Researching, designing, and manufacturing are parts of a long process that is often interrupted for the lack of selling points. Local designers have been taking major leaps; nonetheless, their attempts to reach a wider audience have always been hindered.
It is safe to claim that the local market currently has a solid base of talents that designs everything from shoe-wear to jewellery, ready-to-wear garments, and couture gowns. However, all attempts to elevate the local industry remain to be individual and short-lived.
Bayt Ward is a specialised platform that aims to change the current status and take the industry to the next level. The fashion-forward project plans to empower emerging designers and get them to take on the international market.
“We are not only a retail shop; we are a platform that aims to harbour and help emerging designers from around the region. We have many services, including whole sale, distribution, and sourcing. At the moment, retail is our main focus. Nonetheless, we are working on the rest of the services as we go,” said Luna Kawash, co-founder of Bayt Ward.
According to the founders, designers need local and international exposure. Accordingly, Bayt Ward gives them a space to showcase their work at high-traffic destinations as well as international exhibitions and specialised festivals.
After a few years in the market, the team celebrated the opening of their first Cairo-based retail store earlier this month. “Now we are targeting Egyptian designers through our first retail store at Cairo Festival City mall. We aim to put them in a proper retail environment, next to well-established international brands,” said Kawash.
Despite their plans to reach out to all talented designers regardless of their nationality, the founders are currently dedicating their attention to Egypt.
“Due to current economic conditions, it is very hard to introduce an international brand to the local market,” Kawash added. “Accordingly, for now we help those interested in the Egyptian market through connecting them to local sources and manufacturers to keep their cost closer to local standards.”
From couture to contemporary ready-to-wear and leather accessories, Bayt Ward currently stocks many brands, including Nuniz, Maison Saedi, Pellame, Plum Plu, Elia, Salma Helmy, and many more. The retail store truly presents a cohesive sample of the country’s top talents for those who seek to wear local garments.
“We pursue brands that we know, as well as those that we come across. We do our research; however, Egypt does not have any formal directories. Accordingly, we use social media to scout for designers. We mainly depend on bloggers and Instagram,” said Kawash.
With that said, after their strong launch this month, a few designers also approached the team. According to Kawash, the team does not have fixed eligibility criteria. Instead, their main mission is to help the biggest number of local talents start a proper retail process in order to identify their weaknesses and develop them.
“We aim to enhance the designers, in terms of finishing and production details, through putting them in direct competition with international brands,” said Kawash.
The platform started two years ago with a branch in Marassi at North Coast. Nonetheless, it was not long before their store on the lagoon got another companion in the shopping mall. However, their biggest challenge was to find and secure a permanent location in a Cairo-based shopping destination.
“Taking a shop requires studying all shopping malls, picking a good location, being put on a long waiting list etc.,” Kawash said.
The store is now located in the heart of Cairo Festival City and right in-between a couple of the world’s top-selling names. Therefore, the partners are only further encouraged to pursue their regional plans and work on expanding in new markets.
“Our short-term plan includes a store in Jordan and another in Dubai. Meanwhile, we currently have a branch in Qatar, where we have been testing the waters with one brand only. So far, the store has been absolutely successful and we are planning to further expand it,” said Kawash.
With that said, the team behind Bayt Ward is fully aware of the challenges local designers are facing. Moreover, they are working on increasing their services in order to further help local talents withstand the current events and updates.
“The economic situation nowadays has tremendously affected local designers. We currently fear that sometimes designers fail to find the needed materials, including zippers, buttons, and fabrics,” said Kawash.
Since the majority of designers prefer to import their materials for the lack of local substitutes or infamous quality-related stereotypes, import regulations and currency instability directly affect the fashion industry.
“We are trying to encourage them to work with local manufacturers and find new sources.” Kawash added. “On the other hand, we also help designers source materials from regional countries, where they do not have to pay import taxes. Furthermore, we secure opportunities for them to showcase their work abroad in order to get foreign currency.”
The team sits in individual meetings with every designer in an attempt to study their problems and strengths before providing solutions. Due to the lack of organised procedures and the industry’s development without any governmental supervision, the team certainly has a lot on its plate.
“Local designers still have a long way to go. They need to register their business, become sustainable, have proper paperwork, be more organised, and work according to seasons in order to further expand,” Kawash added. “The majority of local designers do not have a look book, a price list, or a true understanding of international retail standards.”
According to Kawash, an essential part of Bayt Ward’s mission is to educate emerging designers and help them work on their weaknesses in order to become stand-alone designers that have various selling points around the globe.
“Local consumers truly love local brands. In the past few weeks, our sales have skyrocketed. I have to salute the consumers and designers for their spectacular relationship. It has been such a great experience so far,” Kawash said. “In the coming three years, international department stores will seek to stock local brands. We already have the talent; we only need to work on the details and presentation.”