Meet Noreen Mirza, the confident young designer making a statement with her dramatic and exclusive range of jewellery known as The Mirza Collection. “Jewellery is such an intrinsic part of a woman’s life. They are extremely personal and women are quite emotionally attached to them. In a way the jewellery one wears holds clues about the personality of the owner,” she says. So what started it all? Clothes, fashion and jewellery always held an attraction for her. Then one Sunday afternoon as she sat in her home in Sunbury, west London, watching Jeff Banks on the BBC 1 programme Clothes Show Live, she decided this is what she would do. Noreen says she always wanted to be and do something different.
“We used to go to Pakistan for holidays. It was easier to get bespoke garments tailored there and I took full advantage of the situation. It was great fun and when others noticed a design and appreciated it I liked it. It caught the attention of others and it was my way of making a statement” she adds. After graduating from Kingston University, she went to work in a fashion department at Harrods. After a year, she set off on her own, designing a range of shawls, handbags, shoes, ear rings and necklaces. She took the designs to Pakistan and returned with the products finished under her supervision. She slowly started concentrating on designing only jewellery,”I now design clothes only for myself,” she says and met with early success in Slough where she sub-let part of a shop to sell her ear-rings and pendants.Her pieces sold well and generated a lot of interest in the women working in the local offices. Unfortunately, the shop owners got greedy and hiked up her rent after just two weeks. She packed her bags and found an even better location in Richmond where she quickly sold out her entire range of shawls and jewellery pieces, earning her the Innovative Woman of the Year award in 2008.
This led to her gaining clients like Princess Badiya of Jordan and Dame Kelly Holmes. At the same time she was building strong sales from a web-based company called Kudos which made her then think of developing her own web presence, which she did just as a head hunter approached her on behalf of a major international jewellery manufacturer looking for a designer. Noreen met the chairman of the company who bought out her entire range and the website and made her Creative Director of the plc. Working in a large corporate environment, however, did not suit her creative skills and once she completed her work on establishing an online presence for the company, she left to start work on her new exclusive range The Mirza Collection. The dual influence of her Pakistani heritage and growing up in the UK are a guiding influence and inspiration for her designs. Women acquire jewels not for fashion alone. They are also an investment. And so while looking at what fits the market, she also has an eye on the bold and beautiful club sashaying down the red carpet.”My jewellery is not for people who are shy. I think big and bold. My pieces are strong and colourful,” says Noreen. “I love colours. Lots of jewellers do not use colours. You will notice that most of the time people here wear black or white or red. Adding a splash of colour in the jewellery makes all the difference. I use a lot of colour.”
She procures her semi precious stones and diamonds from Antwerp. No design is repeated and every piece is exclusive. And the feedback has been amazing. “I love to watch that `wow’ expression! That is their first reaction. I can see them visualising themselves wearing that particular piece of jewellery. They are so taken aback by the designs. Each piece is unique. After that initial reaction they talk to me about the design, the inspiration and then only, at the very end ask the price.”
Noreen says no one is doing the kind of work she is involved in and guarantees that
“heads will turn, you will be noticed and people will ask you where that piece came from.”
Where does she see herself and her business in the next five years?
“I see myself as a well established brand and for people to see my jewellery and say `it is a Mirza’,” says Noreen with confidence. — Sudha Vemuri