GEM TALK WITH SHOOQ ALSHAWI, LUXURY & FASHION CONSULTANT BAHRAIN
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.
I met Shooq AlShawi during my whirlwind trip to Bahrain with Azza Fine Jewellery. East meets West in Shooq’s personally and style: she is a Bahraini with a French soul. I was very lucky to catch her at Jewellery Arabia, as she is always flitting between Paris and her native country, helping copious emerging artists grow and prosper. With her ample experience working at Louis Vuitton, she is extremely knowledgable about how to make a fashion brand succeed. As a Bahraini, she has an innate love for jewellery and an impeccable style, effortlessly accessorising her outfits with stunning jewels. And just like me, without jewellery she feels naked!
Name: Shooq AlShawi
Alma Mater: London College of Fashion
Occupation: Luxury & Fashion Consultant
Hometown: Paris – Bahrain
Shooq AlShawi is from Bahrain with a French sole and a maverick of fashion world. I was introduced to Shooq during my collaboration with Azza Fine Jewellery in Bahrain. I was lucky to catch her, Shooq is between Paris and Bahrain helping emerging artist to prosper thanks to her fashion experience at Louis Vuitton and driven approach what is like to succeed and drive the fashion brand forward. She is an inspiration and a Bahraini hence her jewellery style is impeccable, without jewellery she is naked.
LOCATION AT TIME OF INTERVIEW: It always feels like I’m visiting when in Bahrain, between the packed schedules of in and out business trips within the region and a return to check on my office in Paris I can hardly talk about the ‘usuals’. Bahrain is a comfortable place, but the people make it so much more. The must go personal favorites are the Ritz Carlton Thai Bar designed by a favorite friend Dalia AlMardi, Cut by Wolfgang Puk, please say hello to David the manager, he’s a must meet. Marai is another; I love clocking into everytime I’m back. But if I was to think of my days, they are mainly at the office or in between meetings, that’s where I spend most of my time really. I also make it a point to see all the people close to my heart, any time in between usually includes family and friends, one on one boxing sessions with the trainers at FIT gym, and life long friends for a much needed catch up before I’m on the go again. Coming back into warmer environments, poolside at the Ritz, and beachess far beyond civilization, Ras albar and or Jarada island part of my favorite wonders in Arabia. Shopping in Bahrain is extremely limited in all the ways, JBoutique is my go to spot, they have the best selection of statement pieces, ready to wear mainly. The Art scene in Bahrain is underground and very exciting, Al Riwaq and La Fontaine is a great place for that.
BAHRAIN OR PARIS: One wouldn’t be special without the other. It’s a funny balance and yes maybe I am being slightly diplomatic about it but in all honesty, Bahrain, the GCC gives me something that Europe can’t, things happen everyday, there’s a sense of possibility, positivity, it always feels like ‘everything will be ok. Bahrain is a quieter place but the people are everything. Paris is everything else, she’s my muse, source of inspiration, being in the center of the industry. Paris brings a smile to my heart, so I romance her. It’s a place of growth. It always feels like your alone and there’s beauty in that, independence and self development. The air, the streets, the lights, the culture, the people. Having spent 8 years in and out Paris remains the home of my heart.
IN THE BEGINNING: I loved the concept of personal expression. Initially thinking I was to be a fine artist, the more I looked into the creative world the more fashion resonated. It brings the whole world together, its ideals, there’s a bit of everything in fashion, the arts, culture, society and business. Fashion is an industry that resonates with so many walks of life which is why I could continue to fulfill it.
PARIS DEBUT: Having started early as I did, 2008 marked the first year of working within the industry. That’s when I truly fell in love with the business of fashion. Although business was never a subject I enjoyed during my studies, the rules, the terms. I preferred reason and logic with a twist of psychology and culture. I guess that’s marketing at its core.
