Egypt is awash with creativity, the underground scenes of art and music are thriving and Facebook timelines are filled with designers launching lines of jewellery, fashion, interiors and more. In between this burst of creativity the soon to be launched line of leather goods from Maklad Wali grabbed our attention so we met with the women behind the beautiful bags.
Jasmine Maklad and Wafaa Wali have been friends for over 15 years, and that shows when you sit down with them. United in a vision of what they hope to achieve and how to achieve it, they differ as much as they are similar, yet what sets them apart seems to complement rather than divide.
Three years ago Maklad suggested to Wali the idea to start a leather line. Both are teachers at universities and both have always been creative. “Art is part and parcel of everyday existence,” Wali said. “I have always dabbled in design, but I would not call myself an artist. I would design things around my house, I really dislike mass produced things, something Jasmine and I have in common.”
Over the two years that followed, Maklad and Wali would start working on the project but life would get in the way and the project never progressed until September 2011. “This time we decided to not tell anyone, except our immediate family, that we would start to bring our idea to fruition,” Wali said. “And after a lot of hard work, research, finding the right workshops, the right materials, the right craftsmen and women, it all fell into place and we are launching our Winter 2012 collection this Saturday.”
Maklad Wali is truly a cooperative effort where the strengths of both partners are used fully. “Jasmine knows how to draw and I know how to visualise, but the designs are made by us both,” Wali explained. “One of us will make a design and then the other will add to it and as we work on it together it becomes the best it can be.”
“We only use the best materials and everything that is used in producing the bags, like the buckles, are made for us and here in Egypt,” Wali said. “We do our best work when we can sit with the people that make our products,” Maklad said. “It has not always been easy to achieve this, but once the craftsmen and women know us and know we will not compromise on quality, even if it is more costly, they are on board and do wonderful work,” Wali added.
“All of the linings we use are handmade to traditional Egyptian craftsmanship, which makes each bag unique,” Maklad said. “Some of these traditions are dying out, as the cotton-silk woven fabric, but we hope that by using it in our bags we can help keep this tradition alive.”
Maklad Wali is not looking to mass-produce leather goods, but the pair do have a long-term vision for the company. “In our ideal scenario we have a large open space where our products are made and where our customers can visit and meet the craftsmen and women who make the products they buy,” Maklad explained. “Our bags are all individually made and there are only a few pieces from each of them, which means a Maklad Wali bag is very personal.”
“Shall we..?”Wali said, “..you mean the..?” Maklad asked, “..new line,” Wali added. As they both laughed Wali revealed that what they are working on now is a line of computer bags, to go into production soon after Eid. A perfect example of how the combination of these two friends and business partners works.
The Winter 2012 collection stands out in quality, attention to detail and the clean lines of design. The bags are not cheap, they range from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, but they are well worth it. The different designs guarantee that a variety of tastes is catered to, and together with the range of available colours it will be hard not to find that perfect bag you have always been looking for in the Maklad Wali collection.