I’ve been quite fascinated by Th’haba, the locally conceived hand-crafted jewelry concept, and its constant state of evolution for quite some time now. Which is why when the opportunity presented itself to interview the brand’s founder Abrar Alebrahim, I swiftly found myself wandering along the pretty lanes of Shuwaikh’s Mayar Center to reach my destination at the designer’s latest space, Kittab Th’haba.
Don’t expect to find yourself at yet another boutique, as Abrar considers Kittab Th’haba her home away from home. Clad in pristine, dusty white marble walls and floors, the space is beautifully flooded with light. As soon as I walked through the door, I noticed the bustling staff moving the furniture around, and setting up bespoke canvases by renowned artist, architect and designer Fareed Abdal. Noticing my perplexed complexion, Abrar warmly ushered me through and welcomed me with this explanation, “The purpose of this space is threefold, to learn, experience and socialize, and the shift changes depending on the planned activity or collaboration taking place here. I love that we worked with Fareed to present his latest jewelry collection showcasing his calligraphy. The space is now his canvas to realize his vision. Just before any event, the space is completely redesigned—I remove all the jewelry to showcase a totally new idea, launch or initiative.” Mere moments later, we shifted gears ourselves, and headed upstairs to her workspace to talk about the idea that started it all: Th’haba.
For Abrar, the learning experience is what makes her journey with Th’haba special. Picking up a special sieve used to separate diamonds by size, a self-taught technique on the designer’s part, I admired her sharpness and utter precision that is clearly reflected in her work and designs since its inception in 2011. Ephemeral earrings are designed to fall in a certain way to emit a subjective feeling, and a diamond tennis bracelet is atypical, cleverly envisioned to sit on the wrist in a specific, delicate manner that can’t be found when looking at the designs of many high-end jewelry brands. From inspirations that vary from poetry to travel, and calligraphy, it is clear that with Th’haba, each piece is personal, and telling of one of Abrar’s remarkable stories and experiences.
The designer credits her discerning eye to her passionate relationship with architecture. She said, “I consider architecture to be an equally creative field, and practicing it enhances my experience with Th’haba on an on-going basis. Architecture teaches you how to design, and that’s a scalable skill. There was a collection that I am planning on bringing back that was influenced by Old-Kuwaiti architecture.” If anything, Abrar’s journey with Th’haba is an earned craft, constantly practiced and perfected.
“The entire journey with Th’haba continues based on me meeting people, learning and growing with Th’haba,” Abrar remarked with fascination, “I teach architecture at the university on a part time basis, and I consider teaching and interacting with people as a huge part of who I am as a person. I always taught those younger than me through my work as well as giving workshops. Teaching is something I deeply appreciate.”
With Kittab Th’haba, Abrar looks forward to meeting both clients and potential Th’haba fans, to speak with them about all the hard work it takes to actually produce a given collection. She explained that, “While locals are quite used to buying traditional jewelry, we’re establishing ourselves as designers. To me, that’s reflective of so many things, from effort, inspiration to design.” In this sense, the journey with Th’haba is also educational, where Abrar takes the time to speak to her clients about her pieces, and this part of her vision is now realized at Kittab Th’haba.
Simply looking around the space shows a marked reflection of how Kittab Th’haba is quite multifaceted, like the designer’s personality. For Abrar, the space not only solidifies Th’haba as a design concept, but it also arrives as a cultural platform. She smilingly arranges a collection of Indian jewelry that remained after her first event at the space. Dubbing each event as an ‘episode’, Abrar’s first foray with Episode 1: Incredible India was a collaboration with Mohamed Al Sanea’ of travel platform 961. Mohamed picked a bold and inspired collection from India, and a part of this collection now has a permanent home at Kittab Th’haba. When I asked her why India, her eyes lit up at the opportunity to speak on another great passion of hers—travel.
“Traveling is when I am mostly me, that is when I am out of my context. I try to make it happen as often as I can. It’s very inspirational, and it’s actually how I got the idea for Th’haba!” It was one trip to New York, seven Christmases ago that led Abrar to the Union Square fair where she saw many small jewelry designers showcasing their work. It was then and there that she approached them, and told them that she would have a shop one day where she wanted to sell their pieces. She excitedly recounted, “That trip resonated with me, and suddenly I started my own businesses. I visited the same spot a year and a half later, and told them that I still want to sell their designs!” Beyond the experiences that come with travel, Abrar believes that her own designs, and jewelry buying habits, have changed. Nowadays, Abrar seeks to explore the jewelry culture of each and every place that she visits, and further explained, “I research this aspect of the culture, find people that make it, and bring back a collection to Kuwait. This feeds my thirst for knowledge. For instance, consider Oman. The nation’s jewelry style varies from region to another, and in working with various materials there I am constantly inspired.” To Abrar, her art of jewelry making and design is always a personal endeavor, and travel nurtures her desire to learn and create.
But has this designer ever needed to change direction? “Not yet!” she laughingly replied, “I always know how it’s going to look like. I have something in my mind that I need to realize immediately. It comes to me as soon as I consider how a stone can be placed, for instance. I never randomly sketch—maybe that’s why this is a bit different to architecture. Where architecture work is based on pre-existing notions, with Th’haba, I have these designs in my mind—and I need to make them happen.”
With five collections currently in the works, Abrar does everything on her own while still teaching architecture – she makes it look all too easy, “I’ve got way more to go, but I always find myself out of time!” she said, “I’m pretty hands-on when it comes to my work from design to production.” No piece is produced without her sharp supervision. I asked the designer if that takes away from her desire to collaborate, a notion she entirely rejected, “Collaborations are beautiful. You learn about yourself, you learn about the other person, and it broadens your horizons and opens a new market for you.” Previously collaborating with local artist Abdullah Al Awadhi, Abrar looks forward to working with him again. As far as dream collaborations go, she would love to work with Brazilian designer Fernando Jorge, “Not only is he a soulful human being, his designs are amazing! I would definitely learn so much from him!”
Before I departed from the amazing space that is Kittab Th’haba, I leave Abrar to prepare for yet another work trip. This time, Abrar plans on dedicating her time strictly for Th’haba. “I’m going to India to meditate and work, there are so many ideas in my head that I need to get out!” And I cannot wait to see what these ideas materialize into as I plot my next visit to this gorgeous space.
Up close and personal questionnaire:
What do you most value in your friends?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
“Being” in love.
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lying, not to others, but to themselves.
Which living person do you most admire?
My little brother Ali.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My collection of bags.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What is it that you most dislike?
The fact that I am allergic to cheese.
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could have any job, what would it be?
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
My spiritual awareness.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Where would you most like to live?
By the beach, in Spain.
What are your favorite words to live by?
No one’s higher good comes at the expense of another person’s higher good. You have your faith, and I have love.
For more information, please call 6707 8740 and follow Th’haba Jewelry on Instagram:@Thhabajewelry. Head to Mayar Center in Shuwaikh Industrial to shop Abrar’s designs at Kittab Th’haba, and follow @KittabThhaba on Instagram for their latest updates and ‘Episodes’. Photography by Yousef Al Nasser @Yousefcam on Instagram.