While she sits in her workshop planning her next fashion show or delving into the history of different nations, her designs travel back and forth across the world. With each stitch, Maram Aboul Enein has managed to pave her way to the international fashion scene with intricate embroidery and show-stopping fabrics.
A few years ago, the art fanatic travelled to Paris, planning to fulfil her admiration for art, but it was not long before she found her true passion. In a matter of years, Aboul Enein has changed local and international stereotypes while dressing women as far east as Japan and back around to the US.
The young Egyptian fashion designer is a true artist who has successfully established a name for herself in a relatively short time. From Paris to London to Montreal, the embroidery master has showcased her designs at various official fashion weeks.
This season, she finally decided to pay her hometown a visit and meet her local base of fashion-forward clients.
Daily News Egypt sat down with Aboul Enein to talk art, fashion, and craftsmanship, as well as her future plans to come back home.
How would you define your aesthetic?
My aesthetic is based around craftsmanship. I am dedicated to ensuring that everything is done intricately with luxurious fabrics and well-detailed embellishments. As a kid, I grew up painting; I have always loved sculpting and art.
I went to Paris to study fine arts at Parsons because I have been painting for as long as I can remember. During the first year, however, we rotated around different art departments. After that, I decided to do fashion because suddenly I did not see a point in studying fine art—I was already good at it, I wanted something that had a technical aspect.
What made you choose fashion as a career?
Fashion is extremely technical. I have always loved fashion—I grew up observing my mother and grandmother’s personal styles. Furthermore, I have always had an interest in textiles and clothing. Accordingly, I simply gravitated towards fashion. It was not a conscious decision, I just fell in love.
How does your Egyptian nationality affect your brand?
I am currently based in Montreal, Canada. However, I studied and established my label in Paris. Wherever I show my designs, people are often surprised by my Egyptian origins. People often cannot see past the stereotype of Egyptian and Middle Eastern designers—they expect an oriental aesthetic with elaborate details.
I do have a slight hint of orientalism in my clothes, such as the embroidery, which obviously comes back to Egypt. Nonetheless, I believe that it makes it more interesting to people to see somebody who was born and raised in Egypt and trained in Paris combine the two worlds to create a middle ground.
How would you label your brand: an Arab brand targeting Europe or an international one?
I do not target a specific market. Obviously, I would say that my style is more European than it is North American or Asian, as my designs definitely appeal more to the European market. I do receive various orders from Japan, South America, and Egypt though.
Each target market prefers a different aesthetic in my collection. For example, the Italians really like the embroidered items; meanwhile, the US market loves the cashmere pieces, simple and basic sweaters.
I try to think of all of these things when I am designing, so that there is something for everyone, but, at the end of the day, I am still myself.
Which is your top market at the moment?
The US is on top of the list; I have a lot of clients there. Paris and London are also quite strong. In actual fact, it kind of changes every season. For example, the Middle Eastern market is always interested in the summer collection—they rarely favour fur or jackets.
Even though fashion is currently booming in Egypt, you have never officially showcased your collection here. Why are you absent from the local scene?
I am very aware of the current fashion boom happening in Egypt and the Middle East because it partly took place right when I was graduating. I had the option of coming back to Egypt at the same time. I was observing the local scene when there was a sudden increase in social media, bloggers, and a large number of young people starting to pursue a career in fashion.
However, I really wanted to establish myself internationally first just because that was a true challenge. Furthermore, I was trained abroad and I had become familiar in the market. Egypt was actually a more difficult venture for me, particularly because I was specialised in fur and leather at the beginning.
However, now after doing a few collaborations in Egypt and meeting local media, I definitely do not want to lose touch with Egypt because eventually I am going to move back. The problem with the local industry is that there is a lot happening, and very few brands are doing it properly.
It is kind of haphazard; there is no system, a very limited number of factories, the training level is low and there are various problems in the import regulations. This industry needs to build a strong foundation of manufacturers, factories and craftsmanship.
I definitely want to return in the next few years and involve myself in this area of the industry through sourcing materials and manufacturing locally. There is a huge potential in making fabrics and implementing all the handwork locally—it will generate money for the country and it will even be cheaper for the European market.
You were finally able to meet the local market this season through Coterique’s pop-up event in Sahel. How was the local feedback?
Coterique is my stockist in Egypt; they represent me locally by selling my pieces to the Egyptian market. I called Dana, the founder, a few weeks ago and when I told her that I am coming to Egypt, she told me that a summer pop-up is being organised.
I instantly agreed to take part in the pop-up because many people have difficulties in purchasing my items due to problems with imports and shipping, so I always welcome any opportunity in Egypt.
I find it interesting to see the people’s reaction to my clothing line and their opinion when they try on the clothes—it tells me what I need to improve and what is good. So far I have received great feedback and I came to know the market much better.
Tell us more about your upcoming collection.
Right now, I am finalising the SS17. Meanwhile, FW16 is in the last stages of production and should be coming out next month. The latter is all about leather jackets, the collection includes a lot of embroidery and patchwork—it is very graphic.
So far it has received very positive feedback; it is one of my all-time favourite collections. I am very excited for it to hit the stores.
The SS17 also has a sufficient amount of embroidery but it is all done by machine. Embroidery is one of my favourite signature looks that I am keen to sustain across the different themes of each collection. Personally, I love embroidery; I worked in the embroidery department at Balmain.
Where are you showcasing your SS17?
The SS17 is set to be showcased in Paris and Dubai. It is my first time experimenting with prints, as well as my first time at Dubai Fashion Forward. I have wanted to do Dubai for a long time, but before now every time I was ready to go the show was for fall/winter collections, so I have been saving myself until I had a spring/summer collection.