Whereas most people would scarcely give a pile of old keys a second glance, the Vanina girls from Lebanon see in these disused materials new life as glittering jewelry.
Tatiana Fayad and Joanne Hayek have been friends since they were small children and first started collecting random objects as potential materials for new jewelry pieces while they were in college.
That was seven years ago. Now they are working together in a northern suburb of Beirut as Vanina – a rather cheeky name inspired by a French song from the 1970s.
In an interview with The Daily Star, they said they chose this name for their fashion studio because the song’s upbeat tempo and feminine quality resonate with their mission as designers. And it does, but there is also a certain social and environmental awareness that drives their choices as artists.
Rather than buy new materials for their accessories, for example, the duo find value in discarded objects that have special aesthetic qualities.
“We took the concept of taking an everyday object and giving it a higher value,” Joanne Hayek told the paper. “It’s a call for waste management.”
One of their earliest jewelry collections, “Coined,” was comprised of old Lebanese coins decorated with beads, patterns, or words.
Another, “Disc-carded,” involves using bits of metal from CD discs, which have lost their appeal since the advent of iPods and iPhones.
Parts of the keys mentioned in the introduction were used in a collection called “Unlocked.”
In addition to having a clunky, industrial edge, these pieces were created to encourage people to be friendly and neighborly, like they were before Beirut became overrun with high-rise apartments. They are reminders to “keep doors open.”
Taken both metaphorically and physically, Vanina’s upcycled jewelry communicates a message, which is perhaps what distinguishes them from a great number of contemporary jewelry makers.
Like solar power versus oil, their work replenishes the earth while others, who are still stuck on the idea that only gems and precious metals are worthwhile as adornments, extract from it.
Of course, they aren’t the first in Lebanon to join a growing number of international artists and designers who reuse existing materials in order to spare landfills and slow down unsustainable consumerism.
Although they are using recycled materials that are normally frowned upon in Arab societies, the pair have been incredibly successful and their designs have appeared in several respected fashion magazines.
In Egypt, the recycling trend is also catching on slowly. We recently interviewed a group of girls who have turned plastic into marketable products that encourage Egyptians to pay better attention to where stuff comes from and where it lands up.
So, tell us in the comments: would you wear “trash”?