Some would say it’s capitalizing on the current revolution trend, others say it is about giving back to Egypt. Call it what you will, but the crop of talent and designs that have flourished since the January 25 Revolution is to be admired.
Young designers have rushed back to their workshops and factories to start producing their lines of clothes, handbags and home wares in an effort to keep their employees employed and to meet the demands of clients and stores for their goods.
Gathering eight of these brands was Amuse, a concept store in Cairo that opened just last fall but has already created buzz after buzz for its innovative ideas.
Amuse brought us the first art gallery within a store by opening a branch of Articulate Baboon on its top floor, converting old recording studios into a mammoth retail space, and stocking Egyptian products next to the hip French and American labels they carry in store.
House of Egypt is their newest offering, an extensive selection of products by clothes designer Dina Said of Nana’s Closet, Malak El Ezzawy, Amina Khalil of brand Amina K., handbags by Nadia Zarkani of Nuniz, scarves, clutches and home accessories by Dina Sabit, Heba and Hana Elawadi, Meraf Maafa of El Horreya, linens by Aya Akl of Aya Home Textiles, home accessories by Reem Mansour of Rimal, and Azza Fahmy jewelry.
“The goal is simply the ongoing support of Egypt,” explains Vivianne Abdelmessieh of Amuse. The support is that of local craftsmanship, production and the encouragement of using local resources to produce items that would warrant shelf space in any upscale department store abroad.
“There’s an unmistakable flavor in every design,” she said.
“These designers today celebrate not only their accomplishments and brands but more importantly what their brands stand for. It is our time as a team to reach out, give support and recognize all those hard-working [craftsmen] that poured their heart and soul into the making of these products. A lot goes on behind the scenes and the empowerment of all these workers is what will eventually put Egypt on the map of the international fashion and design scene.”
A large screen played a recorded montage of clips and quotes by the various brands’ employees on site in their various work spaces during the opening at Amuse, and the designers watched proudly as guests heard their employees talk about their aspirations for craft and design in Egypt’s future.
Some mention their previous experience working in now defunct clothes ateliers or leather tanneries. That experience has led to the incredible beadwork on the sleeve of a top from Nana’s Closet, or else the supple nature of a Nuniz bag, its leather all buttery soft and expertly dyed.
All interviewed are eager that Egyptian products are recognized and valued. Why not? Aya Home Textiles produces bathrobes and bed sheets from the most luxurious Egyptian cotton, some hand embroidered skillfully. Rimal home accessories has the most intricate calligraphy stenciled into brass. El Horreya produce original items inspired by some overlooked flower patterns and materials that one oft tends to ignore.
Best of all, the eight designers have collectively produced and designed a bag printed with a picture of Dalida whose proceeds go to charity.
Who better than the nationalistic singer who sang “Helwa Ya Balady” to remind us all that there is indeed a lot about Egypt that’s beautiful and worth celebrating?
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Pillow cases by Aya Akl of Aya Home Textiles, photo courtesy of Cairo Zoom.
The “Helwa Ya Balady” themed bag, designed by the women of House of Egypt, photo courtesy of Cairo Zoom.
Bowls by Reem Mansour of Rimal, photo courtesy of Cairo Zoom.