Meet The Woman Behind The Cover Of The September 2020 Issue Of Sassy & Co Magazine: The Amazing Dr. Mahtab Hanna

Dr. Mahtab Hanna is an award-winning British jewellery artist and designer-maker with a Persian heritage, whose designs are radically different from others – the cross-pollinating of Eastern and Western history, culture, religion, character, thoughts, and politics play a large part in the inspiration process leading to her creations. Whether its unique pieces or a limited edition series of work, her quest is to define within those pieces what she is aiming for, what the client is trying to communicate, and the reason behind each design. Some of her specialties include fine and contemporary jewellery, sculpture, and body adornment.

In 2017 Mahtab held a solo exhibition entitled “Political Jewellery: Silent Protest” at the P21 Gallery in London, and she has been featured by The Goldsmiths’ Centre (UK’s leading charity for the professional training of goldsmiths and a community for design, creativity, and craftsmanship), New Designers, Cox & Power, Masterpiece, Gallerie Marzee, amongst others. Mahtab’s trailblazing achievements include being awarded her Doctorate from Central Saint Martins and during those 4 years of her Ph.D., she had two children!

Sassy & Co magazine recently caught up with Mahtab to discuss her journey in the fashion and jewellery industry and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I am a British jeweller with a proud Persian background. It all started when I first wore my mother’s jewellery, I became passionate about the small design details on those jewellery; how its made, the precious stones, and how people wore them. It was then that I saw people, their clothes and jewellery as a canvas.

This led me to study jewellery and goldsmithing for over a decade leading to an MA from the Royal College of Art and a Ph.D. from Central Saint Martins in Jewellery.

How did you get into the fashion industry?

I love fashion, its an undeniable ingrained part of the substance of being a woman. Whilst there are so many fashion designers, there aren’t enough female jewellers in my view.

I entered the industry by showcasing my work and being showcased. I expanded from my artistic jewellery lines into fashion jewellery and body adornments, leading to my 2011 catwalk show at The Royal Exchange in London.

What do you like most about being a designer?

Being a designer is about sharing your life, your experiences, your feelings, your journeys, all under the umbrella of new creations. It’s a conversation with people you may never meet but have communicated with. You are influencing their confidence; how they communicate themselves and how people see them. Amazing!

Every designer is an individual, their creations are unique to them, just like their fingerprints. The concept behind my Goldfinger piece was that it would be customised for each individual wearer.

Ultimately, extending the experience of jewellery wearing is to challenge and ambush the boundaries of function and ornamented decorative art, highlighting communication, concluding with stimulating contemplation.

While creating each piece is a process and expression or development of a vision I have, jewellery is created for other people. It is important to remember this without compromising the original vision I have throughout the design and creation process.

The downside to being a fashion designer?

One of the most frustrating issues is that of designs being stolen or copied without the due respect to the original designer or maker. What was thought through in the design has been lost because the item is now simply “a thing,” not a messenger.

Of course, this is not a problem that’s just exclusive to jewellery, but the entire fashion arena.

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the fashion industry so far?

There have been many memorable experiences, such as being featured in Vogue Italia, selected as one of the top luxury jewellers in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, and featured in Qatar Airways magazine. I also appeared in a TV program called Four Rooms where top dealers tried to negotiate to buy some of my pieces.

Perhaps the most memorable was being selected to be the cover for the Goldsmiths’ Company inaugural post-graduate programme and being mentored by the late Dr. Stuart Devlin, one of the jewellery industry’s royalty.

Naturally, there is a lot of satisfaction from seeing my creations being used in films, photoshoots, and publications.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

The word “interesting” applies to every human, in my view. Those that have had a profound effect on me include the renowned British jewellers Shaun Leane and Theo Fennell. Their support for upcoming jewellers is a testament to their commitment to the industry.

Didier and Martine Haspeslagh who have a passion for jewellery made and designed by painters, sculptors, architects, and designers from the late 19th to the end of the 20th century.

Audiences have taught me the array of views on my pieces, clients have taught me the sheer personal nature of jewellery, the industry has taught me the sense of community. Therefore, many people who have interests!

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the fashion industry. This can be about the industry or yourself.

There’s a lot of politics behind the smiles in any industry, and fashion and jewellery is no exception.

I try to engage in one of the core values I place in life: from every person I meet, I try to leave the conversation having learned something or having exchanged knowledge. This is, in my view, the essence of being a designer – every lesson is valuable and shapes me.

The single most valuable lesson has been to remain faithful to my own values. Always consider the options but trust yourself to take the decisions – leadership starts with you!

Is your family supportive of you being a fashion designer?

I have been blessed to have a family that is completely supportive and unflinching in their love throughout my journey, through the victories and the challenges, especially my darling husband, Rafah Hanna.

