Standing in a booth among the world’s finest under-the-radar fashion labels, she meets the continuous parade of congratulatory comments with confidence. Her line of fashion-forward investments is a modern must-have for any woman around the world.
Stocked in Egypt, Dubai, and the United Kingdom, Dina Shaker is a local designer that has decided to challenge stereotypes and advocate the local fashion industry across the globe.
After successfully remaining a key player in the local market for 15 years, Shaker currently has her eyes set on the world as she plans to invade the globe with her brand. The revolutionary designer first met the international market five years ago, and ever since then her name has been synonymous with high-quality Egyptian fashion in the minds of many European clients.
From the sleeve belt to her asymmetric silhouettes, Shaker has managed to create a series of smart and subtle signatures that her clientele around the world can easily spot.
Even though many celebrities have already chosen her designs for their public appearances, Shaker targets regular women that seek comfort and confidence as her intricate twists are always enough to stop the show without looking too desperate.
Daily News Egypt sat with Shaker to talk about her 15 years in the local market as well as her fast-paced international plans.
How did you start your career in fashion?
I have always had a thing for fashion, ever since I was a child. I used to design garments for myself and my friends. Nonetheless, when I joined university I decided to study interior design. After graduation, I tried to pursue a career in that field, but fashion took a hold on me.
It was not long before I decided to study fashion design in order to learn all the technical basics in an academic setting. At the time, Egypt had an educational programme, sponsored with aid from the US, to help local designers.
During the late 1990s, imported clothes were not easily allowed into the country; however, the government was just about to sign an international trading agreement. The programme aimed to prepare Egyptian suppliers and designers for equal competition between local and imported goods after signing the agreement.
Why did you choose to focus on ready to wear (RTW)?
The courses I studied were under the umbrella of the fashion institute in New York, which largely focuses on the business aspects of the industry along with creative courses. We were introduced to the fundamental factors of RTW fashion as well as couture, and I thought that the local market needed RTW brands at the time. With that said, the market gap still exists today as the majority of local talents prefer couture.
In your opinion, what makes RTW a less popular genre among Egyptian designers?
There is a serious competition between local and international RTW brands. Costumers expect local brands to have a lower price point while international brands are the ones that get to mass produce their designs, which allows them to reduce their prices. On the other hand, costumers also do not fully trust the quality of local goods.
Accordingly, with each international brand opening in Egypt, local designers further resort to couture.
How did the recent economic changes affect your brand?
I always try to keep my prices affordable and relevant to local and international competition. Materials and hand-workers are very expensive in Egypt. I have my own workshop, which also demands a budget.
A year ago, I used to receive comments about my prices as they were higher than mass-produced competitors. Nonetheless, after the recent economic changes, costumers stopped commenting on my prices because all imported brands have significantly doubled theirs.
Meanwhile, the local market has been developing its own fashion awareness and aesthetic for the past couple of years. Today, clients understand the value and importance of natural fabrics, quality, and exclusivity.
Modes of production and the acquisition of materials in Egypt are often a true burden on local designers, how does your process go?
I have been in this industry since the late 1990s. I used to have my own mass-produced label, called Spicy, which had seven stores around the country and its own factory. The brand was very successful, and I only decided to stop the project due to the 25 January Revolution and the economic repercussions of it.
Accordingly, controlling a workshop is an easy task after supervising a factory for 15 years. My experience is currently my professional backbone. I definitely have fewer problems compared to other local brands, who still suffer from poor craftsmanship and suppliers.
The majority of my materials are local. Even though the options are very limited in Egypt, I try to keep the brand fully made in Egypt. Also, since I depend on international markets, I have to secure stable local suppliers that would provide the same material whenever I receive a new order.
Furthermore, the European market highly appreciates cotton and linen, which is what the Egyptian market is well-known for.
What made you take your label internationally?
After the revolution, I decided to create a smaller brand that is more exclusive than Spicy. The country was going through a hard time and importing materials or marketing a fashion brand in Egypt was very tricky. Therefore, I decided to pursue a new market.
At the time, everyone thought that I was crazy to start a new fashion project and even experiment with a foreign market. Nonetheless, I have always believed that people are capable of achieving miracles if they truly believed in what they are doing.
How do international clients perceive the brand?
The beauty of tradeshows lies in the fact that clients do not know the specific origin of each participating label unless they check the catalogue. Meanwhile, my brand is simple and modern, with no ethnic or Bedouin references.
Accordingly, when clients first visit my booth, they rarely know the origin of my brand. The majority like the design, the materials, and the quality. Furthermore, the price is also an extra incentive. European equivalents of my designs are much more expensive.
Therefore, clients usually welcome the label as an international brand that provides creative designs in natural materials with competitive prices.