For Mariam and Dania Sawedeg, being born in Libya, raised in Switzerland and spending time in Dubai has led to a journey that incorporates the many cultures they have witnessed. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the sisters about drawing inspiration and creating the perfect melting pot
What is the Sawedeg story?
We are two sisters originally from Libya but were raised in Switzerland and have loved jewellery from a young age. Mariam studied jewellery design at GIA in London and I have an MBA in Marketing from Lugano Switzerland. Growing up between Zurich, Dubai and Tripoli, our childhood has been spent travelling the world being inspired by the many cultures we have seen.
How did the idea for Kamushki begin?
As far back as we can remember, our mother always had a great love for beautiful jewellery and she collected her prized possessions from her travels around the world. It was her interest that sparked our desire to start a jewellery line and it’s been great fun working together. As sisters, we have always wanted to start something together. Our ideas always complement each other and working together feels natural. We are both obsessed with fine jewellery and we really wanted to represent our beautiful home country, Libya, in a good light.
How did you come up with the brand name?
Kamushki means precious stones in Russian.
What has been the most challenging moment with regards to the label?
Being able to be unique in an industry that is so vast is always challenging for any new designer. We wanted to create something that represents us and our heritage, which we think is really important and sets us apart from our competitors.
How have you overcome it?
Our pieces incorporate our Libyan roots and that aspect keeps the brand original. Although we grew up in various destinations around the world, our Libyan roots are very important to us and we wanted to integrate this into our work. The fish is a very important cultural symbol in Libya and is used in a lot of traditional jewellery. It is believed that the fish disrupts bad energy and the evil eye and symbolizes freedom, good-luck and happiness. We have modernized the traditional Libyan fish by turning it into a fishbone. Doing this has ensured that the symbolism still exists but in a fresh, fun design. Our family is also very supportive and encourages us to do what we love.
How have your backgrounds and experiences shaped the two of you?
Right now, Switzerland is our home. It always has been so because our family has lived there since the 80s. It
is such a great place to live and being in the heart of Europe has taught us a lot about the world. Switzerland is famous for its idyllic scenery and, as often as we can we like to take walks to find inspiration in nature or the city’s architecture. Being raised in Libya and Dubai has also shaped us to be open to all cultures and our
Libyan heritage is the core base of Kamushki. Our signature motif – the fishbone – is a quirky easy-to-wear motif that, according to Libyan tradition, represents goodness and is often interwoven into jewels to protect the wearer from the evil eye and bad energy. We always keep in mind our Libyan culture when designing our collections.
How do the roles get split between the two of you?
Having studied jewellery design at GIA in London, Mariam heads up the design and production side of the brand and I look after the marketing and media side of the brand however we both design and brainstorm ideas together. We perfectly complement each other and our designs reflect our personalities and dynamic relationship.
Where do you’ll draw inspiration from?
We draw inspiration from our daily life style, cultures and travels. We are inspired not only by our own culture
and heritage, but also other cultures while visiting different cities around the world. I love architecture and
Mariam loves anything with a story behind it. Story telling is at the heart of the Kamushki brand.
What is the design process?
The pieces are made in Singapore. We like to travel to different countries to get inspired by the many cultures and this influences our design process. Once we have collated all our photographs and notes, we sit together to brainstorm our ideas. Then we start sketching, allowing our ideas to take a course of their own. Once this stage is done, we go through all the drawings and start editing and refining the ideas, eventually turning them into jewellery pieces that are easy and fun to wear.
What are your future plans and hopes for the brand?
At the moment we’re working on our next collection, so watch this space! We also want to grow our brand globally. At the moment, we are stocked at S*uce Rocks in Galleria Mall which we’re really excited about and we are hoping to expand world wide very soon.