It is critical for any creative person to have someone to support them, not only during the achievements but also at times of growth and learning. This is the person that will stand by you as you face those that do not have your best interest at heart.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

In the early days, I would want to focus much more on brand growth, especially internationally.

Another thing I would change would be to closely study those that have taken a similar journey leading to success, learning from their experiences.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

My mother often says to me – If you can be inspired, you can definitely inspire.

What are your future plans? What new projects are you currently working on right now?

I am excited to tell you exclusively that I am working on publishing my book related to political jewellery! How jewellery is used as a tool of messaging and communication to affect protests and opinions in the matter of politics.

I will also be having an international exhibition with the same theme related to the book.

My “Pawns” Chess Set is an example of my political jewellery designs, which I also made. It is made from Sterling Silver and Bronze and relates to the most extreme form of protest – war: a highly emotive and evocative subject throughout mankind’s history.

Politics, religion, money, and natural resources are all causes of wars, and these are all represented on the stage within this work in their own way.

The chess board is made from sand and soil, both of which represent another cause of war – “land” – as well as the battlefield.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie I’ve seen: Frozen 2 – as my daughter, Anais, and I both love it!

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Beautiful is such a personal thing – we may share a view of beauty, but it is equally about your values, thoughts, and mood even. I consider beautiful to be yourself, it is to fight for those that cannot fight and stand for equality.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? I would like to run workshops whereby I would mentor upcoming jewellers and designers, sharing my experiences with them, helping them to confidently progress in their chosen careers.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d… ” I don’t actually recognise the notion of fear. Life and careers are a series of challenges, fear is certainly one of them. It’s your job to face them, analyse them, and find paths to strengthen yourself to be able to proudly overcome them. Consideration and respect towards anything, person, or decision is a far greater asset than fear. Fear simply holds humanity back.

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? I sometimes don’t know when to stop working, trying always to reach a state of perfection! However, I wouldn’t change that as it drives me towards even higher quality.

Designer Spotlight: Make Way For The Talented Kadeem Alphanso Fyffe

Kadeem Alphanso Fyffe is a fashion designer, entrepreneur, actor, and public speaker. He is the founder and creative director of MUXE NEW YORK, and currently serves as the head of design at Acumen; his first collection for the Menswear Label debuts in Fall 2020.

Educated at the University of Richmond and Parsons School of Design, Kadeem has worked in the NYC Fashion Industry since 2013 as a Fashion Designer and Visual Merchandiser for the likes of Michael Kors, Gary Graham, Lyssé, PVH, and Mark Jacobs. His last role was Head of Design at WOLACO. He is an active member of the National Black Justice Coalition, and serves as a volunteer and committee member of NYC-based LGBT youth organization, Live Out Loud.

In 2016 he launched his own clothing label, MUXE NEW YORK, with the intent of creating unisex garments that comment on gender, politics, and culture. Kadeem is a passionate advocate for change to underrepresented communities, with a specific focus on the Black and LGBTQ+ communities.

Kadeem also started working as a commercial model and actor at 19 and has since appeared in TV, Film, and Stage in the US and Australia. He has lived 6 cities across three continents, visited 22 of the 50 U.S. States, and traveled to 15 countries.

Sassy & Co Magazine recently caught up with Kadeem to discuss his journey in the fashion industry and here’s what went down:

How did you get into the fashion industry?

My first internship was in the Women’s Collection at Micheal Kors, which I completed while at Parsons. I completed my graduate studies at Parsons in 2014 and started working professionally as a Women’s RTW designer in New York City.

What do you like most about being a designer?

I love translating my inspirations into a full collection – the whole process of collection development, bringing something from initial concept to full fruition, is my favorite part of being a designer.

The downside to being a fashion designer?

The industry can be very cut-throat at times – some people see this as a downside, but I have always tried to use the competitive nature of the industry to push me to succeed and propel me forward. At Parsons, a student once cut the thread right out of my sewing machine – the joke was on her though because my garment still turned out the best – being better is the sweetest revenge.

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the fashion industry so far?

I have had many memorable experiences, but if I had to pick one it would be the first time I worked backstage at NYFW while part of the design team at MK. It was the first time I saw supermodels in real life, and at one point I was 10 feet away from Anna Wintour. This was the moment I knew all my hard work had paid off, and I knew I deserved to be in the room with these people.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

The most interesting people I have met have been during my time as the Head of Design at WOLACO. I was able to meet other young entrepreneurs, fitness influencers, and professional athletes – I found them interesting because they were all hustlers who had mastered the art of self-branding and promotion – and of course, they were insanely fit and easy on the eyes.

