‘I would love to crystallise the Mona Lisa’: a chat with Shourouk Rhaiem

The Paris-born jewellery designer is known for her more-is-more approach to accessorising, inspired by her Tunisian roots.

Shourouk Rhaiem's latest collection is called Dating with Pharaohs. Courtesy S*uce
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Having worked with Chloé, John Galliano and Roberto Cavalli, Shourouk Rhaiem established her eponymous company in 2008, and has a following that includes the likes of Anna Dello Russo, Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michelle Obama. She tells us more about herself and her inspirations.

If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be?

Il Pellicano, Italy. After the pressure and stress of a hectic fashion week, I need some relaxation with a Mediterranean touch.

You're sitting down to the perfect meal. Where are you, whom are you with, and what are you eating?

I am in Tunisia, on the front porch of my house, under our jasmine tree. I’m eating fish couscous, with the whole family shouting at each other because the table isn’t set properly – that is a typically oriental way of life.

What is your favourite beauty product?

My Tom Ford Flame lipstick – the bright, medium-dark, orange-red lip colour is my signature.

What are your top three travel essentials?

My traditional embroidered Turkish socks that I wear on the plane (it’s always so cold), or my last collection prototypes that I wear avant-première, even before I’ve decided to produce them. I also carry my perfume, Grand Bal by Dior, and a pair of Miu Miu heels, even if I am trekking in Machu Picchu. Every girl needs her Miu Miu while travelling. OK, that was four, I know.

Which is your favourite city in the world?

Mumbai. It’s one of my main inspirations: the colours, the culture and the people are all pretty amazing.

You're about to start your next design project. What materials are on your table?

First of all, I would need my fabulous girls with me – each brings her own special touch that I love. Then we yell and we argue. Afterwards, we sit down with our inspirational pictures or mood boards, the Swarovski stones, the natural pearls, and the new (confidential) materials.

What inspired your latest collection, Dating with Pharaohs?

I wanted to take everybody on a flamboyant Cairo holiday with a contemporary Cleopatra. The collection was inspired by Egyptian Golden Age melodrama, mixed with the paradox of Middle East and revival art deco figures. The result is a dramatic combination of micro-mosaic Bastet chokers, beaded anacondas rolling up the neck and explosions of gilded necklaces, which are a tribute to the iconic belly dancer Tahia Carioca.

If you could choose anyone in the world to collaborate with, who would it be?

Youssef Nabil. I loved his exhibition I Saved My Belly Dancer. The way he recreates Egyptian movies in art takes me back to when I used to watch those movies as a child and it inspires me – you can recognise some belly-dancer-inspired jewellery in my new autumn/winter collection.

From cereal boxes to banana peels, your Instagram profile shows some seriously blinged-out pieces. What's an item that you've always dreamed of embellishing?

I would love to crystallise the Mona Lisa. Sorry, Leonardo, but, if they allowed me, I don't think I could resist. It would also be amazing to add some sparkle to The Birth Of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.

Who are your go-to designers?

I would have to say Zayan [Ghandour], from Zayan the Label. We share the same vision of the modern woman, and we both love to mix and create. I love to wear her pieces and mix them with some vintage and Prada shoes – the combination is just gorgeous. She plays with transparencies, colours and prints and creates new and beautiful dress shapes.

What is your favourite item in your wardrobe right now?

My lamé-pleated silver skirt, combined with my Cleopatra and David Bowie T-shirts. I can’t stop wearing them.

What was your first-ever luxury purchase?

A pair of Prada heels. I still have them, but I can’t bring myself to wear them; they are very precious to me.

What is the one piece of jewellery that you most treasure?

My great-grandmother’s Bvlgari snake bracelet. It has been in my family for generations, and I guard it with my life

Shourouk's latest collection is available at S*uce stores in the UAE.

Read this and related stories in Luxury magazine's Watches & Jewellery issue, out with The National on Thursday, April 14.