Paris, for all its charm and beauty, can at times feel a bit grey. After one too many days stuck in endless traffic on the Rue de Rivoli, occasionally you need a pick-me-up that doesn’t come in the form of another shot of espresso. On a late Parisian afternoon, a trip to the Shourouk atelier was just what we needed to restore our energy and brighten things up in the ‘City of Light’.
Entering the world of Shourouk is like stepping into a sparkling paradise where you can’t help but crack a smile. Necklaces, earrings, brooches, and more beg to be tried on, and they’re whimsically accompanied by everyday objects reimagined as bejeweled treasures – from Coke cans to dish detergent bottles. It’s as if you’re bestowed a wand with the power to bedazzle everything in your life – and you aren’t shy about using it.
The woman behind this technicolor wonderland is Shourouk Rhaiem. The Tunisian-born and Paris-bred designer established her namesake jewelry and accessories collection in 2007, after honing her techniques at some of the world’s most revered fashion houses. Here she shares with us her sources of inspiration, design process, love of mixed-materials, and how she settled on her her latest muse, Napoleon Bonaparte. -Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set
My love affair with jewelry began really young, during my childhood. I was already playing with my grandmother’s diamond bracelets. Later on, my different experiences at fashion houses like Chloé, Galliano, Roberto Cavalli finished convincing me of my true inclination for luxury accessories. All those experiences have influenced me on different levels. When I was working for Chloé, I sharpened my sensibility to fabrics, I learned how to combine unconventional materials wiht more luxurious ones. I also developed a strong attraction to embroidery, it was all about finesse, detail and desirable pieces. My experience with Galliano was more about thinking outside of the box, pushing boundaries and having more self-confidence in my designs, because being a designer is assuming a strong aesthetic without any concessions. Cavalli was the final touch that pushed me to launch my brand. I discovered a more commercial aspect to the fashion industry. Having your own brand is also becoming a boss! I was ready to start my dream; I felt it was the right moment! I met Pierre Lasquier, who directly shared Shourouk’s vision, then, together we created this exciting brand.
I love playing with contrasts and colors. I’m inspired by my travels and I feel I have to share my discoveries through my designs. I am also bewitched by folk and native art, in particular by powerful Mexican masks and paintings. It seems habitual for me to capture forms and colorful objects of every day and twist them giving a sophisticated touch. It’s all about mix and match and always trying new techniques and materials. In my design codes, it’s always written to play with Swarovski crystals and combine them with the PVC; shaking up the code of classical jewelry. For me, it’s more than jewelry: it’s all about the details and creating a piece that is perfect from all angles. I make jewelry because it makes me feel like a sculptor. At the end, my jewelry stands alone as a pieces of art work.
The Shourouk signature stands for embroidery work in volume and layers, combined with intricate and graphical placements of Swarovski stones. Our trademark is to pay attention to color combinations. Perhaps this is the most complicated but exciting part at the same time. I love to take the Swarovski crystal to unexpected levels; I love the contrast between the matte and shiny.
I like to think outside of the box and not to be too obvious in my choices. For example, I think that a statement piece worn with an evening dress is quite nice but not that original. I’d rather wear a chunky necklace on a really casual outfit – it’s more fun and unique.
I love to wear my latest creations. Now I cannot stop wearing my flower necklace with a pair of matching flower earrings. On my bag, I attached my ZULALA, my new little jewel monsters. I love them!
I have to say that the Swarovski crystals are the material I cannot avoid in my creations. They are the main components of my designs and I like to mix them with metal sequins and noble fabrics like silk and satin. But what I find the most exciting is to also combine precious materials with less noble ones, like my designs on PVC; like my Acapulco bags. By using marble, rope or rubber, I am giving it a modern or contemporary twist, and it becomes more fun and playful, I think that’s what makes my designs interesting.
My Incroyables and Merveilleuses Fall Winter 2015/2016 Collection is all about timeless elegance. I was inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte and his trip to Russia. That’s why I created the babushka embroidery turbans woven in silk and decked out in colorful sequins. Giving a military touch, Imperial medals are my new talisman! After all that, the romantic part of the collection is influenced by Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, and her botanical treasures; full of crystal flowers with winter scents. A sophisticated approach to new materials and colors with an ironic touch. Reflecting the elegance of the Empress, bow maxi-brooches in PVC and marble necklaces are made for Incroyables and Merveilleuses members. –Shourouk Rhaiem
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set