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Exploring Beauty with Samia Benbrahim, founder of YELLI JEWELS

By Alexandra Brousset

Through her fusion of both traditional Moroccan techniques and timeless, universal symbols, designer Samia Benbrahim is pioneering a “Neo-Berber” jewelry movement that retells Amazigh ancestry for a new, global generation of wearers.

Through her fusion of both traditional Moroccan techniques and timeless, universal symbols, designer Samia Benbrahim is pioneering a “Neo-Berber” jewelry movement that retells Amazigh ancestry for a new, global generation of wearers. We love that her jewels follow a “slow fashion” approach, promoting a thoughtful and sustainable attitude to consumption, and are manufactured under socially responsible conditions. Samia takes some time out of the studio to explain how for her, Beauty means uncovering her roots, listening to the world around her and of course, paying attention to her mother’s advice!

How did the idea to create YELLI JEWELS come about? 

I always dreamed about contributing to the development of Moroccan craftsmanship, but it was while traveling through Asia that I realized I was particularly drawn to the locally handcrafted jewelry in each of the countries I visited, as well as uncovering their cultural meaning. In one of the villages I visited, an elder woman offered me a beautiful pair of silver earrings and told me, “You are one of us now – you’re just like my daughter!” As an echo of this meaningful experience, YELLI JEWELS was born.

YELLI, which literally means “my daughter” in the Berber dialect, pays tribute to my Moroccan heritage and ancestral legacy by celebrating Amazigh jewelry-crafting skills. However, I try to present my own and unique take on traditional design, incorporating universal symbols to create a chic “Neo-Berber” collection.

Can you walk us through your creative process? 

My creative process comes from everywhere. From moments of calm and pleasure when images of jewelry take hold of my mind, sometimes just before going to bed; from stories and myths that speak to me; from music; or from an online or real-life shopping session. As soon as I have an idea, I doodle it in a notebook, and as soon as I find something inspiring, I save it, whether it’s on Pinterest or Instagram. Then, little by little, I try to weave a common thread between these different snippets of images to create something homogeneous: a story, a mood board, and finally a collection.

Where do you draw inspiration from, both within Morocco and beyond? 

Mostly from Amazigh and Moroccan cultures – my roots. But I like to include pieces inspired by some of the other cultures I am lucky to know well, thanks to my different travels, especially the seven-month-long backpacking trip I took in Asia.

How has your business been impacted by Covid-19? Have you had to pivot your strategy?

Covid-19 definitely impacted our economic activity. During times of pandemic, people don’t think of purchasing things that are not necessary like jewelry, especially since the curfews and restrictions on gathering haven’t allowed us to go out much. During the crisis I focused my selling strategy on the online market, since most of my retailers closed due to the restrictions.  I also took advantage of this period to interact more with my customers and followers, asking questions to get to know them better on Instagram.

How important is craftsmanship for your business?

My entire business relies on craftsmanship: it would not even exist without it. One of the main purposes of my brand is to promote Moroccan craftsmanship through my creations, alongside ancestral Moroccan knowledge about traditional jewelry.

What's next for YELLI JEWELS? 

I have many projects for the brand, including developing new partnerships, launching a new collection, and extending the team. I also plan on opening my own atelier and showroom.

Where is your absolute favorite place in Morocco?

I’m wavering between Tangier and Essaouira. I love Tangier for its Kasbah, old monuments, cliffs and secret spots. I think it’s such a romantic place. On the other hand, I love Essaouira for its spirit – you can feel a very artistic atmosphere there. The city really has such a vibrant and unique soul.

What's your skincare philosophy? 

First and foremost, I think moisturizing is the key to very healthy skin. I also try not to use a lot of make-up.

What’s the best beauty advice you've ever received?

My mother is a dermatologist, so I received a lot of advice from her growing up. Even if I don’t use all the products she recommends, I try to use skin creams – one for the day and one at night. From time to time, I also use products like masks, revitalizing creams and vitamin C supplements.

What’s the skincare hero that you swear by? 

Based on the above, I would say my mother!

Follow Samia's journey at @yellijewels – and to be the first to know more about how we’re working with our community of creators (as well as exclusive offers, product drops and more), connect with us @whind.

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