DUBAI: As Saudi Arabia strives for its ambitious Vision 2030, a member of the royal family has taken the initiative to nurture and cultivate a generation of young local designers.
Through her own love for jewelry design, Princess Nourah Al-Faisal created Adhlal, a platform to help young Saudis get into the industry while staying inside the Kingdom.
“I have always loved design in all its forms,” Princess Nourah told Arab News. “I grew up in this atmosphere. We have a lot of artists and creatives in the family and it was always in the air we breathed.
Initially, architecture was his passion and jewelry making was more of a hobby. Given the lack of opportunities in Saudi Arabia in the late 1990s and the difficulty of traveling to study at the time, she chose to study English Literature at King Saud University, with reading being her second love. . The idea then was to become a writer or maybe work in education.
“At that time, few women traveled to study,” she said. “And there were only a few Saudi female interior designers at that time.”
While pursuing her interests, Princess Nourah experimented with design, which allowed her to explore. After graduating, she flew to London and for a year pursued her passions. From art and pottery classes to glass cutting, she has left nothing to be desired in her creative pursuits.
After studying interior design at the University of Richmond, she began to see overlaps between architecture and jewelry. In a twist of fate, she was able to showcase some of her sketchbook ideas at an exhibition given by a friend of her mother’s in London, alongside a list of international jewelers.
“I got some publicity and, after that, Guerlain saw my sketchbook and contacted me to offer me an apprenticeship,” she says.
“My dad really supported me. He told me to start my business in France so that I could compete internationally from the start.
“Back then in Saudi Arabia things were very different.”
Following a few orders from weddings in the Kingdom, she founded Nuun Jewels in France at the end of 2013. But the return to her country of origin was always on her mind, especially after her marriage that year. At that time, Saudi Arabia offered more opportunities and possibilities started to open up.
“Like many other designers, I was making outside of Saudi Arabia,” said Princess Nourah. “I thought I could manage my production from home, but struggled to get the information I needed. I needed craftsmen and I make a certain quality of jewelry. My market is very niche, so my production had to be of the same quality.
But finding the right people was not easy, especially since she wanted to employ Saudis. The cost of training aircrew did not make financial sense either. “I wanted and needed something, so I created Adhlal,” she told Arab News. “I realized that I, along with many other designers, didn’t really understand the lay of the land, who were the movers and the shakers.
“There were little pockets of activity but nothing connected them – it was word of mouth.”
Adhlal, which translates to mentors or patrons in Arabic, started out with researching and, over the past three and a half years, operating focus groups. He published three white papers, which track the activities of the local design community, and shared this information.
The idea is to replicate the kind of success that Saudi fashion designers like Mohammed Ashi and jewelry designers like Lillian Ismail enjoy – but allow them to thrive inside the Kingdom rather than outside.
“We are about to publish our industry report for free to give an idea of what the design community is like in Saudi Arabia now,” said Princess Nourah. “It gives you a roadmap of where the gaps are and what we should be focusing on. I believe that we, as designers, need to build our own ecosystem. And I feel like it’s the role of government to allow, which it does in so many different ways.
She talks about the need to focus on what designers need help with, as they are the ones who have the experience of what is needed and what is not. As a result, Adhlal offers a step-by-step toolkit for designers to ensure they are structuring their businesses properly.
In parallel, the platform is currently building a learning and development section, which will promote established local designers and provide practical advice to help new entrants progress. It helps connect manufacturers with designers, while providing legal advice on copyright and contracts, as well as information on pricing, freelance work, the manufacturing process, and how to take advantage of them. opportunities as they arise.
“It’s about connecting the community to each other,” said Princess Nourah. “We also run workshops and focus on infrastructure. Saudi Arabia is currently doing something that has not been seen anywhere else in the world – we are creating our own design industry. In France and Italy, this is part of their identity.
She stresses the importance of creating a thriving design support network, a process that has been hampered by COVID-19 and the resulting disruption to imports. The pandemic “has taught us that importing and manufacturing outside is no longer feasible and that we need to have our own infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities in the country,” Princess Nourah said.
“And that’s exactly what Vision 2030 means. It’s about creating different avenues, other than petrochemicals, and design is also essential to connect us to our heritage. Someone will understand your culture much better if they drink from a mug with designs from a particular region. So this opens our culture to the world and it is tangible.
With nearly 4,000 members on Adhlal’s Instagram account, the platform is growing. A large network of like-minded mentors, who have worked in the region for years, actively come out and share their knowledge and experience. “Our goal is to work with everyone on the ground to create our own world.
“We’re in a really special place right now because we have a government that’s really pushing and opening up so many possibilities, from funding to competitions. Even within our education system, there is so much going on in terms of supporting local designers and incubators, ”she said. “Young designers have many opportunities to participate in creating their own future.”
She speaks enthusiastically about the position Saudi Arabia finds itself in today, where young Saudis can design, implement and witness a change in their world as they know it. “It’s a really exciting place,” said Princess Nourah. “It’s like having a superpower.”
She refers to her generation as the one who expected such changes and now tries to keep up with them, adding that the younger generation are extremely talented and burgeoning with ideas.
“There are a lot of people like me and all we want to do is make sure they are empowered, get the right support they need and be pointed in the right direction so they can achieve this. that we all want, ”said Princess Nourah.
“You now have a generation that is so engrossed in Vision 2030 and manifesting its reality. What I would have done to have been able to be in their place, at their age, with their energy. The world is open to them.