LONDON — Islamic heritage has inspired artists from many different disciplines, finding its way to watches that display geometric Islamic design from Miraj Collections, a company that bases its products on the 12-pointed star of the Alhambra Palace. in Andalusia, Spain.
Miraj was created by Abdullah Ahmed, a graduate in management economics and auditor at the National Audit Office in the United Kingdom, and Harun Asif, a graduate in physics and a specialist in digital marketing.
Ahmed and Asif met in high school, worked and traveled together across much of the Middle East, Europe and Asia. They visited many architectural monuments that use Arabesque art forms.
Speaking at a presentation of their watches in conjunction with London Craft Week, Asif said: “Traveling through the Islamic world from Andalusian Spain to the Far East, we discovered its beautiful and rich artistic traditions and a history that has left a legacy that has shaped the development of mathematics, art and architecture across the world.
“We were inspired by the fascinating designs that conveyed a unique sense of beauty and we wanted to share this timeless tradition in a modern context. This resulted in the birth of Miraj Collections.
“’Miraj’ means ‘ascent’ in Arabic, which embodies our approach to design. We aspire to elevate the minimalist designs typical of fashion offerings available today and redefine elegance,” Asif said.
Ahmed pointed to the massive columns, beautiful doors, tiles and mosaics of Islamic architecture. “Those are the things that have really captivated us on our travels,” he said.
Ahmed, a watch fanatic, and Asif, a fashion fanatic, researched the market and said they weren’t impressed with the standard minimalist uniform designs of the watches.
“We wanted to challenge the minimalist designs of the past decade and rediscover the sublime beauty of traditional Islamic art forms through modern watches, accessories and fashion,” Asif said.
At first, the partners were unclear about the models they would use for their designs. “The arabesque is very similar to the Arabic language, which has many dialects. There are many expressions of geometry,” Ahmed said.
The 12-pointed star of the Alhambra Palace, one of the most visited sites in Europe, was chosen for its beauty, balance and functionality. The challenge was to bring the complexity and elegance of Islamic tradition to a modern watch.
“We were looking at very complex architecture with intricate art forms and we had to balance that with something functional. We had to create something that allowed the wearer to appreciate the architecture and tell the time,” Asif said.
The partners attended an Arabesque event organized by the Barakat Trust at the Arab British Center in London. The trust supports and promotes the study and preservation of Islamic art, heritage, architecture and culture. It was agreed that Barakat would help design the designs and that a portion of every Miraj Collections purchase would go to conservation by the heritage trust that inspired the watch designs.
“We thought it was an incredible opportunity to link the present with what Barakat is doing to preserve the past. During our travels, especially in Fez, we have seen many buildings destroyed due to lack of maintenance,” said said Asif.
Miraj’s design philosophy is based on elegance, authenticity, craftsmanship and heritage. “We need to capture the elegance seen in the architecture of the Alhambra, Morocco and the Muslim world,” Asif said.
“By working with experts in Islamic heritage, art and architecture, we create designs that are true to their origins. Every material is sourced to ensure luxury, quality and precision. We highlight a rich tradition of 1,400 years. Our watches are inspired by the world’s most iconic monuments decorated with geometric and arabesque art.
Once the design was finalized, it had to be put on the watch. This was done through the 3D relief effect, which best reflects the pattern. The watch is encased in a high quality stainless steel frame which houses the Swiss made quartz movement.
A Kickstarter fundraising campaign raised $15,500 in 13 days to produce 100 watches, which were due to be ready in August. Over 60% of watches were purchased by people of non-Middle Eastern descent, including Canadians, Australians, Mexicans and Japanese. Partners’ reservations about the design not having universal appeal have been lifted.
“Our main goal is to launch a fashion brand as elegant as the Burberry checkered pattern but from a completely different tradition that people can only see when traveling abroad. A great way to overcome barriers cultures and create a common understanding among humans from all walks of life through arts and fashion,” Asif said.