Shourouk Rhaiem is the French-Tunisian designer behind the jewelry line Shourouk, launched three years ago. In 2009, Jean Paul Gaultier commissioned her to create jewels for his runway show. Before starting her own line, she worked in textiles at Chloé in Paris, and with John Galliano and Roberto Cavalli in Florence.
As a Paris based designer originally from Tunisia, where do you find most of your inspiration?
It’s hard for me to explain just one inspiration because there is so much that influences my work. I learned embroidery from my grandmother in Tunisia, whose work really fascinated me from a young age. My mother loved Bollywood films and the TV series Dallas, both of which have sparked inspiration for me. Bollywood films have played a huge role in my adoration of the jewelry and styles of maharajas, which I incorporate into many of my designs. Beyond my Tunisian background, Paris’ mix of what is considered traditional France and its classic art’s contrast with modern art, both of which are important to my collections.
You’ve described pieces from your collection as coming from a “glamorous fairy tale world.” What do you think is the perfect RTW line to accompany your jewelry?
One brand that I think would go perfectly with my jewelry is Isabel Marant. I am a huge Isabel Marant fan and when I wear her designs, I usually pair them with one of my creations, and they look great together. I think Martin Margiela’s designs would be a good combination with my collection. He is very innovative and brings a lot of imagination and fun to his designs. And of course Miu Miu as well.
Having had the opportunity to work with icons such as Roberto Cavalli and Jean Paul Gaultier, how were they an influence on you as a designer?
Jean Paul Gaultier was a great experience, although working with Chloé and John Galliano had the most impact on me as a designer. With Chloé, I learned so much about mixing materials, from fabric to plastic, in the creation of luxurious designs.
With each piece being handcrafted, do you have a large staff assisting you?
No, not really. We have a small staff here in Paris, and we have all of our products made by hand in India. The collections’ prototypes are initially designed in Paris then we sent to India for creation.
Do you produce many pieces that are one of a kind?
Our one of a kind pieces are usually reserved for things like exhibitions and special events like that, although there are some exceptions, like the custom belt Michelle Obama wore in Ireland.
How does it feel to have been added to the Michelle Obama look book?
It seems so surreal to me still. I really admire Michelle Obama, not only for her status as a fashion icon, but also for everything she represents with her class and elegance. I love how open-minded she is with her style; she wears more than just couture designs. By giving a young designer like myself the opportunity to be involved in one of her looks says a lot about her character.