Face to Face – Malak Nakhla – BookF27

Face to Face – Malak Nakhla

With its bold designs Nakhla is one of the most exciting jewellery companies in Egypt and in the region. Inspired by the ancient Pharaonic, Greco-Roman and Islamic civilizations and cultures, Nakhla’s jewelry tells a story of a thousand times. We met with Malak Nakhla, the daughter of Ikram Nakhla who established the company more than 35 years ago, and we talked about the inspiration, the story of the brand and the beauty of the 21 carats gold.

Bookf27: Hello Malak, how are you?

Malak Nakhla: I am good, thank you.

f27: How long have you been part of the family business? 

MN: As soon as I was done with my education, which was about 12 years ago now, I joined the family business. I always knew this was what I wanted to do as this was my life growing up so it was a very natural transition.

f27: Where was the passion and the love for jewelry were born? Was it something you were interested since young age or you discovered it later? 

MN: Jewelry, and the appreciation of the craft behind it, has been a part of my life since before I can even remember. I grew up in a home full of creatives who were constantly in the midst of the design process and was fortunate enough to see each collection coming to life around me. As a child, I was always drawn to gold pieces and to semi-precious stones. My parents would event let me help them mount a necklace when I was having one of my more mischievous moments!

f27: Did you learn everything from your father who established the brand or you explore the world of jewelry by yourself? 

MN: I am lucky that I have been able to work side by side with my father since I entered the business and have had the opportunity to learn about the art of jewelry from him. Travelling to trade shows with him also gave me the opportunity to develop an understanding of the jewelry business. The pieces I design tend to be more modern and wearable every day compared to my parents designs. When they created the Nakhla brand, they were trendsetters and now it is my turn to create jewelry that is modern yet still embodies the rich Egyptian heritage.

f27: Tante Anna was your father’s mentor? Do you still follow her advises? How strong is her legacy for Nakhla today? 

MN: Tante Anna’s legacy is timeless since she was the one that helped my parents set a foundation for the Nakhla brand. She taught my parents, as well as myself, how to take inspiration from the old and adapt it to the use of modern times. 

f27: Where do you find inspiration? 

MN: Egypt and its unbelievably rich heritage! A country that is 7000 years old country, our rich civilization encompasses history from the Pharonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic, Islamic and Ottoman empires and this gives me a treasure trove of inspiration for my designs. I find ideas not only in books and museums but also from walking in the old parts of Cairo. Sometimes I use designs from old Islamic woodwork that I adapt for an earring or designs or an old Roman column that I use for a necklace. As I walk around my eyes see and register every tiny detail and then I translate this into my design process. 

f27: Why do you use 21 carats gold? What makes it special? 

MN: The old jewelry was made of 21 carat gold which has a special yellow colour that makes it extremely beautiful, it is softer to work with and is easier mold into different shapes. Our jewelry is hand made like the old Pharaonic jewelry. That makes it unique and so different from factory made jewelry. 

f27: Tell us about the story of the coin you father sold in Switzerland? Is this the first piece sold and the first piece ever made? 

MN: What was amazing for me as a child with my first creation is that it sold within a week. My father came back home and gave 10 pounds. He told me that the earring I had designed was sold to a very elegant lady. That day I knew that was my future career a jewelry designer. I felt confident I could succeed. 

f27: What was the first piece you ever designed? 

MN: A few years ago when designing our new collection I had a complete block which was something I had never experienced before. A week went by and I couldn’t design a single thing so one day I was sitting there when I suddenly looked at my hands and saw my index finger on my thumb – it was like I had never seen them before. I quickly grabbed my sketch book and started designing. One idea after the other! I never sold that necklace and instead kept it to myself as a reminder that inspiration can strike at any moment!

f27: How do you see the future of Nakhla? how do you want the brand to grow over the next few years? 

MN: On the 6th of January 2011 we had the visit of Nicolas Bulgari and his wife Beatrice at the Nakhla shop. He spent about 3 hours looking at each piece with admiration. After having made his choice on his acquisitions, he told us that we should be in every big city in the world and that the quality and designs are of a international standard. This incredible visit by an icon of the jewelry world gave me and my sister in law Ingy, who is handling the business side of the operation, the confidence to go ahead with launching Nakhla International. My dream is to see Nakhla grow internationally but to always keep its designs as one of a kind pieces and pieces which embody the Egyptian spirit.