“For the first fifteen years of my life I lived in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco and I have lovely memories of my life there. My German-born father has always had an eye for art and beauty, so our weekends were spent exploring galleries and antique shops, and travelling to small villages to buy exquisitely woven Berber carpets. My French-born mother always says that it’s my father who educated her taste.
After North Africa my family returned to Europe and as a young woman in the mid 90s, I wanted to explore. I think exploring and travelling is in my blood. You get addicted to the thrill of change. When you move to a new place, your senses are awakened.
In Australia, I worked as a promoter for up and coming European designers and as a stylist. It was a time of growth for the fashion industry there and it was inspiring to promote labels and watch them flourish. After three years, I returned to Paris and worked on a film set as a designer of period costumes and that led to other jobs including one where I worked as an assistant director in a film recreating the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. It was around this time that I met my husband, an Australian who had lived in Paris for 16 years. Interestingly, I met him in Paris and not Australia!
In 2009, we were living in Australia with our young daughter when my husband told me he was looking at a job opportunity in Bahrain. I was really excited about the thought of living in the Middle East. Having grown up around Islam and Islamic culture, I feel familiar with it. In some ways, it’s more familiar to me than Europe.
In Bahrain, I started exploring galleries and learning about local artists. I became friends with artist Mohamed Sharkawy and I saw a naïve quality in his art that I really liked. I could see that his work would transpose beautifully as embroidery on cushions – and so in 2014, Yalla Habibi was born. I chose the name as I wanted something that sounded sweet with a nice melody and meaning (it means, ‘Let’s go, my love’). People have enjoyed the functionality of the cushions and the fact that they can have a beautiful work of art in their home without it being on the wall. Since my launch, I have collaborated with other artists and creative people and have recently released a numbered, limited edition, second collection. I hope that by giving local artists a platform, their work will be appreciated by a wider audience.
I use material and fabrics that are typically Bahraini and travel to villages to meet and work with weavers and embroiderers. Meeting these talented people and learning about their lives gives me a unique insight. When you research textile traditions in the Gulf you find that historically, Bahrain was appreciated for its weaving industry. I look at Bahraini culture with so much appreciation. There’s a sense of adventure in the collaborative work that I do and I love that.”