The journey took me from a major luxury goods and fashion brand to the smallest, ‘curiouser and curiouser’. I just kept exploring, I saw the industry in so many different ways, from the shows to the factories, within closed doors to behind the counter in store, everything kept adding up. Then the crisis in Paris happened, the Middle East was booming with creative looking for ways in, that’s when I realized I could give something back. I became a registered consultant at the age of 24.
LOUIS VUITTON: Louis Vuitton was my gateway into the industry. It set my standards and expectations, high ones. Having seen the company in so many different lights, made a world of a difference. Beginning in store at the Sloane Street boutique; I would not have imagined it any other way. Being at the forefront of the brand, liaising with the customer, learning the language of team, it was the ideal base, learning about the product range. The store is where I would recommend everybody to start from. Taking my feedback to HQ, I joined the Men’s Ready to Wear department under the direction of the RTW Director, to which I owe a special mention. The days weren’t all glamorous; I spent days with a label machine. Watching it print the care labels for production. In hindsight everyday added a piece to the puzzle of industry insight.
Then the fun began, I spent so much time after hours in the office, first in last out, with the key word to everything. More I earned until eventually I was presenting collections with the directing team at the global buying events, shuffling stocks and negotiating it into markets. Travelling to Dubai to join the team on their new adventure of ‘the global store’ in Dubai Mall, building market reports on the region, developing a whole new insignia for the denim collection. In the time I spent in the company I just worked, slightly obsessed and fully immersed it took me places, showed me things that I would have never seen. All of this and I was within the first two years of my 20s.
PIERRE HARDY: Having gone from a historical brand to an established contemporary brand, Pierre Hardy felt like family, Pierre has a beautiful energy that filled the room. A small team that crossed paths, and this stunning showroom of ultra high painted ceilings. Not to mention the space was filled rows and rows of shoes. I worked within the showroom, receiving international key buyers, presenting, selecting and building a range. Louis Vuitton had internal buying teams, so this definitely added value and perspective of the industry.
SHOOQ ALSHAWI CONSULTING: Consulting for Fashion, Luxury Goods and Retail, falling into this is such a beautiful way of bringing my experiences to a good cause. Totally unplanned, my journey brought me here. Initially I was approached by a group in Paris trying to revive a new brand and asked if I could act as a Consultant instead of a full time employee. Seeing possibility and simplicity in all; I just did it and established the consultancy firm.
So this is what Shooq AlShawi Consulting is about; instilling identity, a brand vision and direction from short to long term with strategic and operational support. Having seen the industry, crossed and bridged cultures, I saw a major need for true value integration. Creatives are constantly trying to make it; retailers are dealing with competition and an ever-volatile market. The consultancy firm acts as a support system, giving tools to designers to maintain the integrity of their identity; we transfer brands’ value into new cultures.
Internally we give tools to the designers and retailers that allows them to function as a business instead of a studio, essentially I’m somewhere between a therapist and a family member, I really take the time to understand the designer before anything else, I think that’s what makes the firm unique, we offer forward thinking tailored solutions, there is no such thing as a template for us. The brands I work with are ones that I see great potential in, it’s very important to be selective as it becomes a collaborative process.
POWER COMES FROM: Passion. There’s nothing like power that comes from being driven. Power comes from the people you surround yourself with. But really power comes from within, from having faith, believing that the universe is that power.
TOPSHOP OR CHANEL: Its not about the brand so much as it is about the quality, the cut, the fabric, the lining, the details. Dressing is an expression and I like to have my statement pieces, normal is a well-cut shirt or pants, there’s always an edge of casual. I like owning long term pieces and will wear them unconditionally, I can’t save the Chanel for dinner and COS for the market, for me its about value in longterm wear. From the high street my favorites would be Maje, COS, & Other Stories. Denim needs to come well cut, my favorite pair are from Citizens of Humanity, but its more about the cut than the brand, I have learnt to pick according to my figure, high waist jeans tend to work best. Max Mara is another everyday favorite for basics that you know will last for years to come. But my ultimate statements have come from Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Carven, Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton. I like mixing in new generation brands, the unique sense of experimentation and the feeling of supporting a generation that is yours. They put so much heart into it, that’s where I find most value.