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the fashion industry. This can be about the industry or about yourself.

In the famed words of Emily from Devil Wears Prada, “a million girls would kill for this job” – so I’ve always worked my ass off, knowing full well I could be replaced with a quickness.

Is your family supportive of you being a fashion designer?

Yes – my family has always supported my creative pursuits.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

At the beginning of my career, I would have focused more on networking and building and nurturing my professional and personal relationships.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

“Never give up”. It’s very simple.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I plan to continue to grow my business, while always remaining to opportunities to work as a Creative Director for brands that are meaningful to me.

Becoming A Fashion Designer: The Backbreakin Path to Success

I hate to be the one to burst the bubble of fashion enthusiasts, but there are a lot of misconceptions about fashion designing. One of which is the thought that it is easy for you to become part of the statistics of the most popular fashion designers such as Coco Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, Georgio Armani, among others. Another misconception is that fashion is all about glamour! Well… Surprise! It’s not. Just like being a famous celebrity, everything that is too good to be true has a certain price to pay for. Third, fashion schools teach only the basic things you need to know. When you eventually go out in the real world to start your business, you will be shocked to find out that you still have a lot to learn.

Passing Through the Eye of a Needle

In all actuality, becoming an established fashion designer is just like becoming a bonafide movie star. It’s like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. First and foremost, you have to compete with famous fashion designers who serve as the edifice of the industry… which is by the way, close to impossible. If you are persistent enough, then, perhaps, you can still land a career in fashion and you might even end up working for a recognized and reputable fashion designer. Start doing your homework and reading other materials that will help you get prepared for the big challenges ahead of you – it’s going to be a bumpy road.

The Price You Have to Pay

If you become an established celebrity, privacy will certainly be a luxury. Do you also know that there are some famous fashion designers that commit suicide? Why is this so? It’s simply because they are not happy…the truth is – behind the fame, popularity, and glamour…there is emptiness deep inside them that cannot be satisfied by self-fulfillment.

Fashion 101

In fashion school, you are taught to sew, draw, sketch, drape and make patterns. Once you have finished the course, you will feel confident that you are equipped with the needed knowledge, skills and values to succeed as a fashion designer. Alas! While the skills you learned in a fashion school are important, some of the stuff you learned is not as practical in the real world of fashion. If you decide to become an intern, you are expected to know how to sketch flats, design clothes using CAD’s, create garment specs and prepare presentation boards. Having said that, it is quite normal that all your ideal expectations will probably be shattered into bits and pieces. Eventually, you’ll realize that you have to mostly self-teach yourself with all the new concepts being thrown at you.

Different Branches of Fashion

Fashion is a massive entity in itself… it is not always about clothes. In fact, there are a lot of niches you can tap into in the fashion industry — you can be a stylist, designer, photographer, forecaster, and merchandiser, among others. If you are lucky enough, you will have the opportunity to experience working with some of them, if not all. And from there, you can weigh things up and determine which category really suits you best. It is important for you to develop an action plan so you’ll more likely have a better chance of reaching your goals.

5 Simple Tips To Maintain The Picture-Perfect Complexion

Our skin reacts to the environment we are in. I’ve worked with hundreds of girls over the years and one of the things I discovered is that not many people change their makeup and skincare seasonally.

It’s a great practice to get into the habit of switching up your key products according to the seasons. As a model, products and layers of heavy makeup are applied on the daily. One of the top priorities for you should be a consistent regime to maintain the perfect complexion. Here are five helpful tips to help save your skin:

More Sunshine = More Sunscreen

Get into the habit of using an SPF daily, as Aussie sun is extremely damaging even though we’re currently in the middle of winter. Whether that be swapping out your foundation for a tinted SPF, or adding a layer of sunscreen as your primer. To avoid issues with pigmentation, loss of collagen, elastin and accelerated signs of aging – always use an SPF30+ when outdoors. SPF 50+ for added points of protection.

You can easily dodge pigmentation concerns when you incorporate a consistent sunscreen routine into your beauty regime. If you have pigment/melasma concerns, serums that are high in Vitamin C, Niacinamide or Retinol are great options for daily treatment.

Detox More Frequently

Always amp up your cleansing and detoxing regime. Ensure you are doing deep cleansing masks or treatments once a week, on top of your daily double cleanse at night with your preferred cleanser (Kaolin clay masks work great, or oxygen activated products are the new rage at the moment). Sunscreen absorbs deeper into the skin, thus cleansing has to be incredibly effective.

Facials are a great way to eliminate toxins via lymphatic drainage and are a cheat way to achieve a glowing complexion within one session. I would highly recommend a facial with a reputable skin clinic with every change of season, that way you are always staying on top of your skin needs.

