After 14 years in business, Dima Rashid’s jewellery line, Dima, has been worn by a wide range of celebrities, including Queen Rania, Oprah Winfrey, and Gigi Hadid. Rashid’s brand is the go-to bespoke jewellery line for movie stars and international figures wanting modern interpretations of Middle Eastern inspired exquisite craftswork. eniGma’s Farida El Sayed chatted with the ‘designer for the stars’ about her latest collection as well as what lies ahead for her unique brand.
As soon as you meet the beautiful Dima Rashid, you are struck by her charm and obvious energy and can’t help thinking that it’s no wonder she has become a global success. Despite being a world famous, talented jewellery designer, her approachable manner and playful demeanour makes a conversation with her flow so easily. Her rich and varied background is also immediately evident, as reflected in her delightful mixed dialect that is a testament to her Palestinian roots, her upbringing in Saudi Arabia, and her higher schooling in Canada.
Becoming a jewellery designer was certainly not something on Rashid’s mind when she was fresh out of college. She majored in Psychology and minored in Political Science as an undergraduate student in Toronto, and as she recounts it, “90% of my dream or expectations on what I was eventually going to be doing was something related to political science, especially because my family is very political.” After getting married, she left Canada and eventually settled in Egypt with her husband in 2000.
After living in Egypt for a few years, Rashid recalls how one of her dear friends contracted an illness that required a long period of bed rest. “Since I was travelling the next day to London, I told her ‘listen, I’m going to get you some beads and stuff so you can start making us some friendship bracelets,’ just to keep her busy and distracted,” she explains. In London, Rashid headed to The Beads Shop, and what she thought would be a short visit turned into a five hour expedition, and a new found fascination with beads. By coincidence, a class was taking place in the shop at the same time, and she joined it. Then she joined the class that followed it too, and became totally entranced with the world of jewellery. She was still lingering in the store at 7pm, when the sales associate politely asked her to leave because they were closing the shop. Rashid had become hooked. “I went again the next morning, and then again the third day, before I travelled back home. It was very weird; I felt like I was on a high,” she recalls. Upon her return to Cairo, she became obsessed with her newly found hobby. “In three months, I went down two sizes because I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t drinking, I was doing nothing, except learning everything about stones, how to cut them, how to attach them, how to thread them. At that time I used to travel a lot with my husband, and every week I would literally be in a different city. Everywhere I went, I would visit the local beads and gemstones shops, and I would buy books on jewellery.”
Rashid began designing jewellery on a small scale for her family and intimate friends, until she made her official debut with a trunk show at her house in 2003. While the show was a great success, she felt overwhelmed by the business side, which involved selling to often difficult women. She remembers telling herself, “OK, this was a very nice experience, except for the selling and the women. This line of work is not for me. I’m not going to do this again.” Little did she know that a mere two weeks later, while on vacation in Paris with her family, a chance encounter at a restaurant would totally alter her outlook, and her life, forever. In the middle of dinner, a lady approached Rashid to tell her how fascinated she was by the earrings she was wearing. Rashid would later find that out that this lady was Natasha, the Chief Editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire, Europe. “And the rest,” as they say, “is history.” Natasha unexpectedly turned up at Rashid’s hotel at 7 am the next morning, while Rashid was hardly awake, and they agreed to meet later that afternoon. When Rashid looked carefully at the business card she had left for her, she couldn’t believe her luck, and promptly went about preparing herself for the totally unexpected meeting as best as she could. When they met that afternoon, in a blink of the eye, Natasha set Rashid up with an appointment at Harvey Nichols’ jewellery concession in London! “I didn’t even offer her a cup of water,” Dima jokingly remembers.
Today, with her jewellery being stocked everywhere, from Harvey Nichols to Erickson Beamon, and being worn by celebrities and royalty alike, Rashid doesn’t feel like she’s ‘made it,’ so to speak. “I don’t think I’ll ever get to that ‘I made it’ moment. Because the moment you say, “I made it,” that means you’re already going downhill, or you’re not being realistic. I am thankful to God and am comfortable where I am, but I can’t say I made it,” she says modestly.
Rashid is not after just any publicity. “It has nothing to do with celebrity or royalty. It’s who I feel appreciates and understands the product. I don’t just want a picture in a magazine. I want the person who wears my jewellery to really become a Dima girl. I want people to truly connect with my jewellery,” she explains. Some of the celebrity figures she truly cherishes who have worn her jewellery, are Queen Rania, Oprah Winfrey and the late Zaha Hadid, to name a few. However, when she was offered to collaborate with the DASH store owned by the Kardashians, she didn’t feel like they matched her brand, so she declined. It is infinitely more important for Rashid, that the customer truly cherishes and appreciates her designs, as that is the most fulfilling part of her job. One celebrity that Rashid hasn’t dressed but would like to, is Madonna, as Rashid considers herself one of her fans.
Currently Rashid outsources 40 percent of the work, while 60 percent is done in her showroom. Equally as important as the manufacturing quality is the sourcing of her gemstones and precious stones. For Rashid, it’s of the utmost importance that her gemstones are ethically sourced. “From a very young age, my father, who is as equally passionate about precious and rare stones and artifacts, taught me to respect and appreciate them. Naturally, this has been reflected in the way I hand pick my stones as I travel around the world,” she notes.
As for her latest collection, she excitedly exclaims “I am so proud of the latest collection because this was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. This new collection is a new level for me and I’m very excited to see the reaction. I feel like it’s going to get a lot more traffic than the norm. It’s Dima, so it’s modern yet so much fun. It’s very youthful, very colorful.” The inspiration for the collection came from a book about old European jewellery gifted to her by her daughter, an unlikely inspiration for a Middle Eastern designer but a testament to Rashid’s unique way of designing. Rashid excitedly explains Dima jewellery’s exclusive character, “Every Dima piece has its own unique identity that revolves around a special combination of precious and semi-precious stones together with our signature 18kt gold. Each piece has an artisanal, raw and asymmetrical feel. In every new collection we develop, we make sure to maintain this essence in every design. It will be rare to find two of the same Dima pieces worldwide.”
After many years as the reigning queen of fine jewellery in Egypt, Rashid’s passion for her craft is undiminished. She is still as equally passionate as she was 14 years ago. “You know I do every single piece. So, I’ve done probably 14,000 pieces. The minute I stop working on each piece, and it becomes a normal business and all I’m concerned with is selling, it will stop being a passion for me. Now, when I work I am happy, I really don’t want to be anywhere else; I don’t care to be anywhere else. Making jewellery gives me happiness, even if it’s hard, even if it takes time,” she explains. Looking to the future, Rashid is planning on launching a Bridal and Men’s line very soon in an effort to expand the business. It appears that 2018 will be a momentous year for the Dima brand, as it is expected to be filled with exciting collaborations and regional exhibitions.
On a broader level, Rashid is pleased with the rise of talent in the region, aided by the spread of social media. Based on her own path, Rashid has some valuable advice to young designers: “Get an education on what you are passionate about, whether through experience or school or both. It’s going to be your best asset. And always be prepared for opportunities. Don’t be afraid or discouraged to try and try again.”