ONLINE SHOPPING: Not my thing, yes we are nearing 2016 and there’s a certain rush from online shopping, the whole world goes online. Personally I need to touch, to try, to experience the store interior, to talk to a salesperson and then wear what I buy right away. Having on the go lifestyle strips me from the luxury of receiving a package because I never certain of where I’ll be by the time things are delivered. So in all the convenience of online shopping isn’t convenient, no such thing as pre planning I’m very last minute and always trying to keep up. One more thing that doesn’t make my experience of shopping online a good one is the fact that I have to look at a screen. I do that for an average of 80 hours per week, so shopping is generally not a hobby or an after work activity, it’s a quick run into a store.
GEM STYLE: Timeless, elegantly set and a little French. I like seeing the diamond, set in a clean and undisturbed manner. My jewellery box is a travelling one; at this stage it’s a collective of classics, a couple of bangles and several rings, arranged by category. Earrings are my least favorite, I hate changing them. My favorite collections at the moment are Chaumet’s Empress Josephine and Repossi’s floating diamond collection are in my dream list.
FIRST JEWELLERY: A 1-carat marquise cut ring that I lost as a young teenager. Passed down to me from my grandfather. As a child I would go to the factories in Lebanon with my mother, we would sit there for hours, endlessly trying things on and eventually leave with that one star piece for the collection and memorabilia for me. I still have the trinkets. In a way each piece marks a time in my life, I don’t believe you should only look for jewellery for your wedding, for me, a woman’s jewellery box is about the stories in her life, when you look through you discover a lifetime of stories, of memories that’s what makes each piece valuable.
Diamonds are my birthstone. So yes, meaning is convenient. I do feel energy with stones but I’m not sure how far I believe in them ‘bringing’ things to you, it’s more of an emotional connection I think. Meaning for me comes with the place in your life when buying the jewellery, I got a diamond infinity ring on the first anniversary year of my business. 1 carat studs on the second, I collect heart cut stones, the first was a gift from my mother, since then they’ve added up, my favorite have come from AlZain, and I do have to give them credit for that they were they reason I fell in love in the first place.
MY EVERYDAY JEWELLERY: Solitaire Stud Diamonds, 1 carat, not too big to be inconvenient for the day and not too small that they are irrelevant for the evening. An infinity ring that moves around my hand. A stack of heart cut necklaces and a tennis bracelet. I do own some branded pieces from De Beers and Maboussin, yes they are artfully crafted with an unbeatable attention to detail but they are not my favorites, I prefer the classics, no labels, no trend. I feel naked without my jewellery, everyday pieces that can easily take you from day to night.
PERFECT ENGAGEMENT RING: 1 or 3 Diamonds, no more than a 1.5 carat for the center stone, no less than a VVS in clarity, F in color, round cut in an artful timeless setting. An everyday ring that can go from day to night, I don’t believe in switching from a daily to the ‘special occasion’, you know, one husband, one ring, simple like that. For extra perfect, it would be from De Beers because they came up with the concept of diamonds for an engagement ring – here’s to saluting that.
ROLEX OR CARTIER: Rolex is a good one, it retains its timelessness but it is not a statement per say. I’ve had a timepiece on my wrist since before I can remember. Starting off with a gift from my father, a white Chanel J12 as a young teenager. Moving into Ebel, Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Rolex. Classics yes, but I think its time to step it up to celebrate the the essence of timepieces. Ideally done with a day to night switch between Audmars Piguet and a small Patek Philipe for the evening. And although I feel guilty to say, a few diamonds on each would be ideal.
MEN JEWELLERY: Depending on the man that is, cufflinks are imperative, a tie clip and money clip maybe. A chain for the bohemian, a masculine bracelet for casual days, but a watch always, a man can never be fully dressed without a watch.
