Sevinch Passementerie

Sevinch Deman draws attention wherever she goes. She’s a successful businesswoman and an engaging character – but all eyes are on her before she’s uttered a word. “When Sevinch goes out, she tends to wear our bright and convoluted passementerie jewellery,” explains her husband Michael, co-owner of the Cairo-based company. “People stop her to ask where she got it from. That’s the reaction she gets wherever we go.”

Sevinch Passementerie launched in 1993 and has since garnered an international reputation for exquisite home furnishings. Walking into the company’s workshop is like stepping back in time, discovering tools and techniques from 200 years ago. While the master dyer creates colours to order from a leafy, flower-filled courtyard, craftsmen are busy hand-turning and carving wooden decorative pieces, winding and spinning cables, and meticulously creating fine textile flowers, pom-poms, tassels and fringes.

When the company first set up, Sevinch would subcontract to existing workshops, but she soon found the quality wanting. She and Michael therefore bought some land and built their own small factory. “We recruited skilled workers and worked with them to get the quality up to our standards,” she says. “It also ensured loyalty: most of our craftsmen have been with us for approaching 20 years now. They are the best in the world at what they do.”

Recently, Sevinch Passementerie expanded. “All of our work has a historical context,” Michael explains, describing cupboards packed full of archives and reference material. “But I’m a bit of a lateral thinker, so I saw an opportunity to apply our skills and techniques in a slightly different way to create something new.” The resulting textile jewellery line is inspired by the decorative elements of Sevinch Passementerie’s household trimmings. “We took those elements out, sharpened them up, miniaturized them, and used fashion-oriented colours.” Each collection is based on a particular technique. “Perhaps the way the wood has been turned, or the way the yarn has been spun. It’s about staying faithful to our passementerie heritage and maintaining our exceptional standards while moving into a new niche luxury environment.”

For Michael, craftsmanship is all. “Our workers take pride in the proper execution of their craft,” he says. “They’ve spent most of their lives rising to challenges, and now we’re setting a new one. For example, a very complex curtain tie-back or a tassel might be 60 cm tall and may have as many as 10 different wooden pieces, which are cut on a lathe, by eye, by a very talented wood-turner. If I go to him and say, I want you to make that same piece but rather than 60 cm tall, it needs to be 6 cm tall, and I still want 10 pieces of wood in it – that’s a big challenge. But he figures it out.”

Initial feedback on the results has been “absolutely astonishing”, says Michael. “People’s eyes light up. They say our jewellery is beautifully unusual and utterly unique.” Those looking to stand out from the crowd, take note. “The word ‘theatrical’ is often used, and there is a flamboyance about what we do,” Michael concludes. “Sevinch Passementerie is about embellishment, luxury and quality. We want to showcase technique. From our household passementerie to our jewellery lines, Sevinch Passementerie is all about skill and heritage.”