Welcome to our exclusive interview with Sana Khan, the founder of AZURE by SZK, a contemporary luxury jewellery brand based in London and Karachi.
In this interview, Sana shares her inspiring journey of launching and growing her business, her daily routine, her perspective on success, and her vision for the future of her brand. Get ready to be inspired by Sana's determination, passion, and commitment to creating beautiful, unique, and meaningful jewellery pieces that reflect the beauty and diversity of the world we live in.
Whether you are a budding entrepreneur, a jewellery lover, or simply seeking inspiration and motivation, Sana's story will leave you feeling inspired and empowered to pursue your dreams and make a positive impact in the world. So, without further ado, let's dive in!
Tell us about the journey that led you to launch your brand, Azure...
I have always loved the arts and studied art until university. However, as I moved around a lot while growing up, I could relate more to the profession and market need of development economics. At that time, my medium of choice, watercolour, seemed like too traditional an art form that few would be interested in.
Several years later, with an MPhil from the University of Cambridge under my belt, I moved to Pakistan to work in the development sector. My grandmother would host private exhibitions seasonally, which I assisted with. Soon, I found myself sketching out designs I wanted to make, and we discussed that I would start a jewellery line with her. However, this never materialised, as my working hours were long and, soon after, she sadly passed away. A few months later, I found out I was pregnant and moved back to the UK. During this time, I realised that if designing jewellery was the path I wanted to pursue, it was now or never. I resigned from my job and undertook a rigorous process of research and relearning. I spent two years taking jewellery courses, self-learning, shadowing craftsmen in workshops in the UK and in Pakistan, and practically learning from experts about tools, techniques, and gemstones. In May 2019, I launched AZURE with a debut exhibition showcasing 40 one-of-a-kind designs that I had designed and crafted.
It was a full circle moment, as one looks back. I ended up in the arts, specifically designing and crafting jewellery, and the joy I attain from my work is unmatched, day after day.
What sets you apart from other jewellery designers?
As a designer, my background enables me to merge art form with functionality to create pieces that are meant to be worn and cherished.
At AZURE, we offer a versatile range of jewellery pieces that celebrate the multidimensional nature of the contemporary individual. We have three lines, one that is more feminine, a second that is more bold, and a third that is more minimalist. What ties our aesthetic together is the distinct use of pearls in our designs, with a piece that appeals to every person.
AZURE jewellery is luxury jewellery, crafted only in gold and sterling silver, and made with hand-selected gemstones for their even shape, tone, and radiance. We work with the finest artisans in Pakistan, a culture rich in the art of jewellery making, to promote local craftsmanship and traditional gemstone-carving techniques where applicable. These materials and processes ensure a sophisticated finesse to AZURE jewellery.
AZURE jewellery pieces are artistic, with each piece being special and having its own story. Each piece is created intentionally, moving away from seasonal trends, and inspired by a larger narrative of experiences and moments, and the responsiveness of desires expressed. This intuitive and lengthy process ensures purposeful creations and promotes sustainable wearability.
AZURE is a woman-led brand that is independent and niche-oriented. This empowers us to stay committed to our essence of grounding our art in intent, innovation, and relearning.
How do you want people to feel when they wear your jewelry?
We want people to love their AZURE jewelry piece and feel amazing when they wear it.
Our versatile range of designs has been crafted specifically to ensure there is a piece that appeals to everyone. They are designed to celebrate our individual essence - sensual yet vibrant, delicate yet bold - triumphantly multidimensional. They reflect each individual's expression in their most confident self.
Have you got plans to expand your range and launch other products in the future?
Yes, as a brand, we are constantly evolving and looking into new product lines. We plan to create a special gifting range in our fine collection, featuring intricate and delicate pieces available for on-demand purchases. We are also working on a bejewelled line of high-end clothing in partnership with a local atelier.
If you didn’t pursue this career, what else would you have liked to do?