FINE JEWELLERY: Classics first, then come the more fantasy filled pieces. I do believe that perfected setting is everything.
JEWELLERY AS AN INVESTMENT: I grew up hearing this will be for you and your sister one day. So yes it’s embedded in me. Jewellery is an investment, but I’m still unsure of whether it is in reality an investment. Maybe it should be called wealth, which makes more sense I think. As for stones, recently met a stone collector at one of the jewelry events. He collected precious stones from all over, tanzanite, sapphire, rubies and emeralds, in all their shades. Generally speaking only the rare ones are serious investments, everything around that is decoration.
VINTAGE JEWELLERY: I’m not a big fan of vintage jewellery unless it has been passed down within my family for generations, then it has sentimental value that is irreplaceable. My grandmother gave me a Bahraini pearl 22-karat bangle when I graduated which I will hold onto dearly for my daughter’s daughter. Beyond that I don’t see reason in buying vintage jewellery. The concept is interesting still, jewellery originated from the concept of peacocking, men and women would wear jewels to distinguish their social class. Although we’ve come a long way into democratising jewelry from class, the cultural aspect still exists.
FASHION JEWELLERY: A few fashion pieces have come into my collections, Aurlie Bidderman was one of the first, love her statement chokers they take the outfit to a whole different level. Ear cuffs were fun for fashion soirees, the Dior perle earrings when they first came out. But that’s the thing with fashion jewellery, especially when they become trends, here today gone tomorrow.
SHOP THE LOOK:
PERFECT GETAWAY: In the past year I have been lucky enough to get away over and over again. Verbier, Rome, Essaouira, Tanger, Corsica, Barcelona, Let’s see if we can fit one more in before the end of the year. I don’t know if I could have one perfect destination; but my all time favorite trips were springtime in Tokyo and summers in Mykonos and Puglia.
Dubai remains my favorite when it comes to spas so far, the one and only royal mirage offers a Moroccan bath experience that I have yet to find a good comparison to.
CULTURE FIX: Culture is everywhere you just need to look for it. I get my fix of culture from new places, I make sure one is done every April for my birthday, I find beauty in the discovery and understanding of cultures, it’s a window into humanity. Japan has been with me for 2 years since I last visited.
BOOK HAUNTS: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Buyology by Martin Lindstrom.
A PARTY TO REMEMBER: The best parties are the ones you walk into by accident and leave with lifelong friends. In the best cases, they would by made up on real people, no shoes, accidental encounters, laughter, good music and open space.
MY WEAPON OF CHOICE: Confidence and achievement.
WILD WISH: I don’t think I could commit to one. Accidental perfection, good things that follow with better things. Youth, to be a 6 year old again, it was very hard for me to accept my 21st birthday, I wanted to be 20 forever, past the teenage years but never grown up. Liberty, better yet, time travel, to start my day with sunrise in the Caribbean or the Philippines, then to Dubai for a meeting, stop by Ginza for a wardrobe top up, Paris to see my trainer by 6pm and then to Florence for dinner.
I would love to hear what you think by leaving me a comment below. Thank you!
SHOP MY FAVOURITE JEWELRY ONLINE:
I am extremely happy to announce that my new jewelry book – GEMOLOGUE: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips – is now on Amazon. I’m so excited. It’s the first book of its kind solely dedicated to jewellery.
GEMOLOGUE jewelry blog by Liza Urla is a celebration of fine, fashion and vintage jewellery featuring talented jewellery designers, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews. This jewellery blog’s goal is to encourage and educate about jewellery online in a fresh and original fashion to inspire women and men across the globe in a fashion and travelling context.
Jewellery blogger, writer Liza Urla, the founder of GEMOLOGUE, is a London-based and NYC-educated gemologist, who has travelled to and lived in many countries. She is now one of the most influential digital jewellery tastemakers. Her jewellery influence has been acknowledged by Financial Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
*Photographed by Julia Flit. Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla. All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE.
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