Lindork’s Lists: Q&A #11: Esmahan Abdallah
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on Aug 22, 2021
The eleventh person I’m profiling in my new paid newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Esmahan Abdallah, Textiles and Jewelry Designer, Owner of BUNO Design
Getting to know Esmahan Abdallah:
Esmahan is a 36-year-old textiles and jewelry designer based in St. Albert, who is also the owner and co-founder of BUNO Design, a handcrafted, sustainable jewelry design business. Every season, Esmahan includes a sustainable line that is made of recycled and vintage resources to reduce fashion wastage and its environmental impact. BUNO Design also uses only eco-friendly marketing materials, from product packaging right down to labels and stationery. In addition to the eco-friendly focus, Esmahan says:
“I design and make unique jewelry that empowers women to celebrate their individuality.”
Her pieces are unique, wearable art. I am proud to own a couple of Esmahan’s earrings and can’t wait to purchase more. Her bright, bold colours and patterns really caught my attention and since following her in the last year, I’ve also come to appreciate how she uses her platform to raise awareness for social issues.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Esmahan:
Can you tell me about BUNO Design? Why did you start it, when did you start it, how did you get into jewelry making and design?
Our company started as an ethical and sustainable clothing brand in 2014. As we dived into sustainable fashion, I came to the realization that most people knew how to upcycle their garments but the majority had no idea what to do with their jewelry. I come from a family that loves jewelry. Throughout the years, I taught myself how to design and make jewelry. I wanted to combine my love for jewelry with my passion for sustainability. My goal is to show the people the needless possibilities of upcycling jewelry and repurposing it.
I know the BUNO stands for Be Unique, Not Ordinary—why did you pick that name? What does that motto mean to you?
Buno is actually my paternal grandfather’s name. We chose to name our brand after him to honour him and our father. We are three girls and my father was teased for years for having just daughters who will not carry his family name unlike a son would have. So when we started our brand it was very important for us to prove those people wrong and show them the power of girls. We as girls can do whatever we put our mind to. In terms of what the motto means to us, creating unique jewelry is our main goal. We want women to celebrate their uniqueness and embrace their personal style.
Can you share a bit of your process? How do you come up with your designs? What does a ‘day in the life’ of you / BUNO Design look like?
- I am a textile designer by profession, I specialized in Woven textile at University. So I love working with texture and colour. Woven ropes are my favourite medium to work with. I love combining woven ropes with repurposed vintage and broken jewels. I am also obsessed with any type of bead, ceramics, wooden , glass you name it. SO no two days look the same!! And that’s what I love the most about my job.
- I usually start the design process by choosing a theme, colourway and style I would like to explore. I make a mood board for that theme and gather images, materials and objects that are relatable to the project. Sometimes I do quick sketches on potential designs but most times I play with materials (e.g beads, ropes, brass ….etc ) and let the materials guide me through the process.
- A day in the life of Buno Design can consist of responding to emails and tackling any urgent matters in the morning, followed by getting my kids ready for school (in the case of this year, online schooling). Some days I spend planning and dealing with admin work, or ordering raw materials. Other days, I spend designing, making or packing and shipping.
What do you love most about the work you do?
I enjoy every aspect of the creative process, from the research stage, to the sketching and finally getting to make the jewelry. I enjoy the making process mostly and seeing the product come to life at the end. It is so satisfying to see an idea flourish to a finished product.
What’s something that people might know about jewelry making? Or something surprising that’s part of your work?
- Most people believe that jewelry can be only made from new raw materials, but in our work I combine new materials with vintage or upcycled materials. Jewelry can be repurposed and recycled and that is my passion that I would love to teach people.
I’ve always wondered how jewelry makers come up with the names for their pieces! How do you come up with yours?
- The majority of our jewelry collections and designs are inspired by our African culture and travels. I was born in Africa and have lived in four continents! Being exposed to many cultures and traditions has inspired my artistic abilities. You can always see my African roots with the bold colour choice. I truly believe that living in different countries and traveling enabled me as an artist to discover the beauty of different cultures.
- Being able to speak three languages fluently has allowed me to connect with people from various cultures and different walks of life. Traveling also taught me to adapt easily and learn new skills. So I choose name our jewelry after African Queens or specific regions or lakes in Africa.
- I want to share the beauty of African countries, people and cultures through our jewelry.
Can you share the challenges of being an entrepreneur, your own business owner, and whether being a person of colour or a woman in this industry has also presented any challenges?
Oh boy, where do we start. First of all, being a mother and business owner has its own challenges. But to add being a Black Muslim immigrant woman comes with a whole level of challenges. BIPOC women are less likely to have access to financial and business support compared to their White women counterparts.
Like any other industry, BIPOC women in the creative industry face discrimination and racism, whether it is through not being valued as experts in their field. Or not given the same opportunities and being amplified.
I know you also share a lot about anti-racism and other social issues, particularly recently, about Free Palestine. Can you share why it’s important for you to speak out about this?
- Being a Black Muslim woman living in West facing racism and prejudice lead me to always fight and speak up against any injustices that I see. In the case of Palestine, it hits close to home as my brother in law and nephew are Palestinians and I am fighting for their rights. But in general, I was raised to always speak out against any injustice against any community. I will use my voice, platform and all the resources I have to fight injustices.
Can you share advice for other entrepreneurs or business owners around the topics of taking risks, pursuing their ideas/dreams?
- If you are someone who is thinking about starting a business or starting a business, I want to advise you just to do your best and choose a business that you are passionate about. If you are going to any business purely for financial gain , you will burn out very quickly. You will never be fully ready to start a business or pursue your dream, so start now and take the risk. Life is too short and you have to take risks to achieve your dreams.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
- Being a mom of two Black boys, I want to teach them through my business or activism, the importance of the role women play in this world. I want to raise them to be respectful, supportive and kind gentlemen to women. I also want them to always use their voice to fight injustice and be proud of who they are.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
Girl, I have no time for Netflix!
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
I am currently reading an amazing book called “How to raise successful people” by Esther Wojcicki. I love it so far and I am learning a lot about intentional parenting. Also one of my business-related books is “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” This book has changed my perspective about investment, money and over all what matters the most in life.
What is one of your favourite restaurants or stores you’d recommend in Edmonton?
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
Thank you Esmahan for sharing your story!
You can connect with Esmahan online at:
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