Jewellery Designer Nadine Kanso On Bil Arabi And Building A Home-Grown Brand

6 min read

She’s an esteemed artist, photographer and designer, but Nadine Kanso is perhaps best known as the founder of the award-winning Bil Arabi, one of Dubai’s most established contemporary jewellery brands. Carving out a path that others have gratefully followed, her pieces are fully rooted in the region and proudly Arab in their design.

How would you describe Bil Arabi in three words? 

Pioneering, evolving and — most importantly — love.

How did the brand’s story begin?

Seventeen years ago I was showing a body of work at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London called Arabize Me which spoke about identity and who we are after 9/11, and afterwards I felt that I needed to do something more tangible, that could reach a wider audience. I created Bil Arabi through wanting to wear my initial in Arabic, not in any other language, as a statement about culture and identity. Seventeen years later I’m still here doing what I love, and spreading this message of love and peace.

How would you describe the Bil Arabi client?

From everywhere! Our main clientele is Arabic-speaking, but we also appeal to non-Arabic speakers who lived in the region or know the culture, and appreciate it. It’s so heartwarming for me when I see people who don’t speak the language relate to what I do as an artist and as a designer, wanting to know more about this part of the world and carrying it with them wherever they are.

What sets Bil Arabi apart from other jewellery brands?

The DNA is really strong. It’s a very consistent brand, beautiful and ever-evolving. We have elevated the brand to another level, in terms of the collections and how the calligraphy and typography has evolved. It’s not so ‘in your face’ anymore, it’s much more contemporary and more elevated. Our new collection is very inclusive and is about friendship, love and connecting people.

How has being a home-grown UAE brand helped you?

Starting up seventeen years ago when there was nobody in the market with a product like mine was an amazing experience. The UAE and Dubai gave me the platform to grow with the city and grow with the market.

What do you see in the future for Bil Arabi?

I’m a hopeful person and I’m somebody who loves life, so I’m sure a lot of beautiful things will happen for Bil Arabi! We are working on a new project and expanding the brand, and giving it even more love — it deserves that, as a pioneer, and I’m sure that we can take it to so many more places. Shop Bil Arabi here

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