Meaning of Migration: Shourouk Rhaiem
April 19th 2017
Through technology we can communicate as one, but war and politics have sought to prise us apart. One fascinating aspect of our increasingly connected and globalised society is how the hybridisation of politics, art, culture, fashion, terror, and technology have come to shape the state-of-play for those born after September 11, 2001.
On the surface, we celebrate connectivity, inclusivity, and unity, with more and more considering themselves to be global citizens; but, this only masks the thin veneer of extreme anxiety, frustration and cultural concern that has been bubbling under. What does it mean to be un-free in the free world or to hold a passport from one of the seven countries marked on the US ban list?
One of the most infectious barriers to positive change is this notion that some might define others as equally or less worthy – and subsequently, respond to them according to their geographical origins. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we stand up and celebrate the enrichment that freedom and diversity bring, enhancing economy, community, and culture.
In this two-part series, we pay homage to the women that make a case for dividing time across the globe.
Sometimes, a girl comes along exuding charisma and a sense of style so bold and commanding that she cannot help but completely captivate. “My childhood memories have influenced me a lot,” points out the French-Tunisian, who has transformed her cross-cultural experiences into a jewelled empire. And, like her idol Frida Kahlo, Shourouk Rhaiem adores jarring colour combinations, is rarely seen without her trademark red lipstick, and cares little for conventions of imitation. “When I was a kid, I used to listen to Fayrouz while my mum was preparing for her parties,” recalls the jewellery designer, who considers ‘luxury and decadence’ among her influencers. “I saw the gorgeous dress that she was putting on, the jewellery box full of diamonds, took in the smell of perfume, and heard the click of her heels as she wove across the floor.”
Rhaiem blames her Middle Eastern heritage for her love affair with gold, fine jewellery, and, above all, glamour – three themes that recur throughout her unapologetically glitzy designs. “My parents are from Tunisia and arrived in France at the end of Seventies,” says Rhaiem. “They used to listen to Dalita and eat couscous.”Her family settled in Paris, where they fell hard for the culture, food, and lifestyle. Having studied fashion design, Rhaiem wasted little time in establishing a name for herself, honing embroidery skills at both Chloé and John Galliano that she would later call upon for her own brand. A position at Roberto Cavalli took her to Florence, where sun-kissed streets and exceptional gastronomy marked out the city as one of her favourites. “The one thing I don’t like is that everything is closed on Sunday – that drives me crazy!” she exclaims
I saw the gorgeous dress that she was putting on, the jewellery box full of diamonds, took in the smell of perfume, and heard the click of her heels as she wove across the floor
In 2007, as trends took a shift towards the austere and businesses began to downsize, Rhaiem set about cultivating her eponymous label, Shourouk, from her magical Parisian atelier. Rather than attempting to assimilate the conventional, she instead charged with full speed in the opposite direction. Calling upon her fashion sensibilities, her pieces collided materials like climbing rope and PVC with her own embroidery designs, and an injection of shine that communicates Middle Eastern tastes for finery – they were an instant hit. Collaborating with brands like Philippe Starck and Sephora over the last 10 years, her effervescent designs have appealed to fashion’s notables, from Anna Dello Russo and Miroslava Duma to Sarah Jessica Parker and, most recently, Jessica Chastain.
“Flying in economy is awful,” laughs the lover of couture. But, Rhaiem is no stranger to travel, projecting everything from Bollywood to Russian aristocracy onto dazzling and dramatic bags, earrings and necklaces that speak a global language. Swarovski-studded emoji badges sit alongside Zoulala purses that chronicle Balinese culture, and her evil eye chokers in gold, white, and blue take a fond backwards glance towards the Middle East. “I like to collect traditional clothes from all around the world, but I am only able to work in my Parisian studio,” admits the Francophile. And, whether she’s draped in acid-bright furs or donning a bejewelled baseball cap of her own design, threads of French sophistication and Tunisian opulence weave their way through the designer’s outputs. People are always intrigued by the mystery of the foreign, which has helped, in part, to aid the success of Shourouk. Assembling the fragments she finds from a mismatch of origins, her label prescribes a large dose of ‘luxury and decadence’ with a heady blend of the international.