I worked in the Development Sector for over 10 years before I decided to pursue this path. At first, it was intimidating, and I underestimated the time and effort required for the business side of things. However, designing and crafting jewellery is where I am meant to be. Having worked in other industries that motivated me, I can no longer imagine any other career giving me the same level of joy and sense of achievement in this moment.
What advice would you offer any aspiring designers who are struggling to get started?
Starting something new can be exciting and overwhelming. It starts with an idea that needs to be actualised with an action plan. Set clear goals and outputs with a timeline, and work step by step to achieve them.
The more you lean in, the more doors that will open up for you. Keep striding ahead, even during the tougher days, make the decisions needed that will, at worst, result in a learning experience.
Stay true to your convictions - it is what sets you apart.
Can you walk us through an average day in your life?
My typical day starts at 7:30 am when I drop off my daughter at school and head to the studio. I usually begin working at 8 am and go through my daily to-do list, focusing on back-end work such as designing, follow-ups regarding marketing, accounts, procurement, specific order requests, or client appointments in the morning. At noon, I pick up my daughter and go home for lunch, spending some quality time together. From 1-1:30 pm, I start work, either from home or the workshop, depending on the day. Afternoons are usually dedicated to design and production, and I adjust for client appointments accordingly.
At 5 pm, I head out for yoga twice a week or go for a swim with my daughter. Sometimes, I work through this time. At 7 pm, my husband and I take turns with dinner and bedtime routines. I wind down or work accordingly, and at 8:30 pm, we have dinner together, catch up, watch something, read, meet friends/family, or work. I usually go to bed at 11 pm.
While the broad timelines of working in the morning and afternoon are set, I try to be flexible to adjust to unplanned and urgent work tasks as well as activities around my daughter's schedule. Monday-Thursday are heavier working days, and Friday and Saturday are lighter working days. I try to keep Saturday evenings and Sundays work-free and spend time with family and friends and have some downtime to reset for the week.
Looking back since launching the business, is there anything that you would do differently?
In retrospect, I think I should have owned my career path and professional identity sooner, not just relying on external recognition. Starting a brand, pursuing one's passion, pushing the boundaries in terms of learning and creation as well as managing the operations, marketing, and finance side of the business take a lot of effort. Validating from within and trusting my convictions would have given me the confidence to move faster and make quicker decisions at each step of the way at a more rapid pace.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Although I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries in the UK, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia, and South America and Switzerland during my gap year, the Maldives is currently at the top of my bucket list. The white sands, warm waters, and quiet serenity are very inviting and easier to reach given the proximity. However, I would love to visit Bora-Bora at some point in the future.
Running a business can be non-stop, what do you do to switch off?
Running a business can be all-consuming, but I have taken some steps in the last two years to switch off and be better equipped to handle the challenges. I regularly go for yoga to keep myself grounded and feel positive and energised afterward. I try to be more mindful of taking time out to spend with friends and family, even if it means working later. I also take one full day off on Sunday where I completely switch off, spend quality time with my family, read, watch Netflix, and take some alone time to recharge.
What’s your go to quote when you’re lacking motivation?
I rarely remember quotes, but I find it useful to step back and undertake a reflective approach- do I enjoy what I am doing? What is it about the process that I am finding difficult right now? Can it be resolved? What is the worst-case scenario- is it really that bad? I then try to step away from the noise, focus on the workable aspects, and take comfort in the belief that hard-work with the right intentions and right energy enables one to achieve what they want. Sometimes it’s important to experience discomfort, as it provides us with an opportunity to grow and reach higher heights.
In five years from now, where do you see the brand?
I see the brand catering to a wider international audience spread across small to big cities, with stronger back-end systems in place, and a larger portfolio of fine jewellery creations and bespoke pieces.
Where can people find out more?
To find out more please visit our website www.azurebyszk.com for more information about the brand and our jewellery pieces. Our Instagram account azurebyszk is actively updated with new releases and insights. To reach out and chat with us, we have a very responsive team handling our email, instagram account, and WhatsApp account- just drop us a message, we would love to hear from you!