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Meet the Kashmiri designer who is helping rebuild war-torn Syria, conflict-ridden Kashmir

Miles away from her homeland, a Saudi-based Kashmiri jewelry designer has created a Kashmir brand on the concept of design and humanity. In less than four years of its existence, the brand is already working to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Kashmir.

By the time the Arab Spring and subsequent armed conflict triggered humanitarian crisis in Syria, a Kashmiri jewelry brand began donating a specific part of its sale for rebuilding the war torn lives. Through the global NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International and UNHCR, the jewelry brand Sheen began playing its role in mitigating the Syrian Crisis besides focusing on the conflict-ridden lives in Kashmir.

Becoming part of the global rebuilding initiative had her own reasons for a Saudi-based Kashmiri lady Nosheen Bakhsh. Unlike others, she was mindful of creating a brand dedicated to provide funds for worthy initiatives and different social issues throughout the world.

With Sheen, the dream she dreamed stands fulfilled.

“Every Sheen design you wear is a token of your love and compassion,” says Nosheen. “A percentage of the proceedings from each piece sold are donated to the dedicated cause.”

It was this belief that engaged her brand in Syria where months of conflict had forced millions of Syrians to flee the country and to live like refugees in neighboring countries. To help out the huge number of refugees camping in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, Sheen collaborated with the UNHCR that continues to pour in effort and resources to reach these innocent civilians in dire need of help.

“Those refugees desperately need basic materials for survival,” she says. “The freezing cold weather has made living conditions unbearable for these innocent civilians who have barely anything to keep themselves warm.”

She supports UNHCR in helping millions of Syrians with cash for medicine and food, stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, thermal blankets and winter clothing.

Before UNHCR, Sheen had tied up with MSF or better known as Doctors without Borders. Known for their efforts globally, the Noble Peace Prize (1999) winning NGO reaches villages and towns throughout the world where people are affected by life-threatening diseases or by political instability.

“MSF are our first and one of our favorite charitable causes because they truly define humanitarian aid,” Nosheen says. “They are non-sectarian and treat anyone in need of healthcare regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation. They have touched base in so many countries.”

But before becoming the philanthropist at such a young age, Nosheen grew up adoring jewelry art and design, convincing her to build a career in it.

“I inherited that passion and love from my mother and grandmother,” she says, “whom I have always known for their elegance and grace in the family. Their jewelry collection fascinated me.”

As a schoolgirl, she would design and craft her own beaded bracelets, necklaces and rings and distribute them as gifts to family and friends on different occasions.

Currently based in Dubai, Nosheen always had been dreaming to start a larger-scale project that can assist her in creating awareness and giving back.

Her passion shaped in 2010 when her brand Sheen came up. Then, it was a part of her university project based on the idea of combining her design skills with her desire to give back through social causes.

Next year in 2011, she graduated with a BFA in Visual Communication (Creative Advertising) before doing her Masters at Pratt Institute in Manhattan, New York in 2016.

But three years before in Sep 2013, Sheen, “Jewelry for Social Good”, was officially launched. The title, Sheen—“shine or a soft luster on a surface”—displays her sense to celebrate culture and heritage through different storyline for each collection.

“It seemed like an appropriate name for a jewelry brand,” Nosheen says. “It also happens to mean snow in Kashmiri, but that was just a happy coincidence.”

Being one of a few jewelry designers from the Valley at the global level, Nosheen’s combined passions—design plus humanity— are now incorporating the use of culture as well in narrative collections.

This has helped Sheen to establish itself as a creative and humanitarian outlet, producing locally in the UAE. The jewelry is made in 18K white, rose and yellow gold and uses a variation of precious, semi-precious and synthetic stones.

Among her design collections include Gul – the rose. Inspired by her mother, Bilquis, the collection has three common motifs – the use of MashaAllah (an expression of appreciation, joy, praise or thankfulness), the lion and the rose.

“To me, MashaAllah, simply put, means gratitude, a virtue always emphasized and taught by my mother,” she says. “The lion represents strength and bravery. And finally, the use of rose is a literal representation of beauty and a symbol of love.”

Under the collection, different names—Shahnaz, Anousheh, Shalimar and Sultana—have been given to each piece having both Kashmiri as well as Persian roots. Sultana is the most popular product.

“I have made countless colour combinations through custom orders for that,” she says. “Perhaps this long necklace suits the attire of women in UAE and KSA. Long necklaces look really nice with Abayas and long dresses.”

Aisha is her recent line of collection inspired by her grandmother’s jewelry collection. “My hope through this newest collection is to keep her memory truly Aisha, or alive,” she says. “The collection is a true reflection of her style as well as Kashmiri art and culture in general.” The collection drew its inspiration from Dal Lake’s beauty.

Currently, Sheen donates a percentage of proceeds to Revive Kashmir — a US-based independent, non-religious, and non-partisan organization seeking to help “usher in an era of peace, economic strength and social equity”. The NGO has many ongoing projects in Kashmir.

“The aim is to give back through various social causes and communities from which the collections are inspired,” Nosheen says. “As a brand, Sheen feels it has a special responsibility towards its homeland. The brand hopes to do great contributions towards society in future and owing a warm connection to Kashmir which has been suffering badly due to political instability.”

Sheen’s passion for humanity and culture drives its mission, she says, jewelry is just a way to express it. “And it’s amazing how one purchase you make for yourself can impact and change the life of someone miles away.”

 


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