MEET YOUR MAKERS
Presented by TIX on the Square
Be Unique, Not Ordinary. Those four words don’t just guide the mandate of Buno Design, they represent the family and philosophy that inspired Esmahan Abdallah to turn her passion and talent into a legacy. That passion? Jewellery design. That legacy? Transforming her paternal grandfather’s last name into an internationally celebrated brand. As you’ll soon discover, chatting with Esmahan was a true delight. Bold in her designs, generous in spirit, and a master class in unapologetically being yourself—meet this week’s maker, Esmahan Abdallah.
TIX: Your jewellery is not only wearable art but also ethical art, made from sustainable, repurposed materials. What led you to that commitment?
E.A: Our company started as an ethical and sustainable clothing brand in 2014. As we dived into sustainable fashion, I came to the realization that most people knew how to upcycle their garments, but the majority had no idea what to do with their jewellery. Having come from a family that loves jewellery, I taught myself how to design and make it. By combining my love for jewellery with my passion for sustainability, I can now show people the endless possibilities of upcycling jewellery and repurposing it.
TIX: You’ve said that travel has greatly influenced your design point of view. In what ways does it emerge?
E.A: I was born in Africa and have lived on four continents! Being exposed to many cultures and traditions has enriched my artistic abilities. You can always see my African roots with the bold colour choice. As Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I truly believe that living in different countries and travelling enabled me as an artist to discover the beauty of different cultures. Being able to speak three languages fluently has allowed me to connect with people from various cultures and different walks of life. Travelling also taught me to adapt easily and learn new skills.
TIX: What are some of your favourite materials to work with, and why?
E.A: I am a textile designer by profession, having specialized in woven textile at university, so I love working with texture and colour. Woven ropes are my favourite medium to work with. I love combining woven ropes with repurposed vintage and broken jewels. I am also obsessed with any type of beads—ceramic, wooden, glass, you name it.
TIX: What inspires the stories behind your specific collections?
E.A: As mentioned above, travelling and living in different countries has inspired me and the way I design and create. I also draw inspiration from little things like insects to architecture. As an artist, everything around you can be a source of inspiration. Being a child of immigrant parents, I am always looking for a balance between my identity as a Black Muslim woman who was raised and educated in the West.
TIX: Tell us about the first thing you ever made that inspired your creative path?
E.A: Oh, God, if I remember correctly, my mother taught me embroidery when I was seven years old, and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped making things with my own hands. I was raised in an artistic home, where we always made our clothes, jewellery, and even home decorations. We grew up with paint brushes, sewing machines, and DIY equipment everywhere. You can say creativity has been in our DNA. This creative path is not just the work I do—it is my therapy and a way to take care of my mental health. We started our business when my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It was our way of finding a positive outlet and doing what we love. Having the business in those difficult times has helped us tremendously with our mental health.
TIX: What’s your greatest strength as a designer?
E.A: Oh, that is a tough question. I think my greatest strength is my choice for colour and not being afraid to experiment with many materials. I am never shy to think outside the box and to be bold with my designs. I create what I love, and not what I think people will like or approve of—I am a rebel. One thing I’ve never done was try to fit in. My parents raised us that it’s okay to be different. In fact, being unique and different was celebrated in our household. I grew up feeling very comfortable with my own skin because I was raised to celebrate this. I have faced my share of challenges, racism, and misogyny in my life. But what helped me navigate this world is understanding who I was and that being visibly different was not a bad thing. In fact, I used my uniqueness to my own advantage. So go and be you. There is only one of you—celebrate that!
TIX: What’s your favourite part of the creative process, and why?
E.A: I enjoy every aspect of the creative process, from the research stage, to the sketching, and finally getting to make the jewellery. I enjoy the making process, mostly, and seeing the product come to life at the end. It is so satisfying to see an idea flourish into a finished product.
TIX: People often give jewellery as gifts. What’s your favourite piece that you’ve been given, and who gave it to you?
E.A: My late father was promoted at work and was given a nice bonus. He decided to buy us all (three daughters and his wife ) beautiful gold jewellery sets for each one of us. Looking back now, I am so grateful he did that. This set means the world to me—it represents my father’s selflessness and love for his family. He had spent his hard earned bonus to buy us a meaningful gift. It is, by far, my most treasured and favourite gift.
TIX: What are you currently working on?
E.A: A lot of the work this year is spent getting ready for online markets, like the Royal Bison. It is my favourite market and where I sold our first collection. Every year, I create an exclusive collection for them. This season I’m working on hand-painted wooden beads, brass, and, of course, the rope necklaces. Some future plans are to focus on holding workshops to teach people how to recycle their own jewellery and recreate those pieces.
Want more? Visit buno-design.com and tixonthesquare.ca for the latest from Esmahan and other great artists.