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Zohra Rahman: Apprenticeship, craft and design aesthetics

Based out of Lahore, Pakistan, Zohra Rahman’s eponymous jewellery brand is championing considered, ethical craft and design, with her workshop rooted in a reinterpretation of the Eastern concept of gharana (apprenticeship).

Growing up in Pakistani province of Punjab, Zohra Rahman has a strong connection to her roots. It’s why, after graduating from Central Saint Martins, Zohra made the move back to Lahore, to seek inspiration from its vibrant culture of craftsmanship

Starting off solo, she decided to start taking on apprentices from the local community, growing a small production team. The role of mentor is one she takes seriously – each apprentice is individually trained in the intricacies of jewellery making, rekindling traditional painstaking techniques.

Every piece from Zohra’s collection is made in-house from beginning to end — from the melting of metal and its formation into wires and sheets, to its engraving, molding, and polishing.

In a region with low ethical standards, with low wages and, sometimes, dangerous working conditions, Zohra plays a key role in contributing towards a business that empowers the local community.

WGSN caught up with Zohra to talk apprenticeships, brand mission and design aesthetics.

 

Please can you tell us a little bit more about your brand and its mission? 

We run a contemporary jewellery studio that focuses on innovative designs and high quality craftsmanship. The workshop functions as an apprenticeship training programme and we work on creating jewellery in a sustainable way.

Our studio is at the forefront of contemporary jewellery design in Pakistan. We get to set our own rules, and have the space to develop our own unique language. It’s liberating.

We want to challenge the prevailing repuations that are associated with certain countries’ production quality by breaking these stereotypes, and showing what we can produce based in Pakistan. It’s challenging but we have our own standards.

 

Why is the concept of apprenticeship so important to you?

We have adopted the traditional process of apprenticeship training. It’s something that’s been, and still is, the most successful way that craftspeople are trained here, in Pakistan. The difference is, we teach them something totally new. We are not just training in skill but also in one’s approach to jewellery design – and it allows us to grown the team from the ground up.

It’s also incredibly motivating seeing someone develop new skills. In all honesty, most people have not been given an opportunity to learn such techniques over here, and I feel so privileged to have had that training. There are so many craftspeople who have so much potential! All they need is basic training and practice.

 

Designers have to find the balance between their own design aesthetics and wanting to create really commercially viable products. How do you get the balance? What’s more important to you? 

I think that my way of getting the balance is by keeping a real range of designs. I myself have many tastes and moods, and I like to mix it up! Most important to me is, of course, creating designs that are true to me, above the need to be totally commercially viable.

 

Where do you see the brand going? Would you ever diversify into different categories? 

In regards to the brand, there are several things that are currently on my mind. At the moment, we want to focus on jewellery as a vertical, but explore new mediums and forms. However, further into the future, we want to apply this vision to new categories. By demonstrating our designs, we hope to create more of a communication between Lahore and the rest of the world .

 

Lastly, at WGSN, we’re big on the future. What’s next for Zohra Rahman? 

Expansion is definitely the goal. In the near future, we’re looking forward to building out team further, as well as establishing ourselves in different cities.

 

 

Liked this? Read up on WGSN Insight’s Sustainability: Modern Luxury Priorities report

Interested in WGSN’s jewellery forecast? Read our Big Ideas S/S 20: Accessories report.

 

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

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