Alanood Al Sabah grew up with a mother who loved jewelry, and who instilled in her daughter a similar passion for fine design and diamonds. In college—studying for a degree in architecture—she sketched jewelry styles that she would someday love to wear, but it wasn’t until her husband, Fahad Al Hajiri, encouraged her to share her talent with the world that the couple launched Octium in 2009 in their native Kuwait.
Al Sabah persuaded Al Hajiri, with a background in cultural anthropology and history, to head up the business side, while she helmed the design department. Avid travelers who have visited Italy, Saudi Arabia, New York City, and Washington (and have even lived Stateside), the pair will visit the United States again upon their launch at Couture during Jewelry Week 2012.
While some question whether or not couples should work together, both insist the working fit is a good one. “He gives me deadlines,” Al Sabah explains to JCK in Skype call.
Jewelry design team Alanood Al Sabah and Fahad Al Hajiri of Octium
JCK: Describe your signature style.
Alanood Al Sabah: Our designs feature variations of the tilted octagon; the number eight is prominent not only in the Octium name, but also in the slanted and skewed octagonal outline that forms our insignia. I was born on August 8, so the number eight is symbolic to me as well as prominent in various cultures around the world. The number eight symbolizes health and prosperity, and is also a prominent figure in Islam. We researched every brand on the market and found our shape, the tilted octagon, to be original, which is so difficult to do! In fact, we first developed another look, inspired by animal symbols, but found it to be too complicated and never showed it. Maybe someday we’ll show the press!
JCK: Where is the jewelry made?
Fahad Al Hajiri: We operate a small local workshop in Kuwait, producing certain pieces that we supervise. The initial design process is a very special time for us both as we are both very intimately involved with our creations. We sketch our initial ideas and review them together before getting anyone else involved, and then once we feel that our ideas best reflect our vision, we pass them on to our in-house jewelry designer who, under very close supervision, manufactures the piece and/or collections. This phase is critical for us since pieces are constantly evolving. The rest of our pieces are made in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and Italy.
Being very involved in the creative process—with the evolution for even a single piece of jewelry being a learning method on its own—we design collections that appeal to cosmopolitan markets.
JCK: Tell us about your design process.
Al Sabah: Our first collection, Series One, was both cast and fabricated in 18k rose gold and set with diamonds. We started with rose gold because it’s very subtle and looks good on everyone; we used only diamonds because nobody hates diamonds! In our second, third, and fourth collections, we will use yellow and white gold, and we will introduce color later. Every stone has a character, its own charm and beauty. We sometimes conceptualize designs and then fit in the stones we want, or the opposite, building a design that caters to specific stones. We don’t like limiting ourselves, as design is endless, and our ideas are endless.
Al Hajiri: The designs are soft and feminine, as Alanood thinks of what she likes to wear when she sketches them.
JCK: How many accounts do you currently have?
Al Sabah: None in the U.S., but we are stocked at Harrods of London, and are the first brand out of Kuwait to be there! Their buyers fell in love with our first series after its launch in Paris Fashion Week 2011 and it took off from there.
Al Hajiri: We also have our own boutique in the 360 Mall in Safat, Kuwait.
JCK: What jewelry shows do you exhibit in?
Al Hajiri: So far we exhibit in a fair in Kuwait and a few important shows in Riyadh. The Saudi jewelry market is the most important in the region. We will exhibit at Couture for the first time this year.
JCK: Have you received or been nominated for any jewelry design awards?
Al Sabah: Not yet, but we are submitting one of our special Couture pieces to the Couture Design Awards panel and are hoping for the best.
JCK: What is your starting retail price in 18k gold?
Al Hajiri: Around $1,500 for a piece from Series One, which is a single Octium bracelet with two small diamonds set in the central opening.
JCK: What else is important for American store owners to know about Octium?
Al Hajiri: We are a fine jewelry brand that cares about quality, customer service, and establishing long-term partnerships with stores. We want stores to be successful, and we want to establish Octium in the U.S., but don’t want to become too “American” for the American market. When some international brands cross the Atlantic, they don’t keep their identity. We want Americans to fall in love with how the brand as we have created it.