Don’t Forget Your Toner

When toners first came onto the market, they were laden with heavy acids and alcohol. These are the ones that should be used sparingly, and even avoided!

Hydrating, cleansing toners on a cotton pad as a last step of your cleansing regime will always show you how much makeup and cleanser you didn’t take off (our hands only take off 60% of our makeup, scary times!). It’s so important that we have clean skin before any moisturizer is applied. Toner also helps your serums, and creams penetrate deeper into the skin, so, therefore, you don’t have to use as much cream as you think you need! Win-win!

Bold Trends For Wintertime Glam

There is something about wintertime that calls for elevated glam. I love adding Classic Reds and punchy bright hues of fuchsia or deep oranges to enhance a glowy complexion.

DO: keep your lipstick texture in mind.

If you’re prone to dry lips, opt for creamy formulas, or sheer glossy lipsticks (and be sure to exfoliate your lips beforehand). That way they will fade to a soft tint over the evening. If you don’t feel like touching up over the evening, reach for the punchy mattes and keep the colour within the edges of the lip line. Remember, you don’t need lip liners with matte liquid lipsticks! Still afraid of the bold? Make your lip more wearable by using your finger as the applicator. Then using the tip of your ring finger, softly diffuse the colour around the lip line, creating more of a stained effect.

DON’T: Go overboard with the rest of your makeup when playing up the lip.

Keep the rest of the complexion clean and sophisticated. Meaning, you should keep your eyes softer to bring more attention to the gorgeous bright lip. Opt for bronze shadow. That way you are bringing attention to one area of the face, this is how you create balanced makeup.

About Kim Barry:

While assisting multiple artists, Kim has also worked for Mecca Cosmetica, in both management and artistry for the last six years. With a strong background in skincare teamed with luxury makeup, she has earned a reputation for creating the perfect, photographic complexion. Clients and productions Kim has worked for and collaborated with include; Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia (runway), Best & Less (TVC), Keno (TVC), SBS Australia (film), Masterchef (television), Packed to the Rafters (television), Vogue Living Australia (print), Cosmopolitan Magazine (print), American Apparel (print), General Pants (print), and more. She has also worked alongside several international makeup artists for brand events such as By Terry, Chantecaille, Hourglass, and Stila.

The Brutal Truth Of What It Takes To Be A Fashion Designer

I hate to be the one to burst the bubble of fashion enthusiasts, but there are a lot of misconceptions about fashion designing. One of which is the thought that it is easy for you to become part of the statistics of the most popular fashion designers such as Coco Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, Georgio Armani, among others. Another misconception is that fashion is all about glamour! Well… Surprise! It’s not. Just like being a famous celebrity, everything that is too good to be true has a certain price to pay for. Third, fashion schools teach only the basic things you need to know. When you eventually go out in the real world to start your business, you will be shocked to find out that you still have a lot to learn.

Passing Through the Eye of a Needle

In all actuality, becoming an established fashion designer is just like becoming a bonafide movie star. It’s like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. First and foremost, you have to compete with famous fashion designers who serve as the edifice of the industry… which is by the way, close to impossible. If you are persistent enough, then, perhaps, you can still land a career in fashion and you might even end up working for a recognized and reputable fashion designer. Start doing your homework and reading other materials that will help you get prepared for the big challenges ahead of you – it’s going to be a bumpy road.

The Price You Have to Pay

If you become an established celebrity, privacy will certainly be a luxury. Do you also know that there are some famous fashion designers that commit suicide? Why is this so? It’s simply because they are not happy…the truth is – behind the fame, popularity, and glamour…there is emptiness deep inside them that cannot be satisfied by self-fulfillment.

Fashion 101

In fashion school, you are taught to sew, draw, sketch, drape and make patterns. Once you have finished the course, you will feel confident that you are equipped with the needed knowledge, skills and values to succeed as a fashion designer. Alas! While the skills you learned in a fashion school are important, some of the stuff you learned is not as practical in the real world of fashion. If you decide to become an intern, you are expected to know how to sketch flats, design clothes using CAD’s, create garment specs and prepare presentation boards. Having said that, it is quite normal that all your ideal expectations will probably be shattered into bits and pieces. Eventually, you’ll realize that you have to mostly self-teach yourself with all the new concepts being thrown at you.

Different Branches of Fashion

Fashion is a massive entity in itself… it is not always about clothes. In fact, there are a lot of niches you can tap into in the fashion industry — you can be a stylist, designer, photographer, forecaster, and merchandiser, among others. If you are lucky enough, you will have the opportunity to experience working with some of them, if not all. And from there, you can weigh things up and determine which category really suits you best. It is important for you to develop an action plan so you’ll more likely have a better chance of reaching your goals.