By Beatrice Tridimas
Entrepreneur, designer and diamantaire, Aya Ahmad is changing the face of luxury jewellery. Her sustainable jewellery brand, Fyne, is ethical, affordable and sophisticated, the perfect solution for the climate conscious consumer.
For the second in our Celebrating Women series, we were utterly inspired by Fyne’s gorgeous jewels to speak to founder, Aya, about what it’s like being a female pioneer in an industry notoriously dominated by men.
Growing up in Belgium to Lebanese parents and a family of diamantaires, Aya wasn’t sure she fit in the male heavy industry until she found herself studying a GIA course and fronting her own jewellery company.
What was it like to grow up in a family of diamantaires?
My grandfather started working in the industry and then my father had a few brothers as well and they all started working in the industry. I never expected myself to go into diamonds because I felt like that was just something the men would do.
When I decided to do my GIA course in London, and then I moved back from London to Belgium, I was the first woman in my family to work in the industry. I kind of felt like I wanted to prove myself, so it motivated me to work harder. I definitely stood out. I was one of the few women in the Antwerp diamond market that was working with rough diamonds, as well, so it was very interesting.
What does it mean to be a woman with her own company in the diamond industry?
That’s a very good question. There are a lot of industries that are very heavily male dominated, such a banking, I think by the nature of the industry itself. However, it is changing, there’s a lot more women starting their own jewellery brands.
More women are going into private jewellery consulting and brokerage for the wholesale market. But I think there is kind of an intimidation to go into an industry that is heavily dominated by males as well.
What does it mean to be successful?
I just, I’ve always been an advocate of women working and doing something that they’re passionate about. They don’t even need to be making a lot of money, it’s just the fact that they’re doing something for themselves. In my society – not in Belgium necessarily, but in Lebanon and the Gulf – a lot of women from the previous generation were stay at home moms, you know.
It wasn’t seen as necessary to work because they’d take care of the children and that was already enough, time consuming… but what happened is a lot of them have grown up with the feeling of not having enough self worth because most of their life was given towards their children. I see this a lot within my own family, and I feel like having something that you’re really passionate about and you’re working is a success enough.
If you’re a woman and you’re able to do something for yourself that’s ‘selfish’ – I think that’s key and that will generate happiness. That’s what I find as being successful because it’s already hard enough to establish your own business and manage everything.
What’s it like being a woman in the sustainable businesses?
I think the majority of sustainable businesses that I’ve found, especially in Dubai, are female founded. There have been a few male fashion designers that I came across that are doing sustainable things but the majority is female, I’m not sure why that is?
I think women naturally are more emotional beings, so being sustainable and implementing sustainability in your life comes from more of a mindful and conscious point of view…
Who’s your biggest inspiration?
From a design perspective, definitely Zaha Hadid. She repeatedly excelled in a male dominated industry and was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize of Architecture. It is also inspiring to see a woman of Arab origin making a name for herself that will go down in history books.