A passion project 3 years in the making, The Bledi Collection brings Nessy Khem founder Nesrine Khemiri’s Tunisian childhood — in slang Arabic Bledi means not only ‘my country,’ but ‘my home,’ — to life in sunglasses steeped in vivid technicolor and rich in Arab culture. “This collection is truly a love letter to Tunisia, where my father lives. The design process was an exploration of my family and our shared heritage. Bledi is a celebration of that heritage, its shapes, its colors, its spirit,” says Khemiri.
The concept of Bledi first came to her during the height of the pandemic, a time, Khemiri admits, “of serious introspection and a real need for connection...but, talking to my brothers and sisters, I realized my sunglasses had the potential to bring people together, to forge new bonds through sunglasses with soul.” Indeed, the collection is nothing short of an amalgamation of her Tunisian sensory experiences, referencing everything from the feel of hot wind sweeping the sandy beaches of Sousse to the heady scent of jasmine flowers sold by local vendors at La Goulette.
“I needed the collection to reference the incredible energy of the local culture, whether the all-day chess matches, the buzz of the souk or the sweet smell of shisha.” Those collective memories provided a potent soundtrack to punctuate the design elements found on the actual sunglasses, especially those informed by iconic Arab architectural motifs. The delicate latticework of moucharabieh windows typical of residences in North Africa and the Middle East, for instance, appears in intricate hand-engraved arabesques detailing several of the sunglasses’ temples, while stripes found on some frame’s upper rims take cues from the Moorish horseshoe arch popular in mosques throughout the Muslim world.
And, the collection’s three styles are named to pay homage to the region —including Capuccin, a play on the favorite drink of the Tunisian café cultures, espresso with a dab of foamed milk. The design, says Khemiri, is “nothing like I have ever done before, from the materials to the silhouette,” including a shimmering mother of pearl — a nod to Tunisia’s vibrant pearl-fishing industry — and a luxurious tortoiseshell.
New acetate formulations were chosen to be almost impossibly lightweight, while the level of craftsmanship involved is readily apparent in each pair, all of which were handmade in Italy. “And, my third collection is more fitted,” says Khemiri. “The shapes follow facial curves using the latest technology to deliver absolute comfort.” And, only is the fabrication and engineering of The Bledi Collection a study in perfection, each pair is about more than the sum of its parts: “They are characterized by the Tunisian personality, their unwavering joy of life. Bledi channels that joy into eyewear designed for smiles, laughter, and delight,” says Khemiri. “I hope you feel as home in the collection as I do.”