CAIRO: As though competition within Egypt is not strenuous enough, Jaylan “Coca Ezzat has been providing her interior designing spaces to clients based outside of Egypt, and in other cases been subcontracted by international companies to handle their local projects.
But for Coca, designing is a passion and not a competition, although she realizes the importance of a competitive market. “It’s so hard when you work [to] think of competition, because your main interest is the client and how to achieve the best possible living space for the client, she says.
She explains that the designing scene in Egypt is growing and is becoming more competitive in the process. “I’ve been in the business for over 20 years. And I have seen designers going in and going out of the business and I’ve seen designers that continue doing the business, she says.
“And I would think that this is up to the professionalism of the designer … You are dealing with a lot of time and money concerning the client. So your approach should be very professional. Amateurs cannot survive in a market like this at all.
As a professional, she understands the value of her clients’ time and money. “When we start approaching a client we use a lot of documentation. We start building a room with a color board. And we include in it the fabrics. We include furniture pictures, the finishes that the client would be requiring [and] even the area rugs and the accessories and the wall hangings. We don’t surprise our clients, she says.
Coca’s name is not just about professionalism but passion as well. Seated in a cozy office filled with fabric and tile samples, catalogues, books and folders, her back to a wall covered with pictures of her designs, she says, “Passion of work is very important because it makes a difference. This is exactly what I tell my kids all the time. You have to be very passionate with what you are doing, whether you are working as an employee in a bank, or you are sitting in a small room painting on your own.
When she presents the design plan to her clients, she adds a quote from a famous work of literature – Shakespeare’s are her favorite – to give a livelier sense of how she envisages the room.
Even though her name instantly translates into professionalism and passion, it doesn’t refer to a certain style. “I don’t have a signature at all in my work. You’ll find it very difficult to walk into a space and say this is designed by Coca. I sort of move from one style to the other according to the preference of my client, she explains.
But establishing such a name was not an overnight process. The story goes back to her childhood years when she developed an interest in art; she used to save her pocket money to buy “well-priced pieces of artwork instead of candy, like other children did.
As she grew, her interest blossomed; she started with designing her home, then those of her friends. At the time, she couldn’t find everything she was looking for in terms of furniture in the local market, so she opted for designing her own material and then giving the designs to local workshops.
This led her to opening her own retail store that offered both furniture and interior design services. Now there are two stores, one for “contempo furniture (modern style) and another for classic items. They cater to the clients of her design firm C.O.C.A. and the “walking client.
She says now her “little design firm takes most of her time. She designs all kinds of spaces, whether stores, hospitals or a residential space. The latter, with all its subcategories (urban, suburban, beach houses), constitutes a higher percentage of her work.
“When you are designing a room, it is not only putting furniture and colors. It has to be well lit, it has to have good circulation, she says, explaining the requirements of her job. As the business grew, she says, she began working on the architectural phase.
Her designing business, when it first started, was on a small scale. “It’s not the quantity [of designers involved], it’s your approach to the project itself, she explains. “When you start small you don’t have a lot of clients, but as you grow, you find that you will have more clients. To be able to maintain very satisfactory levels to the client you need to be backed up by a professional team. So this is exactly how [my business] matured, like any other business in the world.
Her role as a wife and a mother influenced the pace of growth of her work; her strategy was prioritization. “A woman is a wife and a mother first and foremost, and then she is a working girl, whatever business she is [in], she notes.
She says that when faced with the choice of having five clients and giving less time to her children, or two clients and more time with her kids, she chose the second. But as her children grew, she found more time to devote to her business. “If you prioritize, you will make your life easy.