Our minds and bodies have been crying for it, praying for it, inexhaustibly whining, with every molecule of their being, and it’s finally here. Spring. The calendar reads March 5th. I am in Paris and the sky is clear, bright blue even. No more drops of rain to cloud my spirit, no more flapping umbrellas and paralyzing goosebumps, just chirping birds, glistening canals and truckloads of vitamin D. I just wish this eminent happening had occurred at the start of Paris Fashion Week and not on its last leg, because tomorrow most of us will be going back to the polar vortex that is New York and this little taste of spring will dissipate slowly, until our minds and bodies are crying again.
But no such derogatory thoughts are obscuring my merry mood today because Shourouk’s terrace is perfect. Besides a white awning, there is no escape from the sunlight and it’s a welcome privilege. Inside, the coffee table is set with all kinds of beautiful delights: fresh croissants, bear-shaped cookies, chocolate fondant pralines, fruity candles and pastel colored flowers in many, many vases. “Would you like some coffee?” she asks me. It’s a funny question because it turns out they don’t actually have any coffee, nor a coffee machine. “We will run and get some from downstairs!” her boyfriend apologizes. But I happily decline. One look at Shourouk’s colorful, sparkly interior is enough caffeine to last me until the summer. Nevermind her closet, which brims with all kinds of neon, furry, sequined and embroidered marvels. I’m good.
Shourouk Rhaiem’s life revolves around jewelry and foreign travels. The driving force and inspiration behind her eponymous brand is lyrical and culturally nostalgic. “I am spontaneously inspired when I travel,” she tells me. “I can find it in an object, an image or even a foreign dish! I always bring back souvenirs, fabrics or candles from my trips and then I work with my team to illustrate the new colours, shapes or materials we want in the new collection.” She shows me beautiful embellished wedding skirts from Tunisia, her country of origin, decorated skulls from Mexico, the home of her icon Frida Khalo, and vintage headpieces from the flea market in Paris, her favorite haunt. But her heart and soul are forever and ever pawned to India. “India is an inexhaustible source of inspiration!” she finds. “This country has always been really special to me and I try to go there every year. It’s a place I dreamed about watching Bollywood movies as a child and for which my love grew even more every time that I traveled there. It is one of the most inspiring place on earth! This unique kitsch culture combined with its rich history makes it a country of contrasts, from the Maharaja palaces to the shanty towns. I love that it’s loud, chaotic, and colorful!”
I suppose opposites attract, because Shourouk strikes me as a quiet, private woman. She speaks softly, smiles shyly and delivers her words carefully. Everything about her creative expressions as a jewelry designer, her natural attraction to urban chaos and her colorful outwardly appearance suggests the contrary, but that’s what makes an artist relevant and interesting. “I love cities that are constantly in motion,” she explains. “I can swim on their waves and have a non-stress attitude when everything is fast and choking.” Perhaps it’s her education at Studio Berçot, or her training at fashion houses like Galliano and Cavalli, or simply upbringing. “Tunisian women like razzle-dazzle jewelry and exaggerated outfits for big occasions,” she continues. “I’m sure that my roots influenced the way that I think and create my designs. Being a native from Nabeul, a city famous for its embroidery, I’ve learned the specific art and techniques from my grandmother. I love everything chunky and shiny and full of detail.” I could have lasted a few more hours thriving on the thrills of Shourouk’s technicolor high, but the woes of Fashion Week summon me. I leave her house with renewed energy and a promise to keep the spring in my step until, well… Spring.