GEM TALK WITH KAREN EL-KHAZEN, SHOE DESIGNER & MODEL
The series of interviews with women and men who have personalities, story to tell and their own GEM style. They make it happen for themselves all over the world and follow GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla
Name: Karen El Khazen
Alma Mater: Life and Experience!
Occupation: Shoe Designer and Model
Hometown: Antelias, Lebanon
Location of the interview: Karen K Boutique Headquarters,
overlooking the Italian Gardens of Hyde Park
Karen El Khazen is a Lebanese-born self-taught luxury shoe designer with roots in Paris, Milan and New York. Based in London, Karen was the face for the Middle East of de Grisogono and graced various magazine covers. She posseses a perfect combination of femininity and power.
RESTAURANTS, SHOPPING AND ART: My favourite restaurants are Sketch and Beach Blanket Babylon for their crazy décor, cocktails and ambience, but Cipriani for an all-round perfect meal! Shopping at Liberty for quirky stuff, and in most shops on Portobello Road. I do love my walls more then my floors, my favourite art gallery is Opera Gallery in Mayfair, they always exhibit great and intriguing works of art!
IN THE BEGINNING: Since I was a little girl, I always struck a pose in photographs! I suppose I always wanted to be in the fashion industry… I started working as a model at 14; after I became a model, I instantly knew that I wanted to create my own brand. I decided to become a shoe designer, because a pair of shoes is the key element of any outfit: you can wear a simple black dress with the most amazing shoes on, and you will look like a million dollars! I would also love to expand into other areas of fashion, especially lingerie, but I decided to start with shoes because shoes are a girl’s best friend. After all, Cinderella must go to the ball!
INSPIRATION AND CREATIVITY: I am inspired by nature and by architecture; I am particularly obsessed with butterflies and their colour combinations! I do not look at trends or other brands. My designs are about what and how I am feeling at that particular moment. My next collection is very mechanical, inspired by steel and structure. The previous one, on the other hand, was very La Vine En Rose: butterflies, roses and dreamy pastel colours.
TOPSHOP OR CHANEL: Both! I am very much about key pieces and about mixing and matching designer and high street clothes. For instance, One of my favorite looks is a little black Topshop dress that I mix with a Dolce & Gabbana metal harness, topped with jewellery as the finishing touch to any of my looks; it comes even after the shoes…Save the best for last! This has always been one of my style hits.
FAVOURITE DESIGNER: Rami Kadi, a magnificent Lebanese designer. He makes some very special clothes; I picked up three magnificent dresses from his last collection. Wearing his clothes transforms you into a different character; while wearing one of his dresses, consisting of a silver laced bustier and a huge, regal skirt, I call myself the Ice Queen! For everyday pieces, I really like Dolce & Gabbana and Tom Ford. In general, I am more interested in unique pieces; clothes that are difficult to find or that are bespoke.
JEWELLERY DEBUT: De GRISOGONO is my all-time favourite jewellery brand! You can spot a de GRISOGONO piece from miles away; there is something about their cut of diamonds and their overall design. I was their face in the Middle East for eight years, which was a huge honour for me, because they always say, ‘Our product is our model’, and all of a sudden I was the first model they ever used! In the Middle East, if jewellery is shown how they look on, the sales in the Arab market drastically increase. Other brands I’m completely in love with are, Lydia Courtelle, Garrard and Theo Fennel.
FIRST JEWELLERY: When I was a little girl, my father got me a clown from Chopard with the happy diamonds in its belly; of course, at that time I did not understand its value. I was so excited when I saw if for the first time, it definitely made me a happy diamond!
MY EVERYDAY JEWELLERY: I am inseparable from my wing pendants from Garrard encrusted with black and white diamonds. I am extremely attached to this necklace: it represents my life, my brand, my tattoo…And to top it up it comes with a magical story! Of course, I wear my engagement ring and wedding band on a daily basis, alongside my everyday watch which is a custom made one-of-a-kind Rolex. I also cant get enough of my gorgeous Lydia Courteille ring and a rosary that I recently made myself. Instead of putting crosses in between the beads of the rosary, I integrated skulls with Swarovski crystals to represent ‘till death do us apart’. Coincidentally, I made this necklace just in time for the first anniversary of my marriage.
ROLEX OR CARTIER: Both, a watch is a symbol of the fact that time is precious. For me, a watch reflects your feelings and your state of mind at that particular moment. Before I started my business, I used to buy myself an amazing watch for every birthday of mine, which shows how precious time is. I have about twenty-two watches in my collection; my favourite is definitely my costume made Rolex. I think that if you want to splash out on something really nice, you might as well get something that nobody else but you has! I do not have a favourite brand for watches; each timepiece is unique. Of course, you can compare which watch has a better mechanism, but when it comes to design and the way a watch feels on your wrist, the sky is the limit.
FINE JEWELLERY: I do not look for my perfect piece of jewellery, instead it finds me! I buy jewellery if it has that special, mesmerising sparkle. When I purchase jewellery, I do not think of it as an investment; I buy it, because I simply fall head over heels in love with it! I would never part with any of my jewellery, even in the darkest of days. On everyday basis, I like to wear white gold and am definitely a diamond girl through and through: I love black, white, icy and pink diamonds!
VINTAGE JEWELLERY: Vintage jewellery is not really my area of expertise, but if I could have any piece of vintage jewellery, it would definitely have to be from the Queen’s Crown jewels!
FASHION JEWELLERY: I like to design and create my own fashion jewellery; jewellery that is a fantasy version of fine jewellery. I love making rosaries, cuffs, collars etc… but my guilty pleasures are big rings.
POWER COMES FROM: Power comes from within. Power is your state of mind, and the dictionary definition of power does not even make sense. I absolutely love a quote by Audrey Hepburn: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’M POSSIBLE’!”
PERFECT GETAWAY: The Maldives, for sure!!! Every time you go, it is as if you have never been before, I am in love with our breathtaking sea world and always chasing my whale shark till today; I go diving just to find them! My favourite hotels are the One&Only Reethi Rah and Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. As a life lover; I pick my destination based on what I am looking for and I am often willing to go on an adventure… Most of the times when I go away for a much needed break, I find a place that is completely serene, where I can be in the lap of mother nature, far away from the hustle and bustle of cities.
SPA: At times my next destination depends on the spa I wish to visit. There are so many amazing spas around the world hidden away in magical spots, it is impossible to narrow it down to just one. I have a couple of comprehensive books, which help me to make a choice: Ultimate Spa: Asia’s Best Spas and Spa Treatments and A Place To Spa: Exceptional Destination Spas From Around The World. As for London, I find the ESPA Life at Corinthia Hotel the best spa.
COACHELLA OR BURNING MAN: Burning Man all the way, freedom of speech, freedom of character, freedom of everything! I LOVE IT!! Funnily enough, I have not been to Burning Man yet but my headpieces and wardrobe is definitely ready: opulent, colourful feather Mohawks and various splendid hats.
WEAPON OF CHOICE: A submachine gun MP5 and a Benelli m4 shotgun.
WILD WISH: To FLY !!
GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla is featuring exquisite global discoveries, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews – a celebration of fine jewellery, fashion jewellery and vintage jewellery.