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Lebanese jewelry maker Danya Jabre on her fun, funky homegrown brand

DUBAI: Danya Jabre has reached a stage in her life where she can look back and tell herself that she has done it all. But she has now settled enjoying what she loves most.

A mother, grandmother, and entrepreneur, Jabre fled her native Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982, making her way to England first, and since living in the US, Canada, and France.

Along with her background in graphic design, all of her experiences and travels feed in one way or another into her fun and quirky fine-jewelry brand, The Twist.

“All my life, I used to plan things. They start and they fall apart,” she tells Arab News. But The Twist, which she started in 2014, looks like it’s here to stay.

Jabre’s fascination with jewelry began at an early age. Her mother returned from a trip to Hong Kong with a book on precious stones and their properties, she says: “I was nine! Why would a nine-year-old be interested in reading about a stone?”

But her mother also brought back some rough stones, which instantly sparked a desire in Jabre to hold and examine them, particularly in natural light.

Another distinct memory she shares is of her time spent in London’s punk scene of the 1980s, buying zipper earrings from King’s Road — a center of youth culture that she found fascinating.

The Twist’s first designs, set in gold and silver, were inspired by emojis that had become widely popular through Blackberry Messenger chats — a thing of the past. It was this collection that started it all, which is why it’s still Jabre’s favorite. “It brought me good luck,” she says. “It’s also happy. When I wear it, it’s a conversation starter and I get a lot of reactions from people.”

Another eye-catching collection came along soon after. “Happiness Therapy” consists of humorous necklaces on which hang colorful studded ‘happy’ pills. “It was based on my kids telling me to take a chill pill,” she says. On her website she writes of this collection: “The ultimate lesson that I learned through life is that humor eases difficult situations and makes everything better.” Even the packaging stands out; it resembles a medicine box, and contains the description: “Fast-acting, long-lasting.”

More recently, Jabre has designed larger statement pieces that still convey that pop-culture feel, such as her unique Chinese fortune cookie necklace, which hides a secret paper message and her ‘Popcorn Love’ ring, topped with shiny Mikimoto pearls disguised as pieces of popcorn.

But beyond that layer of joy and creativity, there is one particular collection for which she has a soft spot. When the Lebanese protested en masse against the government in October 2019, she decided to create “Lebanon in my Heart” — which consists of a map of Lebanon, the iconic clinched fist of the revolution, and a cedar tree with the ‘nazar’ symbol (believed to ward off the evil eye).

“I was on the streets at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., from October to February, believing that we can (make) this change,” she recalls. “It’s a very emotional subject. I’m emotionally drained by Lebanon and I still haven’t recovered.”

Like many other small businesses, The Twist has been through a tough period because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And being based in crises-stricken Lebanon has only exacerbated that. But Jabre remains optimistic, and is planning to amp her company’s digital presence.

Needless to say, Jabre gets a kick out of creating her pieces, but it’s the connection that she has built with people that brings her the most joy.

“I love to be creative,” she says. “With my clients, the relationship is not about selling. I follow up with them, asking them how they like their pieces. Some of them end up telling me their life stories. I have a personal relationship with my clients and it’s very encouraging.”

Courtesy: Arab News

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