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Vanity Fair Online

Under the Influence

Alexandra Hakim Shares her Unique Sources of Inspiration

The Craft

The idea of creating something new is what drives me to work harder every day—and this applies not only to fresh designs, but also to innovative techniques. I studied Jewellery & Metalsmithing at Central Saint Martins and the Rhode Island School of Design, where I was always encouraged to think outside the box. When I finally moved into my studio (which is now my second home), I found myself experimenting with bits and pieces around my workbench—everything from sandpaper shards and spent matchsticks to gold dust. I discovered a way of turning them into cool, contemporary pieces of jewellery—and I never looked back. Ever since, my focus has been on giving a new lease of life to found materials and objects in the form of precious jewellery. And the best part is that it’s naturally zero-waste and sustainable, plus each piece is unique.

Lebanese Fishermen

I lived in Beirut for three years, and so as to immerse myself as fully as possible, I made sure to learn as much as I could about the various communities that make up Lebanon’s complex social fabric. I met so many fascinating people and was lucky enough to have truly eye-opening conversations with local farmers, traditional craftsmen and the humblest of fishermen, all of whom educated me on the sad reality of how their livelihoods are increasingly threatened in the modern world. My SS20 collection is called No More Fish in the Sea, and it was inspired by one such encounter with a Lebanese fisherman. He explained to me how the waters in Lebanon (and elsewhere) have become so polluted that he is now only able to catch enough fish to feed his own family, and showed me the various objects and pieces of rubbish that he drags up in his net instead of fish. I wanted to tell his story and raise awareness about this global issue, so I repurposed these materials (which included crushed aluminium and old tuna hooks), transforming them into beautiful pieces of jewellery embellished with natural pearls. I then shot these on his boat, with him making a cameo! It’s by far the collection and campaign that I’m proudest of.

Farmer’s Markets

My Sunday mornings are usually reserved for exploring farmer’s markets, wherever I am in the world. I love to travel, so I have visited quite a few—there’s no better way to experience the lifeblood of a culture, connect with real people and get to know the local produce. The wonderful colours, scents and unexpected conversations get my creative juices flowing every time. I collect materials such as organic tomato stems and old grains—things that would otherwise go to waste—and take them back to my studio where I begin the design process. My favourite experience so far has to be the vibrant chaos of the Coyoacan Food Market in Mexico City, with all those incredible chilli peppers, baby corn, and wild tomatoes. They’ve all made their way into my work, and I’m currently perfecting a collection dedicated entirely to those ultra-hot chillies.

Still Life

I’m a huge fan of Art History. I often turn to Baroque painting for its rich symbolism and conceptual narratives that can help guide my thought process. I am lucky enough to live in Madrid now, where I have access to the Museo Nacional del Prado as an endless source of inspiration. It also happens to be the home of two of my favourite paintings: Velazquez’s Las Meninas and Zurburan’s Agnes Dei. I recently made a bridal collection inspired by the Still Life genre, creating bespoke bouquets using recycled plants—from wilting roses to lavender sprigs—and casting them in precious metals before adorning them with pearls and gems. The brides I worked with loved the sustainable element, as well as the fact that they could immortalise their special day with a work of art they could keep forever.

Citrus Fruits

I have always been strangely drawn to citrus—so much so that I actually decided to have lemon trees instead of floral arrangements at my wedding. I love their vibrant luminosity, fruitful connotations of love and longevity and the fact that they evoke the glorious groves of the Mediterranean. I made an entire collection dedicated to citrus fruits by salvaging their leftover waste, from stem to seed, and using them to create asymmetric earrings, playful pendants and statement cuffs.

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May 28, 2020