Mona Afifi and Sherifa Mahmoud have partnered up to create Style-Treasure, Egypt’s first online boutique and the Middle East’s third. Why? Because in our frenzied city something as simple as buying milk can become a Herculean task as one navigates traffic, crowds and limited parking space at any desired shopping outlet.
“I’ve been an online shopper for 10 years, says Afifi, “I know the pros and cons.
Cons vary from sizes ordered not fitting properly and long waiting periods for delivery. Facebook shopping, a phenomenon in Egypt, was quite bothersome, explains Afifi. Not only are the actual goods being sold on many Facebook groups are illegally smuggled in, but prices are hyper inflated. Deposits and payments required two separate trips to pay and pick up.
Yet, the pros are many. Brands and goods whose wares aren’t available in Cairo are easily accessible with a few clicks of a mouse, and promptly delivered to your home. This concept is at the core of Style-Treasure. In addition, there’s a wide range of prices, mostly quite reasonable, all in an effort to make it easily accessible to women. The concept of Style-Treasure is to carry pieces by young and upcoming designers who embody a certain spirit. That spirit seems to be funky, original and all the while grounded in high quality.
“Regardless of how much money you have, you still want something affordable, says Afifi.
Afifi and her partner Mahmoud have spent the last 10 months trying to set up shop. The trials and tribulations of going through all the bureaucratic paperwork was a great hassle for the two women. Afifi found herself pregnant in the middle of all the agonizing red tape and the excitement of being able to open the shop with all the legal work.
But that hasn’t slowed her down. With a background in fashion journalism, and as one of the bright young founders of fashion marketing and public relations agency Shine Communications, Afifi has pulled together an easy to navigate website that takes orders and delivers within 48 hours to anyone in the Arab world.
Mahmoud is the fashion buyer and Afifi credits her for the good taste of products on offer. “She has amazing taste and an eye for fashion and is able to predict market needs, a very tough job.
Market needs in Egypt can be summed up in: great value for money, originality and unique items that can’t be easily found.
“I’m glad to see that lots of girls and women are open to new ideas; they understand it’s not about the big brand labels, but it’s about looking different.
The ladies’ intentions are to make the website a portal for mostly talented young Egyptian designers to showcase their products. Now, it’s mostly Lebanese designers, who Afifi explains are so successful because socially and culturally, Beirut’s vibrant art and design scene allows for such talent to grow and develop.
But interestingly enough, it’s the 2009 winter collection by local designer Amina Khalil whose brand Amina K. has been the website’s best seller. Her products have been ordered extensively from abroad.
What’s so endearing about all the pieces on Style-Treasure is their very humor and charm. Almost every piece for sale takes patterns or concepts and reworks them to convey some sort of oriental background. Patterns such as that of the Palestinian scarf have recently been so popular, that both Arabs and westerners alike are enjoying trends without concern for bitter politics.
“Such a trend is a way of reaching out to westerners; it’s a tribute to Arab culture in a way. It’s also a way of making yourself heard abroad through fashion – culturally not politically. I don’t think you analyze fashion politically but culturally, says Afifi.
And there are of course, pieces that simply showcase the great design talent involved.
“I thought it was time to gather all these beautiful designers, says Afifi.
Beautiful daywear and evening wear by designer MOK, maternity wear by EMME, baby clothes by Bellybutton Couture, handbags by brand MOJO, jewelry by Joanna Laura Constantine and Dinz are but some of the brands available on this online boutique.
“I had no doubt that it would definitely work out, in the past 10 days [since its recent launch], it has surpassed my expectations, says Afifi.