The Story Behind AZHA: A Contemporary Jewelry Brand For Muslim Women
Posted on 25 August 2016
Every now and again we come across a brand that we can’t wait to share with all of our loyal customers in hopes they will love it as much as we do! Azha is definitely one of those brands. Azha is a unique jewelry brand that incorporates Islamic spirituality and Arabic culture in their designs.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with the wonderful Rawaa Bakhsh, the visionary behind Azha. Her story is one of hard work, perseverance, and is the epitome of a full circle journey that is entrenched in the true belief that everything happens for a reason by the will of God.
In 2005 while vacationing with her family in Toronto, Rawaa enrolled in a summer course at OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design). She instantly fell in love and knew this is where she belonged. However, her parent’s were not ready to have their only child move half way across the world. Rawaa returned home to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in a graphics design program, the closest thing she could find to pursue her passion. Her talent didn’t go unnoticed, she was offered a full-time position by one of her professors six months prior to her graduation.
Fast forward to a year later, Rawaa was now married and her husband was accepted into a Ph.D. program at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her past dreams not forgotten, she rushed to prepare her application for the master's program at OCAD, due a mere two weeks after she landed in Canada. Her acceptance to OCAD was bittersweet as she realized she was pregnant and would have to defer her enrollment for a year. Rawaa, a dedicated mother, and student would breastfeed her son between classes and on occasion bring him to class with her. It wasn’t always easy but she got it done!
When it came time for her to defend her thesis they invited an external examiner from Queen’s University. She was so impressed with Rawaa’s work that she offered her spot in the Ph.D. program at Queens that same day and volunteered to be her supervisor.
Never one to sit idly, Rawaa started Azha during an eight-month gap between completing her master's and beginning her Ph.D. She enrolled in a diploma program for Business Entrepreneurship at George Brown College. Rawaa used this opportunity to lay down the ground work for Azha. Every assignment and project was a case study for her business and brand. Rawaa knew the jewelry industry well, as her father and grandfather were jewelers and she often attended trade shows with them growing up. She definitely had the right connections and creative vision to make this work.
Her most popular piece Safar the camel was inspired by an origami camel she made as a fun pastime. The sound wave collection were all pieces she created for her master's thesis that she transformed into her signature collection. Azha enjoyed modest success until Rawaa partnered with her close friend Sara who had the business acumen to take the brand to the next level. Sara holds an MBA from Ryerson and was able to get them into the Ryerson Fashion Zone where Azha was able to flourish.
When asked what advice she would give other aspiring young entrepreneurs, Rawaa simply says, “Just do it!” Don’t waste time overthinking it. Everything will fall into place as was the case with her incredible journey if it’s mean to be. Stay tuned for Azha's new collection launching soon.