In a factory far east of the globe, sits an inhumane number of artisans— their eyes are focused on the work at hand, but their minds wander elsewhere. One after the other, copies of the same piece comes to life. None of them is authentic, nor will they last long given their quality.
Once they hit the shelves on the other side of the world, they will fly away due to their unbelievably affordable price tags. However, they will not be seen around the city for long, as their shine will soon wear off, and they will come undone in just a few months. Unaware of how their new purchases came to life, the lined shoppers remain faithful to the same short-term cycle of consumption.
Fast fashion is a threat, which looms over the head of artisanal crafts, leather goods, and high-end fashion. Meanwhile, it is also the second most dangerous polluter, after the oil industry. With many activists fighting against the vicious danger, and more literature unfolding this reality, a few ethical-fashion designers around the world are trying to stir millennials toward hand-made goods.
Hagar Fattah is a local advocate, who believes in the importance of supporting local craftsmanship, and creating pieces that can last a lifetime. Through turning her infatuation with footwear to a bespoke ethical brand, Fattah is offering the local industry an ethical alternative to poor-quality replicas.
Her brand, Dawn, specialises in bespoke pieces made from genuine leather, with the utmost attention to details. With each piece made for a specific client, comfort is not a question, rather a core brand value.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Fattah to discuss her lifelong dreams, her drive to revive the local footwear industry, and her formula to ensure quality and comfort. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What inspired you to start this brand?
I decided in 2015 that I want to pursue my passion and utilise my obsession with footwear in my everyday work. However, my plan did not aim to create any regular footwear; instead, I was looking for comfort, intricate execution, and high quality. Therefore, I was always determined to use natural materials, and depend on handmade techniques. Furthermore, natural beauty, and vintage simplicity have always been my main inspiration.
Why did you choose to specialise in footwear?
I have always been a fan of this type of footwear, and it has always been difficult to find in any local Egyptian brand. This often forced me to look elsewhere during any of my trips; accordingly, I used to get them from bespoke shoe-making brands in Italy and India, and they usually came with crazy price tags.
After many of those quests, I decided to change my career from finance and banking to footwear, in order to do so, I began building on this passion by taking some specialised professional courses.
In 2015, fuelled by determination and passion, I decided that it was time to bring this dream to reality, by owning my own footwear brand. I was committed to establishing Egypt’s first bespoke footwear brand specialised in natural handmade products. Meanwhile, I also had the vision to take this industry in Egypt to the next level.
How did you turn your dream into one of the country’s most promising up and coming brand?
I started by devouring any information about the leather industry in Egypt, as well as the Egyptian handmade shoe-making industry. However, sadly, I found out that those two important industries do not get neither the needed support, nor the appreciation they deserve from the country.
Nonetheless, that did not stop me from achieving my aspiration. I kept looking for talented Egyptian shoe-making artisans, especially those who are evidently passionate about their craft. After a thorough search, I finally found some of them.
In the beginning, I found difficulty in convincing those artisans with what I wanted to achieve for my brand, as well as my dream to turn the local industry into a real contender on the global map. I have always believed that our local talented artisans deserve international recognition, however, they need the right support, and good leadership.
All of Dawn’s pieces are inspired by nature, captured in our earthy colour pallets. Meanwhile, it also gives a nod to vintage simplicity. Finally, authenticity is also a big source of inspiration for me.
Where do you source your leather from?
We only use premium natural leather for our shoes— from the soles to the uppers—our suppliers are distributed between Italy and the rest of Europe. Recently we have started to use vegetable-tanned leather, which we are going to use widely in the upcoming collections.
Where do you manufacture your designs? How big is your workshop in terms of headcount?
We now have our own studio in Maadi, and we are working on opening our store very soon. Our workshop consists of dozens of talented Egyptian shoemakers, who descend from a long line of artisans with generations of experience. We also have young co-workers. I always make sure that our head-office is run by creative minds, including a marketing team, finance department, and digital specialists.
Why are you keen on being a hand-lasted brand?
Our main mantra is ‘Buy Less, Choose Well, Make It Last’. Buying less, choosing high quality, and investing in possibly higher prices, is absolutely worthwhile, and wise, especially when you look at the long-term benefits.
Why have not you tackled high heels so far?
It is not our target right now, as we want those heels to be just as comfortable as our current mules and sliders, and this is not an easy mission because it requires specific know-how and special standards. Nonetheless, we are already working on this step currently, and we will release our high-heel designs within the next ‘FW 2019’ collection.
Our pieces are ethically made with our love of nature, as we use only natural materials. Furthermore, they are not mass produced. Dawn is a slow fashion brand that cares about quality, materials, and manufacturing method (hand-lasted method). These factors are more important for us than selling lots of pieces with low quality.
Every single piece at Dawn is created by creative Egyptian minds, and talented hands. We have also made sure that we provide our workers with fair wages, and to never take advantage of their talents, without fully appreciating them.