coincedences in life; god put that book infront of me for a reason Ann: Opportunities come to those who deserve them
AF: I believe so, to those who can make something happen
Ann: You wrote an article on world womens day that people around you at that time were saying how can Azza be doing this, how can she leave such a prestigious governmental job with a good stable salary to go and sit in jewellery workshops with men?
AF: I had a deep rooted feeling that what I was doing was right, I didn’t have any money to start my project but I had a feeling, I knew what I was doing was right Ann: I want to know here how you first went to the jewellery makers, how you met Sayed, how you struck the deal that you would pay them 3 egyptians pounds to watch and learn
AF: I started my company with 3 Egyptian Pounds; I was paying Sayed in the mid 1970’s around 2.50 Pounds / Day so he would teach me, I met him through a friend as he was the most famous jewellery maker who implemented the coptic method; which was established by the pharoahs, basically I wanted to learn the technique, in my opinion a designer must be able to manufacture their designs Ann: You wrote in your book “Enchanted Jewelery” in which you discussed the history of jewellery across Egypt – you also discussed your own personal experiences and the importance of having “know-how”
AF: Of course because if a designer is unaware of the manufacturing techniques then how in the world will they be able to implement their own designs, for example if I draw a ring with a square head — I need to know if this is possible and if so then how, you need to learn the technique so you can then design accordingly Ann: You left your desk and the governmental job and went to stand in front of the jewellery melding oven
AF: Actually in front of the “tazga” which is a bench essentially, I stayed there for 2 years
Ann: How did these men welcome you to their world
AF: With an open heart, I was perhaps the first woman to do this, it was a new experience for them, they found a college educated female sitting besides them and they were teaching me all the time Ann: After you were able to gather enough information regarding the techniques and so forth, how were you able to start selling your work
AF: At some point I had to start selling my work because I’m not a rich woman so I had a friend; Nihal Salem who told me “Give me your work and I’ll sell it for you” and together we put them in a small boutique (the first of its kind in Egypt) in Zamalek and they all sold in one day for 15 Egyptian Pounds which was alot back then and it just steam-rolled from there Ann: When did you get the idea for establishing Azza Fahmy as a company & a brand with boutiques around the world?