Designer Spotlight: How The Founder Behind Mahnal Creates Intentional Heirloom Pieces

Mahnal, a jewelry brand founded and designed by Shayba Muhammed in 2016 is a testament to believing in yourself and using your gifts. Muhammed’s creative genesis began with a tragedy: the sudden passing of her father Akbar. Two years before this pivotal moment she heard the name Mahnal, an Arabic word meaning attainment and achievement. This inspired her to take a leap of faith and create a brand derived from this word. “The beauty of that painful experience was the start of me realizing that I wanted to use my gift and what I loved to make an impact before it was my time to make my eventual return,” she tells The St. Louis-based designer took the slower artistic approach to launching Mahnal, she says that she didn’t focus on the “branding” but did have a strong desire to find her identity and unique voice as an artist first. 

Muhammed is largely self-taught but also spent some time being professionally trained. Though she doesn’t particularly recall when she began making art, she speaks of being surrounded by a family made up of musicians, fine artists, and craftsmen. These influences led her to naturally begin working with her hands from a young age. “I don’t think I could’ve come to earth as anything other than an artist,” the designer said. She studied fashion design for a bit before dropping out due to not being able to afford the high costs of higher education. Muhammed moved on to work as a visual merchandiser in accessories and her jewelry obsession was born. Eventually, her friends and family started asking her to make pieces and learned techniques on what she calls “YouTube University.” 

Her brand’s ethos is rooted in the belief that we all have a purpose for being on Earth at this specific point in time. The pieces she designs are made to be a physical reminder to wear about your purpose, to stay present in these moments of distraction, and to let your inner voice shine. Muhammed’s idea of a utopia is a world that is beautiful because everyone is being their true selves. She believes that women are key to this as they are the “first teachers.” She says, “Nothing gets access to the future without passing through a woman.”

One stand-out piece from Mahnal and a few of the designer’s favorites is the Maraya ring, which has a unique Egyptian-inspired design that you can inscribe a customizable message. She also is proud of her Talisman necklace, the Salsaal bracelet which features a tactile texture. Her designs are inspired by many different elements including Islam, Arabic culture, social media, and what people are wearing and creating. She also looks inward through mediation, and often asks herself the question, “What do women need right now?” Her Salsaal collection started with just one word: humility.  It then evolved into a physical manifestation of textures and forms. With her upcoming Qamar collection, she started with a form of the moon and its meaning. 

 Muhammad is always looking to improve when it comes to being an entrepreneur. The designer often asks herself how she can make it self-sustaining and profitable. Her dream for the future that she’s working towards is expansion beyond jewelry. “I’ve always envisioned a sort of hybrid, creative, conceptual space for gathering, procurement, and enrichment,” she adds.

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