Art, Business, Interview, Style & Shopping

Interview With Young Jewelry Designer Lillian Ismail

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By Reem Zahid

Lillian Ismail is the youngest Saudi jewelry designer, she started her first launch collection at the age of 18, it was just a high school senior project that then blossomed to a huge success. She is currently pursuing her passion by studying in Pratt Institute in the city of Fashion and art, New York. Gladly she gave us some of her time to answer these questions.


How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I motivate myself by trying to visualize where all the hard work is taking me too. I also try to educate myself and read more about my field. It is a way that keep me motivated by trying to apply what I have learned from exploring the field of jewelry. There is this advice for artist, which is never think of it is a competition with artists surrounding you. I don’t believe in that, taking it as a friendly competition is an easy way to regain your motivation every once in a while. I am no referring to being envy of your artist friends, just believe that you could do work better than theirs to motivate yourself to work harder. That’s what I do sometimes. What also gives me one push of motivation is a seminar class I’m currently taking at Pratt Institute. This class briefly teaches us about jewelers from the 1900’s to present, and also gives us a chance to have interesting discussion about our field. It introduces to us new concepts such as art jewelry and the idea of autonomous objects. It really motivates me to educate our society about what is known about in Saudi about the field of jewelry.
Is there a person behind your success or someone who inspires/encourages you?
I know it is a cliche to say that my family is behind all of this support, but they really are. They are always trying to put my hopes high by making me believe that I am at a better stage at where I am actually are. They are willing to help me physically and financially. They handle a big part of my business while I’m in New York.
Who do you wish to see your designs on?
I would love to see a Lillian Ismail bracelet around ladies wrists as much as I see a Cartier love bracelet!
If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
What I would think of right now is very contradicting. Honestly, sometimes I regret starting at a very young age thinking that I could’ve had less responsibilities and serious matters to really worry about. But at the same time I thinking starting at a very young age was a plus for me and grabbed the attention of a lot of supporters. Even though, I am very grateful to what I was able to achieve at a very young age while studying in one of the hardest design schools around the United States, Pratt Institute. I don’t think I would change anything, I very satisfied so far.
What was the biggest difficulty or challenge you’ve faced so far? And how did you solve it?
The biggest challenge is running a business, first at a very young age with no experience in either fields. Second is completing a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Jewelry Design while running my brand thats based 6391.65 miles away! I decided this year to take it slow and focus more on my school work that will eventually contribute and help me in developing my brand. Lillian Ismail is still running and selling as usual, its just that I don’t have the time to put in designing a collection of at least 7 pieces. For it to be successful, it requires a lot of work full of research, brainstorming, production follow up, and other matters to take care of. It is extremely difficult to handle both college and business matters at the same time.
Describe one of your biggest failures, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
I would like to briefly prove a point to answer this question. Every mistake is the smaller version of a failure that is a learning experience. And every achievement is the smaller version of a greater success and is building a step for a pathway to it.
Did you ever get any criticism?
Criticism is always part of our lives. It is very hard to accept it sometimes when you work so hard to produce a product to be sold and appreciated by people. And sometimes it is a source of motivation to prove that you could do better and try to create what could be flawless to the majority of people.
What’s one of the toughest decisions you had to make through your journey?
Every decision I have made so far was very tough, due to the fact that all of these small factors that we have to decide upon lead to a success. Success is not easy to reach.
Where do you want to reach? What’s your goal? -In the beginning of your journey, did you think you would reach where you reached now? (Both questions have one answer to me).
My main goal since I have started is to encourage the youth to pursue their dreams without thinking of age and experience as an obstacle. I am not only a jeweler, I am an artist that wants to inspire and educate. Sharing what is beneficial to our society has been always one of my priorities. Competing internationally with other known jewelry maisons is also my main goal in the journey that I am seeking. By just showing my jewelry in the same space as Graff Jewelry and other big names is a dream come true. There is more yet to come when I have a several stores around the world after establishing it as a family business, carried from a generation to another.
Lastly, a message you’d want to tell to young designers who want to follow their dreams?
We are living in a world full of criticism and underestimation. In a world of discrimination and negativity. Put all kinds of obstacles aside. Pursue art the way you want because it is a form of expression full of freedom and unique voices. Never be afraid to create what is unique even if it is not accepted by society. In whatever field you are in under the category of art and design, always think of yourself as an artist that is composing, designing, fabricating, and illustrating. Our aim as artists is not only to make money, that is what artists like Picasso and Michelangelo didn’t think of. Their aim was not to make money out of their art, as they wanted it to deliver a message, and if not, to express in a different form of language. Think of art as a form of education to develop our society, a language of freedom, a bubble of creativity, a form of representation, and a weapon that unifies our nation. Overcome your obstacles as hard as they may seem, despite your age, society, background and enemies!

Instagram: Lillian Ismail

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