As Okhtein transitions from handbags to fine jewelry, Aya and Mounaz are poised to take their brand on an exciting new path.
Sisters Aya and Mounaz Abdel Raouf, the dynamic duo at the helm of cult bag brand Okhtein, embark on a new chapter as they step into the world of fine jewelry. They carry the quintessence of Okhtein into different realms, effortlessly translating their signature identity into each creation. "Our creative horizons are limitless," Mounaz reveals to Savoir Flair, hinting at a future where Okhtein's influence continues to grow.
In launching their debut jewelry line, it's quite evident that there are two distinctive families in the collection: the sister family and the duality family. “The sister family draws inspiration from the cherished charms of our childhood, as Mounaz and I used to share these charms together,” Aya says. In particular, the heart-shaped pendant fueled their desire to carry forward the sentimental tradition of sharing charms with your loved ones into the modern era. Hence, the sister charm takes center stage in the entire collection. On the other hand, the bond charm is rooted in the concept of bond links, part of the duality family. When looking at the earrings and rings, the designs reveal a resemblance to chains, a visual and symbolic connection. “Each chain or bond, both figuratively and literally, signifies a profound connection.” Across all different styles and designs, you’ll find a common theme of things coming in pairs: a ring that turns into a necklace but then turns into a pair of earrings, and when put all together, they look like family. “Aesthetically, the fact that everything comes in pairs is one of our recurring motifs, so I think this is another tie to the entire collection,” Mounaz says.
The narrative of their jewelry collection extends beyond visual symbolism; the collaboration with artisans in selecting materials enriched the story behind each piece. It was instrumental in shaping the diamonds and sapphires, for one, an educational journey as they were working closely with skilled craftsmen to determine which shapes and cuts would best complement the individual pieces. The artisans played a crucial role in bridging the gap between their aspirations and practical constraints, ensuring that their creative visions aligned with reality. They provided invaluable insight into how each stone could seamlessly integrate with their designs, considering the unique strengths and weaknesses of every cut. “It was a fascinating process of discovery and refinement. While Mounaz and I were inclined to wholeheartedly embrace diamond and sapphire-infused designs, the artisans, with their expertise and experience, provided the necessary guidance.”
With an exclusive availability at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the collection undeniably carries hints of Egyptian culture and is seen in their campaign, where the emphasis lies in the profound connection between the Egyptian civilization and gold. “When we examine ancient Egypt's reverence for gold, it becomes evident that it held deep symbolism. Gold was a precious and sacred material cherished by kings and queens. It adorned their tools and was intricately woven into their everyday culture.” A symbol that represents power, wealth, and a connection to the eternal realm, gold holds a special cultural significance, surpassing even diamonds. Historically, gold was exclusively reserved for royalty, and it was deemed the very essence of the gods. This strong connection to their ancient civilization is rooted not only in the material itself but also in the importance it holds in Okhtein’s designs. The brand’s DNA is primarily inspired by Old Cairo, with elements drawing from various Egyptian cultures, a testament to each piece translating a story rather than just a design. “Egypt is a captivating blend of history and culture, straddling North Africa and the Middle East within the Arab world. With a rich tapestry of Christian, Islamic, Nubian, and Bedouin histories, we discover mini-cultures within the broader Egyptian culture, providing a wealth of inspiration for our designs,” Mounaz explains.
Their move from handbags into fine jewelry marks a significant expansion for Okhtein. From a strategic perspective, their journey toward luxury naturally led them to showcase what Okhtein could achieve with its distinctive identity and historical use of metals. “Shifting from brass to gold was the next logical step. While all metals are malleable, gold offers the most versatility. It opens up a world of creative possibilities for us.” The brand revolves around celebration and special moments, so creating those gifts in the form of gold and in the form of gold jewelry is in itself a celebration. “Gold holds significant importance in our part of the world, serving both as an investment and a symbol of celebration. We often gift gold on occasions like birth and marriage, making it an integral part of our narrative.”