When she founded her jewellery brand Bil Arabi in 2006, Nadine Kanso had the vision of creating modern jewellery pieces that celebrated the history and heritage of the Middle East.
She had a fascination with Arabic calligraphy, and combined with her background in graphic design, wanted to present this in new ways that would capture some of the messages of the region and offer customers the chance to hold these messages close to their heart with the jewellery they wear. Nadine’s unique style and flair as well as her passion for the Middle East can be felt through the conceptual design of her creations. Originally from Lebanon, Kanso has established herself as one of the UAE’s success stories as her brand continues to receive international recognition and her profile has seen her be invited to collaborate with many brands using her talent for calligraphy in several different ways. As Bil Arabi launches a new collection Hobbi, which celebrates love and partnership, we talk to Nadine to find out more about her success and her vision for the future of her brand.
Congratulations on the success of Bil Arabi – tell us about the journey and how you got to where you are today.
I started Bil Arabi in 2006 with the mission to create modern and timeless pieces that capture the essence of the Middle East. Growing up in the region, my roots and heritage have always been a major source of inspiration. Bil Arabi is a culmination of my passion for jewellery and my love for the Middle East. I believe our pieces are not just accessories, but symbols of identity and culture. We strive to bridge the past and present through our designs and to stay true to our values of craftsmanship, quality and timelessness. This I believe, is what got us here today.
We love the new Hobbi collection what can you tell us about that?
The Hobbi collection is a true sentiment to the brand’s exquisite craftsmanship and artistic translation of love, and a collection I am very passionate about. I am always inspired by the instinct to connect, share, and love and the collection highlights the importance of bonding; these Hobbi masterpieces are made to be shared as experiences of interchanging connections and admiration. The way I see it, the Hobbi Collection is an extension of a cherished collection by Bil Arabi. Its inspiration is drawn from Hobb meaning “love”. Hobbi is meant to embody the sentimental joy of giving and honouring lovers, friends, and family members. What’s interesting about this collection is that the creations are playful yet elevated with a harmonious, delicate feel, I hope the collection creates experiences for those who dare to show their love and affection.
We have seen a number of exciting collaborations recently including one with Guerlain – what are the values that you look for when collaborating with brands?
I look for brands that have values around quality, style, creativity, innovation, durability, and design. As long as these elements are in place and the brand shares my values for authenticity and craftsmanship, I am happy to collaborate. I love to have the opportunity to create unique products through collaborations with incredible brands. There are many more collaborations in the works which you should keep an eye out for.
What fascinates you about the Arabic language?
The Arabic language reflects my identity, my pride, and certainly the history of what Arabs have given to the world. Each piece and each collection is unique.
How do you get inspired and how do you continue to keep the creativity alive?
As an artist, I find inspiration in the world around me – from the people I meet and the places I visit to the everyday objects and materials that surround us. I believe that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, and I strive to capture that essence in my work. I try to refresh and keep my creative passion alive by travelling, discovering new cultures and exploring new things.
This issue is about success – what does success mean to you?
Success is when you have achieved a dream or worked on something you have always wanted to work on and your message and work have been recognised and appreciated. It has been loved and accepted.
Few brands from the UAE have achieved international success but it seems to be growing – what is your experience of this and what more could be done to support regional brands on a global level?
As someone who has worked in the UAE for many years, I have seen first-hand the incredible talent and creativity that exists in the region. While it is true that there have been only a few brands from the UAE that have achieved international success, I believe that this is changing rapidly, and there is a growing interest in and appreciation for the unique perspective that regional brands can offer.
To support regional brands on a global level, several things can be done. One is to provide more opportunities for these brands to showcase their products and services at international events and trade shows. Another important factor is the development of local creative and design talent. By providing training, mentorship, and funding support for emerging designers and entrepreneurs, we can create a strong foundation for a thriving creative industry capable of competing on the global stage.
Finally, it is important to promote the unique cultural identity of the UAE. By celebrating our heritage and embracing our unique perspective, we can establish ourselves as leaders in creativity, innovation, and design, and create new opportunities for regional brands to succeed on the international stage.
What do you think is the secret to sustaining a business in today’s market?
In my opinion, the secret to sustaining a business in today’s market is to stay true to your vision and values. It is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and why you are passionate about your work. This can help you to stay focused and motivated, even in the face of challenges and setbacks. Another key factor is to stay flexible and adaptable. The business world is constantly changing, and it is important to be able to pivot and adjust your strategies as needed. This may involve taking risks, experimenting with new approaches, and being open to feedback and criticism.
Building strong relationships with customers and partners is also critical for sustaining a business. This involves understanding their needs and preferences, delivering high-quality products and services, and maintaining open and honest communication.
With any success comes setbacks, how do you deal with these and continue moving forward?
I love to learn from my setbacks and work harder towards the next success. I don’t spend too much time dwelling. Rather, I like to use the challenges I have faced to my advantage, as it has given me a unique perspective on the industry and a drive to succeed.
Where would you like to see your brand in five years and what is your planned direction for the brand?
Our focus will remain on creating unique and personalised jewellery pieces that celebrate the Arabic language and culture. Bil Arabi will continue to innovate and push the boundaries of traditional jewellery design by exploring new techniques and materials while staying true to its signature style.
In addition, we see great potential in expanding our global presence through strategic partnerships and collaborations. By working with other like-minded brands and individuals who share our values and vision, we believe we can amplify our impact and reach new audiences around the world.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your career?
I have learnt that you really need to love what you do to keep shining. It is essential as your daily input is crucial.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Rome was not built in a day.
What is the most precious piece of jewellery you own?
All my creations are dear to me and each piece carries love. The one piece I would cherish is probably the Hobb classic cuff which I never part from. Another piece or collection that I cannot get over its beauty and boldness is HAWA.
Who is a person that has inspired you throughout your career?
I have always been inspired by women who are mothers and wives and are in the workforce. Women who can handle everything at once and never complain, who appreciate life and everything they worked for.
What else are you currently working on and what’s in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
Many things in the pipeline, beautiful projects and collaborations along with new beginnings.