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SAY IT IN ARABIC

Who doesn’t know Nadine Kanso? Her brand, Bil Arabi, is an inspiration to every Middle Eastern designer out there. A fusion of the contemporary with the classical, celebrating Arabic calligraphy transformed into artistic jewelry creations that captured our eyes and hearts! Today we get to know Nadine on a more personal level.


Originally an artist and a photographer, Nadine found her calling in jewelry design through her first photography exhibition, Meen Ana, meaning Who am I, which focused on Arabic identity. In light of the 9/11 events, she felt like she needed to express the good in the Arab world, and to bring it more into focus. Born was the Noon ring, which skyrocketed her brand and aesthetic, making it what it is today.

Ideas usually come to her unprompted, and when inspiration strikes, she draws them out on a piece of paper. They could be executed immediately, or they could take a year or more. It’s that constant push to create something different, to challenge herself into making a piece that she’s never done before, that is the drive behind her inspiration.

“It’s nice to hear someone express how they doubted the extent to which I can go with Arabic calligraphy when I first started the brand, but that I have shown them that I can still create new items 14 years later!”

When we asked Nadine of what career she would have chosen if not a jewelry designer, she laughed. “Definitely not a singer! I think I would have been more involved in the arts; I also like history, so maybe an archaeologist. Things that relate to nostalgia are always interesting to me.”

She advises aspiring jewelry designers to find their own identity and DNA, as that’s what will set them apart as a brand. They also need to not only own the brand, but to love it. Passion is the key to success, and unless they love their work, or anything else they do in life, they shouldn’t be doing it.

“You wake up in the morning and you do something you love. You don’t need to be pushed to go to work, and that’s a blessing. You need to find whatever it is you love, and do it.”

She would love to give her experience and know-how to people who need it and are still learning. Nadine mentored a jewelry designer last summer, who contributed to designing a collection for Bil Arabi that will launch soon. She believes that mentoring is a learning process for both parties, as Nadine herself isn’t a person who likes to order or shape someone’s actions. Being in a workshop is different from the structured academic route, and can inspire more creativity. That is exactly what she offers to young designers: a chance to help them explore their aesthetic with the guidance of an experienced mentor.

We couldn’t pass up the chance of asking about the essential jewelry pieces every woman should own. As everyone has their own sense of style she believes that a woman needs to pick the jewelry that resonates with her. Jewelry is an expression of a woman’s self and how she carries it. “Wear it with love, and it will reflect on you,” she says. “Of course, you can’t go wrong with some nice earrings and rings that match your personal aesthetic.”

When it comes to classics such as the tennis bracelet and the diamond studs, Nadine told us that these are usually part of the wedding trousseau of a woman. “Even if you don’t like them at first, you come to love them as you grow, and they are passed down through generations. Of course, you can always alter and customize them.” She proceeds to tell us the story of her own wedding ring. One day she decided to Arabize it, first upgrading the stone, and then changing the actual band to say Inta w Ana, meaning You and Me in Arabic. She advises people to do the same, to add a personal touch to their jewelry.

Nadine’s wedding ring.


Nadine’s taste in fashion aligns perfectly with her designs: stylish and edgy. “I love the works of Cartier and Bulgari; their older designs are quite beautiful. Valentino and Gucci always stand out to me, because of their prominent character and edge.” 

A Cancerian, Nadine believes that you can’t keep planning every step of your life. That’s exactly how she’s dealing with the current pandemic using the downtime to take a breath and think of the future. Always one to lead a very active and busy lifestyle, lockdown provided a nice reprieve to clear her head and focus on her brand and designs. We are looking forward to seeing her new collection!

To shop Bil Arabi visit BilArabi.ae

by Nour Rashad

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