I love spaces that cater to today’s contemporary woman who likes a dash of culture and a pinch of art wherever she goes and shops. Amuse is Cairo’s only large scale concept store that delivers all that.
Cairo is currently undergoing a fashion revival, one that has elements of artistic individuality and creativity on par with any other metropolis in the world. Young women are more daring with color choices and hemlines at parties but there are more substantial changes: various individuals are trying to bring the same things that charge fashion and push it forward abroad — such as establishing contemporary local brands or else retail outlets — while defying the conventional boutique store.
Such is the example of Amuse, a new concept store that recently opened in Zamalek by Viviane Abdel Messih, Dina El Batal and Gailan Fahim. Intended to cater to the notion of “affordable luxury,” Amuse highlights the best of fashion as art.
Upbeat 80s music in the store, a chalkboard with handwritten quotes by Coco Chanel and YSL all point to one thing: women are meant to enjoy themselves here.
Having taken over and set up shop in what was once an acting studio, the cavernous space is stocked full with carefully selected contemporary fashion and accessories brands, and also contains two “store in store.”
Design firm and shop Alchemy has a corner dedicated to its furniture and products, and the upstairs loft is an in-the-city outlet for Articulate Baboon, an art gallery in Designopolis that exhibits urban and street-themed art.
The store is on par with any of the achingly hip concept stores fashionistas would visit when traveling, such as Milan’s 10 Corso Como or Paris’ Colette. This new retail tactic of presenting fashion, books, art, accessories, stationary and gifts is very much in keeping with the times: busy girls want to find all their needs under one roof, they want variety and selection and the next new thing, explains Abdel Messih.
The ladies behind Amuse made sure of that, trawling trade shows in Paris and New York to find brands that would cater to the needs of clients in Egypt — daywear, cocktail wear and bold accessories. What works in Paris wouldn’t necessarily work in Cairo. Egyptians look for items that are fashion forward, yet wearable and practical while still being playful — and that is precisely what Amuse has accomplished.
Ironically, a good number of the brands that Abdel Messih lists when talking to Daily News Egypt are from Middle Eastern designers: t-shirt and bags brand Tuvanam is Turkish as is designer Asli Filinta who once designed for uberhip Japanese brand Comme des Garçons.
There is also Moroccan-French designer Shourouk Rhaiem who creates beautiful accessories heavily embellished with Swarovski crystals and sequins, and brand OTT designed by Emirati designer Abdala. Standing for “Over The Top Fabulous,” his scarves were recently featured on the cover of Elle Italia. His vibrantly colorful tops, kaftans and dresses feature amazing prints — one was a collaboration with famed American artist Susan Shup. So original yet so synchronized with local tastes, the women of Amuse have meticulously selected their merchandise.
Local candle brand Boho also sell their highly original Buddha and skull shaped candles in the store, and Amuse are intent on having as many local brands as possible.
But the store is about more than products, it is meant to inspire. “When we came to name it, Amuse seemed like the perfect one. A ‘muse’ has been the source of all inspiration in fashion; it is something that can constantly inspire us, just as we want people to be inspired and ‘amused,’” explained Abdel Messih.
The very space dictates the spirit and concept of the store. The architecture and interiors of honeycomb shaped vitrines and bouquets of stark industrial light bulbs hanging from what were once lighting and camera trusses is the work of young architect May Gayed.
But as part of their business model, the women hope that Amuse can help develop and launch the work of local designers and be a platform for Egyptians to establish their own contemporary brands. El Batal’s sister currently sells her line of embellished shirts under the label brand of Rons by Rania El Batal. Also, the store is currently exhibiting a collection of beautiful photos by photographer Ali Ali.
Prices are kept as close to their retail values in the US and France says Abdel Messih, and although price points vary from a notebook for LE 55 to clothes that retail for several thousand pounds, there’s something for everyone. It just requires a little exploration.
15 Ismail Mohamed St.,
Borg Jeddah (next to Café Noir, across from Fonoun Gamila)
A mannequin with a top by Ella Luna and a shoe accessory meant to be slipped over one’s shoe or boot by brand Dekkori. (Courtesy of Amuse)
Shourouk, an accessory line defined by bold shapes and colors by Moroccan-French designer Shourouk Rhaiem, is carried in Amuse. (Courtesy of Amuse)