Interview with Walid, Alia and Dori Mouzannar
LEFT TO RIGHT: Rhea, Dori, Walid, Claude and Alia Mouzannar, Courtesy of Mouzannar
To say that Mouzannar is an industry name would be to state the obvious. The family has been synonymous with jewellery since The House of Aziz and Walid Mouzannar’s beginnings in the 18th century, a full six generations ago.
Neither time nor war has decreased the family’s ardour or ambition. What sets them apart is their ability to accept the inevitability of change and adapt to it. Today both the fifth and sixth generation are involved in the family business. Cousins Alia and Dori are currently in charge of design, bringing two distinct styles to their family heritage.
In their busy Beirut flagship store, Tharawat spoke to Walid Mouzannar, his daughter, Alia, and nephew, Dori, about their heritage and creating jewellery that matters.
Two generations are working together. What was it like taking on such a heritage?
Walid: For me, my heritage is my vocation. I was always a part of this atmosphere. At the age of eighteen I knew I wanted to be in this business. I never regretted it. When I started, we were focused on traditional designs. I brought some evolution, some modern thinking, and introduced the use of semi-precious stones. Working with professional artisans is working with artists. You need to evolve continuously.
We are now handing the torch to the next generation. I am part of the fifth generation, and we are now working with our sixth generation. With Alia, Dori, and Rhea, I am surrounded by my child, my niece, and my nephew – what more could I ask for? It is a blessing for us to know that our legacy will be carried on.
Alia, are you the first woman to join the firm?
Alia: My cousin Rhea started working with the company first, paving the road for me. I am probably the first woman in the family to design jewellery. When I joined the family business it was a combination of joy and responsibility. It is a great opportunity to have a name. I told my father, “You have given me a last name, now I want to make a first name for myself.” My background is in interior decoration. Being part of our business has allowed me to actualise my design aspirations in collaboration with great artisans.
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Dori, what is it like to work in the family business?
Dori: It is great, but not always easy. Our generation grew up during the war. I studied Economics in London thinking that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to return to Lebanon. When it happened in the 90s, I only wanted to join the family business for a short while, but ended up staying. I don’t regret it. Today I design jewellery. It’s a great job to have.
Alia: Dori and I are designers with very distinctive styles. Usually a jewellery house has one design direction, but our maison has two. There are clients that are fans of Dori’s style and others that are fans of mine. Then there are customers that like both. It is very easy to combine both design directions. It is also very modern of our parents to let us both do what we want. There is space for everyone. It’s all Mouzannar!
Walid: Innovation comes with youth. With age, you understand how things evolve. The collaboration between the two allows a company to move forward. We like variety and have both traditional and creative pieces. That way every generation can come purchase from us. Mothers and daughters buy items from our store. I personally have sold engagement rings to three different generations.
How do you deal with more informed, global customers?
Alia: People have been coming to us for specific occasions for generations. They come for our personalised touch, for the boutique, and the traditional experience.
Walid: What has changed is the role of jewellery in the client’s life. The younger generation wants jewellery that is within their budget, a selection that they can change often, and that they don’t have to be too worried about losing. There are also people who have jewellery they want to transform, older jewellery that they are attached to. This is a great part of what we do.
Alia: Women of my generation want to buy their own jewellery. They don’t just wait around until they receive a gift from men. Women want to spoil themselves. This is new. We “de-dramatised” jewellery by making it into an accessory, a fashion statement.
Walid: For us, it is about having something to offer everyone. You are not a jeweller just for the sake of making money. You are a jeweller in order to be part of how things evolve over time, to witness what beautiful changes can happen.
Alia: It is our mission to continue creating experiences for the people that buy our jewellery.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 27, 2015