Locally inspired and locally driven, three brands have appeared on the local fashion scene in Egypt earlier on in the year, causing heads to turn and people to talk about new talent emerging from Egypt.
Four friends, one vision: create pieces that are somewhat ethnic, locally produced, reinterpret traditional fabrics and create original one of a kind ideas. Have a portion of profits go towards charitable causes and name your brand El Horreya: Freedom.
A very idealistic philosophy to drive a brand perhaps but it has been quite successful since the brand’s inception in early January 2009. The women behind the brand are sister duo Heba and Hana Elawadi, Dina Sabit and Meram Maafa. The brand was inspired by the attacks on Palestine by Israel in late December and early January.
Hoping to create awareness and assist the Palestinian cause, they started off by reinterpreting the modern kufiya (Palestinian scarf) by adding decorative brass elements, tassels, and other fabrics to create really funky pieces and production was based in the Alawadi dining room.
Eye-catching they were, and to add to their repertoire, the women partnered up with another up and coming bag designer Nadia Zarkani whose line Nuniz was also beginning to explode onto the local trend scene to create leather bags with the kufiya material on the body of the bag.
In ten months, their brand has evolved to include a variety of items: baby bibs, laptop bags, an extensive range of clothe items and linens for the home are all housed in their new store in Zamalek. What is most admirable is not only their originality, but the spirit of these inspiring women.
El Horreya, 14 Montazah St., Zamalek.
Nuniz by Nadia Zarkani
Fed up of expensive brand bags that often failed to deliver good quality craftsmanship, and abhorred by the variety of cheap synthetic bags available in the local market, Zarkani started a small workshop in Maadi to produce leather handbags of fine quality.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that great leather craftsmanship exists here in Egypt. Great tanneries abound in Egypt, and it was at one time a large scale industry in Egypt along with textiles. Local leather craftsmen are quite refined in their talent and skill, and unfortunately undervalued.
Zarkani has a small team and workshop-cum-shop where one can stroll, select a leather and color from the leather rack in the shop and co-design with Zarkani their ideal bag. Zarkani not only produces her practical and sleek designs, but also helps to bring to life one’s bag idealizations.
Zarkani’s designs include hobo styles, laptop bags, and refined ladylike purses in a variety of lambskin, python, and ostrich leathers. The possibilities are endlessly fun to consider. Also, evening clutches include inlaid mother of pearl clasps and other decorative elements.
It’s a very personal and intimate brand, and Zarkani is intent on having the brand grow slowly and steadily to ensure the quality and beauty of her bags in the future.
Nuniz, 18 Road 9, Maadi.
Young and vibrant, this new brand which exploded during 2009 is perhaps as Egyptian as one can get.
The brainchild behind the brand is Amina Khalil, a graduate of fashion design from the London School of Fashion. Although Khalil’s brand was first introduced in 2008, Khalil exploded onto the scene with her return to Cairo after graduating from design school. Today, she is stocked at all of Cairo’s notable boutiques and stores including Beymen, Mounaya and Loolies boutiques and her collections have gone from strength to strength in 2009.
What makes her brand so unique is that she embraces Egyptian fabrics and kaftan prints to create pieces that mesh somewhat Orientalist idealizations of style with modern silhouettes. The brand is about functional practical pieces with a hint of whimsicality and nostalgia.
Summer dresses and summer shorts made from the material of traditional tents, silky strips and flowered motifs are all belted with her iconic weaved belt. Small clutches from braided leather and fabric were big sellers as well. For winter, kaftans and long flowing cape like coats are perfectly suitable for the weather.
What’s most beautiful about Khalil’s unique pieces is their versatility and that they tap into our romanticized notions of Egypt.
Mounaya, 14 Montazah St,. Zamalek.