The founder of luxury jewellery brand Bil Arabi describes the genesis of her company, international collaborations and why Egypt remains her most memorable travel destination.

How did the idea for Bil Arabi come about?

The idea for Bil Arabi was born in 2006, driven by my desire to infuse introspective messages and deep meanings into eye-catching jewellery that speaks about our pride for our culture and language, and one that represents our identity. My passion for art, design and photography led me to create Bil Arabi. I also strongly believe in the power of calligraphy and its artistic expression. The brand has since evolved to become a symbol of self-expression, reflecting the modern Arab identity in the 21st century and celebrating individualism through timeless, statement-making pieces.

What is the current scale of operations?

Bil Arabi currently operates at a regional scale, with all pieces crafted in the UAE. The exceptional craftsmanship within the UAE not only results in high-quality [products], but also allows us to maintain better control over the production process. This is an advantage for us as our clients often seek the option to customise their own letters or words from Bil Arabi. Other than our supported retailers, we have expanded to have our own shop-in-shop at THAT concept store which will be our strategy moving forward in the region.

Nadine Kanso collaborated with Guerlain (Image: Supplied by Bil Arabi)
Nadine Kanso collaborated with Guerlain (Image: Supplied by Bil Arabi)

You’re the first Arab designer to collaborate with Guerlain. How did that partnership arise?

In 2023, I was approached by Guerlain for a design to celebrate the 170th anniversary of its iconic Bee Bottle. I collaborated with the maison on creating a limited-edition perfume bottle encrusted with 24-carat gold crystals and with our signature love calligraphy that will be part of their archive. I was the first Arab designer that the LVMH-owned French high perfume and beauty house approached for a design collaboration.

Which is your most memorable travel experience to date?

My most memorable travel experience to date was my visit to Siwa in Egypt. It was truly an exceptional journey that left a lasting imprint on my heart. Siwa’s enchanting oasis, nestled amidst the Egyptian desert, offered a unique blend of nature, history and culture. It’s a piece of nature that is untouched and so simple with its beauty. We experienced living without electricity and no communications.

What is your choice of in-flight entertainment?

During flights, I usually catch up on work, especially when it comes to design and product development. Otherwise, I love to catch up on movies and listen to some songs for inspiration.

What are the three things you always pack in your suitcase?

My sketchbook, a set of fine-tipped pens to capture design inspirations and a camera.

Do you have any travel quirks?

I’m meticulous about documenting my travels through pictures. It’s a habit I’ve developed over the years, and it helps me gather inspiration for my design work and preserve the memories of my journeys.

How do you spend your air miles?

I use my air miles to explore new destinations and upgrade my experience.

What’s coming up next at Bil Arabi?

Our near-term expansion plan for Bil Arabi is aimed at growing globally. We are actively working towards establishing a broader international presence, while still staying committed to our roots in the Arab world. As for personal collaborations, there are exciting partnerships on the horizon that will bring fresh and creative dimensions to Bil Arabi over the coming months.