At London Fashion Week this September, Matthew Williamson sent onto the runway his collection for Spring/Summer 2014. Down the catwalk strode models in pretty floral shirts, tunics and trousers, in colourful tones characteristic of Williamson. But there was more. As the models moved, shimmering golden flashes caught the light.
This extra allure was thanks to the jewels, designed by Azza Fahmy in collaboration with the fashion designer. Long necklaces and bracelets loaded with coins reminiscent of traditional Egyptian dancers swayed with the models' gait. Glimpses of cage-like cuffs spanned the lower arms and outsized sculptural rings were clearly visible. The long, fluid lines of Fahmy's necklaces and earrings mixed with bold, sculptural shapes worked perfectly with Willamson's feminine, draped clothes in soft, floating fabrics.
I was invited to do an online interview with the Azza Fahmy team and Matthew Williamson and learnt more about this unusual meeting of East and West.
Previously, Azza Fahmy has made jewels for designers Julien Mcdonald and Preen, but this is Matthew Williamson's first venture into fine jewellery, which he considers a natural extension from ready to wear. So when Matthew Williamson, who is known for his love of different cultures, came to choose a jeweller, it is no surprise that he turned to Egypt.
"I have always drawn inspiration from exotic countries and rich cultures," says Williamson. "I love detail, intricacies and craftsmanship. At the end of the day I make clothes that have a sense of optimism about them, which I think works particularly well in the Middle East."
And it works. The brand has garnered a strong following in the Middle East over the past 16 years, and his collections regularly sell out in Harvey Nichols in Riyadh. "I was drawn to the Eastern references in Azza Fahmy's work and the three-dimensional qualities in the pieces," explains Williamson. "I loved the almost sculptural, architectural pieces; particularly the rings. We worked together for the show in September, and we plan to work in a much more collaborative way for the next collection in February."
Azza Fahmy explains the process as a meeting of two minds: "You have to design something that suits the dresses and that looks nice on the catwalk. Together we made something that suits the clothes." Her daughter Amina Ghali, who also worked on the project, says: "We had to work together to merge the gap between England and the Middle East, and you have to be sensitive when bringing the two together." And of course an important design factor is that the jewellery has to be visible on the catwalk yet wearable when the collections arrive in the shops.
We know that there will be another chapter in the Matthew Williamson/Azza Fahmy collaboration, but will the East be a greater influence in Matthew Williamson's work in the future? "Possibly. You never know where your inspiration may come from." But he adds: "As my collections develop and mature, those sort of regional influences are becoming slightly more subliminal. They are less loaded with references, but there is always some undercurrent within the collection that is bubbling along."
The jewels are available online at www.azzafahmy.com
A model on the Matthew Williamson Spring/Summer 2014 catwalk at London Fashion Week wearing a Dome ring and Geometric ring from the new Azza Fahmy for Matthew Williamson capsule collection.
The new Azza Fahmy for Matthew Williamson Coins necklace, one of the nine designs in a new collaborative collection between the Egyptian jeweller and British fashion designer.
The Coins bracelet, one of a capsule collection of jewels designed by Azza Fahmy for Matthew Williamson.
Matthew Williamson chatting to a panel of editors on his collaboration with Azza Fahmy.
The Architectural ring from the new Azza Fahmy for Matthew Williamson collection, as seen on the Matthew Williamson Spring/Summer 2014 catwalk.