For the past 20 years, Melika Dahlouk has been working as a humanitarian affairs officer for UN agencies and international NGOs, focusing on human rights, as well as women entrepreneurship.
In 2009, she decided to switch some of her efforts to jewellery design and founded NUMA Collection with the aim to give new opportunities to expert artisans. The brand celebrates creativity through conscious jewellery, and is designed for people who want to support sustainable creativity. We chat to Melika about her story.
When did you fall in love with jewellery design?
“I’ve always been attracted by creative efforts in art and fashion but never planned to become a designer myself. While studying in Paris and in the US, my focus was on my dream career as a humanitarian. I studied Art History at the École du Louvre in Paris in addition to my business and development studies. I was interested in jewellery as wearable art and fascinated by traditional ornaments in various historical periods. I wanted to learn jewellery making and craftsmanship mostly for fun so I could create small pieces with messages and symbols that I really liked and wanted to wear and share by gifting them to family and friends.”
How did NUMA Collection start?
"I started NUMA Collection in 2009 with 3 artisans and now our team has grown to include more than 20 artisans. At the time, ethical fashion was perceived as “charity” and design was not part of the equation. There were very few “fashion” brands with a purpose. I initiated a concept called STOR-ies Exhibistore 5 years ago where we exhibited ethical fashion and home design brands from 7 countries. It was an educational project and I am so proud to see that consumers are now more sensitive to manufacturing processes. NUMA includes several lines: jewellery, bags and linen. Jewellery-making is a real expertise in Tunisia and several methods and centuries-old traditional techniques deserve to be maintained. Jewellery is the first and most consistent line we produce.”
"At the time, ethical fashion was not a reality but the idea of it was already blooming in my head."
Where did you grow up and how has your childhood influenced your designs?
“I grew up in Paris. My mother is extremely creative and taught me to differentiate and appreciate quality materials: precious metals, natural fabrics, and soft leathers. In Paris in the 80’s, fashion was booming and leaving classical definitions behind. Designers such as JPG or YSL were also sourcing inspiration in various countries and managed to create magnificent modern collections with an ethnic flair. I guess that is an image that stayed with me until now. I also travelled extensively. At the time, ethical fashion was not a reality but the idea of it was already blooming in my head.”
Values are hugely important to us at JewelStreet. What are your core brand values at NUMA Collection?
“Our main goal is to support the artisans. NUMA was created to combine development and creativity. All our jewellery is produced with design and sustainability in mind. All metals are precious yet recycled, and despite the difficulty to source and purify silver and gold recycled metals, this is a commitment that our company has never failed to adhere to. The materials we use have been selected to avoid negative impacts on the environment and actually benefit people, and our customers truly appreciate this “feel good” factor.”
"NUMA was created to combine development and creativity. All our jewellery is produced with design and sustainability in mind."
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“My inspiration comes from travels and historical treasures. I have travelled extensively, to more than 30 countries for work and leisure and have a constant curiosity to discover local traditions. At NUMA we do not follow fashion seasons, all our pieces are versatile and always timeless.”
How would you like someone to feel when wearing a piece from NUMA Collection?
“Our jewellery is entirely handmade and take hours of expertise and dedication to make. Our artisans’ main asset is their love of their craft, so wearing one of our items that has been made by hand and with love should make everybody feel special. I want every person who wears our jewellery to feel unique.”
What’s been the high point of your career as a designer so far?
“I started with dreams but had to adapt the modern designs I wanted to create to the limitations of handwork. The artisans’ capacities have developed drastically and now many of the designs that seemed impossible are now feasible and that is a great satisfaction for me.”
"What has driven me to where I am today is the progress of the artisans and the preservation of their craftsmanship"
What are your hopes for the future of NUMA Collection?
“What has driven me to where I am today is the progress of the artisans and the preservation of their craftsmanship, giving a new life to ancient traditions and encouraging young apprentices to continue in the footsteps of the experts. My main goal is to enrol more men and women in Tunisia and later in other countries. With regards to design, I would like to develop more collaborations. We have already produced a capsule collection with Dani Rose, a talented German designer. We’re regularly approached for collaborations and I am eager to start new ones in the future!”