Kazakh jewellery designers make women feel unique with “affordable luxury” products  

NUR-SULTAN – AZEL Urban & Unique Jewelry is the fashion project of two creative friends, stylist Asel Junus and architect Zauresh Kazybayeva. The duo created the line “for active and bright women who want to emphasise their individuality and lifestyle,” according to the brand’s motto.

L-R: Assel Junus and Zauresh Kazybayeva. Photo credit: Maxim Zhussupov.

“AZEL is not for income – it is for pleasure. We like doing giveaways and charity; we like seeing how we can make people happy,” said Kazybayeva in an exclusive interview for this story. 

Junus and Kazybayeva started the brand in October 2018 when both were on maternity leave. The main philosophy is “affordable luxury,” with prices for individual pieces starting at 6,000 tenge (US$15.49). The brand’s key feature is baroque pearls and high-quality fittings made in South Korea. In addition to a wide variety of jewellery sets and accessories, they make custom items and recently began producing scarves using Italian silk. 

Photo credit: Zauresh Kazybayeva.

“Asel is a professional personal and jewellery stylist; she studied styling in Istanbul, Turkey. I have always loved art; I have always done bead weaving, creating brooches and jewellery. I also liked drawing, oil paintings, crafting and floral design. Then, I started making blueprints when I started studying architecture. This was followed by years of science. I’ve received my PhD in Teaching Architecture from Nazarbayev University and I finally went on maternity leave last year and started AZEL,” she added.

The brand was created spontaneously. 

“Asel did not have matching earrings to wear to a wedding in October (2018), so I offered to make them for her, since I already knew how to make jewellery and where to buy the fittings. It was sensational! Many people at the wedding asked Asel where she got the earrings. We created an Instagram account with Asel’s name and instantly received 11 orders to make the same earrings she wore to the wedding,” said Kazybayeva. 

From the start, the pair has valued communication with their customers. They held a competition among their Instagram followers to come up with a name for the brand, with the winner getting a set of their pearl earrings. 

“We combined the two best ideas out of the more than 150 offers we received. The first is AZEL, which is a combination of our names, Asel and Zauresh, and means ‘Eternity’ in Arab. Urban & Unique is a pun. It’s a double U; two ‘you’s, or in other words, ‘to you.’ So, you can think of the name of our brand as actually meaning ‘Eternity to you,’” said Kazybayeva. 

“Our customers like us for being so open. We carry out charitable activities. We donate a good share of what we earn at our jewellery exhibitions. For instance, after our first exhibition, we bought sports equipment for a school for children with disabilities. After the second one, we helped prepare children from low-income families for school,” she noted. “With the money we earn at the next exhibition, we want to help women with financial difficulties realise their creative start-up ideas.”

They exhibit their products at the capital’s fashion events – Astana Fashion Festival at MEGA Silk Way, POP UP SHOP in Keruen shopping mall and the showroom at Eurasian Fashion Week. The brand also coordinates with many other Kazakh showrooms, as well as popular designers and stylists.   

AZEL masterclass. Photo credit: kipyat.com.

“We collaborated with LAIMA Co.’s designer Alfiya Ispergenova in May. Ispergenova had her models wear our accessories on the runway during VISA Fashion Week in Almaty,” said Kazybayeva.

The same month, AZEL’s founders wanted to create a jewellery collection with Kazakhstan’s top stylist, Zhanna Akhmetova. 

Dani Kazakhstan runway model wearing AZEL accessories. Photo credit: kipyat.com.

“We were very glad that she accepted our offer and in July, we presented our co-collection at the First Garage Sale, where we were very successful. According to Akhmetova’s idea, the jewellery from the collection was to symbolise tenderness and brutality at the same time. We developed unique transformer chains as an example of mindful consumption,” she noted.

“In August, Akhmetova introduced us to Kamilya Suleimenova, the founder of the Dani Kazakhstan brand, an innovative ethno-style designer whose specialty is using felt pom-poms for her creations. She suggested developing accessories for Suleimenova’s show at Eurasian Fashion Week. The accessories created for the show received high reviews and interest among customers,” she added.

They started selling their products at TWELVE showroom in the capital, which features fashion products made in Kazakhstan, in December. Their jewellery is now available in nine showrooms throughout the country such as Fashion Park, the largest Kazakh designer showroom, and Lenazh. AZEL jewellery can also be viewed and purchased online on the store’s official Instagram account @azel_jewelry or at any of the locations indicated on the page.

Until recently, Kazybayeva and Junus assembled all the jewellery pieces themselves, but have now hired an assistant. The duo also holds master classes for 15,000 tenge (US$38.70) to teach their jewellery assembly skills. Participants receive information on how and where to purchase fittings and how to start a business. Even if students are not interested in pursuing a jewellery career, they can create their own pieces to take home “or simply unwind.” Four students have already become successful designers.  

“In the near future, we plan to expand the range of our jewellery and accessories, introduce vintage jewellery from Europe, hold more master classes and continue to actively engage in charity. We also plan to attract interesting media personalities from the fashion industry to create new collections,” said Kazybayeva.