They say there is no better friend than a sister; Maya, Meena and Zeenat are three sisters with one passion in common, for the love of jewellery and revolutionizing the perception of the fine jewellery industry. The sisters’ love for precious gems and stones is clearly not by coincidence, they owe it to their mother who is the creative mind behind the reputable brand Effy Jewelry, and to their father, who comes from a long line of Indian jewellers and have been in the industry since 1875.
Established in 2009, the Mukhi Sisters jewellery is mainly a mix of gold, diamonds and precious stones, presented in unique designs with special techniques influenced by their Indian heritage. We sat with the three sisters at their flagship store in Downtown Beirut and here is what each had to say about how their strong bond and varying eclectic styles are reflected in their brand’s aesthetic and creative process.
Did all three of you grow up knowing you wanted to do jewellery design considering your parents were already part of the industry? Can you tell us a little bit more about your early days as jewellery designers?
Zeenat: When I was younger I never thought I would ever be in this industry. I studied interior design, and after I graduated I worked on a project related to bracelets, and of course with Maya’s help from then on I started to take interest, and I couldn’t be any prouder, I love designing jewellery.
Meena: Same for me, I never thought I would be the CEO of a company and never thought I would be selling jewellery either. Back in college, I used to go to my mom’s shop and help her sell some pieces when she is not around, which was a big challenge at the time. But 10 years later, I am very passionate of what I do, I am a Sales Manager and the best part is that I love communicating with the customers; I never knew I had such a hidden skill. Our focus is to give our customers the best service and experience as soon as they step into our shop, even when neither of us is around. We have weekly trainings that empower our employees to try their best to even treat the shop as their own.
Maya: I have been working indirectly with my parents ever since I was young. I remember my mother offered me a box of 12 birthstones, and I went with her to a jewellery exhibition where I sat at the booth and sold every stone for a few dollars, which was a great accomplishment for me at the time. I would say ever since then I knew I wanted to have my own company, and it happened! Our company, does not follow the norm of how a normal company runs, we try to make it as personal as possible, from the experience to the design and the service. However, I must say, the majority of the customers come in for Meena, because of her service and her communication power is incredible and it is what pulls them in.
What is the Mukhi Sisters main design inspiration?
Maya: Since day one, we have three collections that exist till today- we have “Ever Yours” it is a fine classical collection, and it has stones such as diamonds, rubies, sapphire and emeralds, this collection is actually inspired my Meena’s classical style. Zeenat is known for her bohemian style and for never leaving the house without wearing at least seven rings; her collection is called “Contagious” which is mainly designed with less commercial type of stones, and this is why sometimes a design is only one piece of jewellery, because the stones we use for this range are very rare to find. And lastly, since I love vintage we called the third collection “Queen Vicky” which is divided into two parts- where we have actual vintage pieces that we specifically look for and the second part is where we make our own designs using the old handcraftsmanship jewellery techniques. In all, these collections are always present, and every year we introduce a capsule collection that is completely different.
Zeenat: Our main inspiration across all our designs isn’t something obvious, but it will always have something to do with positive energy and spiritually related to love, life and light.
It’s hard enough working as business partners – how do the three of you do it being sisters?
Meena: Each one has a job, we have trust and respect; and when these doors are closed we are strictly working partners and not family. And it has been working well across the years!
Zeenat: This is a world for each and one of us, and I must say communication is key to our success.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Maya: Definitely gold and natural stones.
Zeenat: Non-commercial stones are the main materials that you will always find in all our designs.
Does each of you have a different favorite collection? A different favorite piece of the moment, or one you just love to wear constantly?
Meena: I have a classical style; and with our designs it is made easy for anyone to wear the pieces in their own style. At this moment I would say my favorite piece is the “Sunset” pendant in green diamonds.
Zeenat: For me I get attached to things very easily, I don’t have a personal favorite, because when I wear a piece I never take it off until it wears off for good. All the pieces I wear become a part of me.
Maya: I would say I am similar to Zeenat; I have designs that are very special to me but not favorites, because I get too attached as well. I have a problem where I think of others first, when we design we create the pieces with a specific person or client in mind, and I am constantly thinking of what suits the people I know.
When did the media interest start? What does it feel like to be media darlings?
Maya: When we opened our first shop 7 years ago in Beirut Souks, it was dead. We all sat together one day and had a plan to turn our shop into a world for everyone and the only way was social media. Back then it was the start of Facebook, Four Square and Twitter only.
Zeenat: Throughout our career we always tried to be different and untraditional, and with our unordinary marketing strategies and seasonal campaigns on social media is what attracted our customers and gave us so much fame in the country and internationally. Our posts are not pretentious; they are basically a reflection of how we would want to see our designs on our clients. It is raw and true, and that’s what keeps people coming back.
Meena: We are very proud to say that many of our customers who came through different social media outlets are still with us till this day, who don’t just come for the designs but also for the experience that comes with the brand.
Since you are half Indian/Lebanese, tell us how does this mix of culture influence your designs?
Maya: Yes, it inspires our work a lot. We also sell actual Indian jewellery that is not our work. But mainly the Indian culture influences the type of stones and the colours we choose. What is interesting about our work is that not only we have the Indian inspiration, but it also happens that our mother is a jewellery designer herself, so we also have her design aesthetics that highly inspires our designs.
Zeenat: We are truly blessed because we have the best of both worlds mixed in our blood- a rich colourful culture and a talented mother who happens to be a designer and our father who comes from a long-line of jewellers.
Speaking of major designer or artist names, who would you dream of collaborating with one day?
Maya: I would have loved to collaborate with the late British designer Alexander McQueen, because his designs come for darkness and we are all about spirituality and light, I think that would have been a great mix.
Meena: I love rap music and definitely I will pick a rapper, maybe Tinie Tempah.
Zeenat: Accessories designer Jerome Dreyfuss (Isabel Marrant’s husband).
Is there anywhere the company is reaching towards as a goal, venue wise, you would like to carry your product? How about E-commerce?
Zeenat: Since I recently moved to London, we will be working immediately on networking with concept stores.
Maya: E-commerce on the other hand is currently in the making it will be up very soon in parallel with our website.
Besides all the socialites and celebrities who already wear your jewelry- is there anyone you would personally love to see wear a piece of your jewelry?
The Sisters: Queen B a.k.a Beyoncé and Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine.
Three words to describe your brand?
The Sisters: Unity, Freedom and Individuality.
What are you working on now?
Maya: We are working on a very special collection to be launched in September 2017, in time for our inauguration of our new flagship store in Downtown Beirut.
What advice would you give to other women hoping to start their own business in the region?
Maya: Have a plan, a vision, and love what you do.
Zeenat: Don’t let anyone beat you down, and keep in mind that everything is possible.
Meena: Be Patient!
What is one thing most people would be surprised to know about each and one of you?
Meena: I can rap and I am very organized.
Zeenat: My dream was to be a singer.
Maya: I have always wanted to be a news anchor.
If you were a city or a country…
Maya: Byblos, Lebanon
Meena: Torremolinos, Spain
Your motto for life…
The Sisters: Flourish and Prosper!
By Dana Mortada