Stepping into Heba Edres’s showroom instantly feels like walking into a doll house, with an endless amount of pastel tulle and embellished white gowns. The surrounding walls carry glimpses of the fairy-tale world Edres is always keen on creating for her clients.
Edres’s personal office is only a continuation of the captivating and fluffy world dominating her showroom. On the top shelf of her bookcase stand three Barbie dolls in dresses that show a great resemblance to Edres’s work. These three dolls, among others, are proof that, sometimes, childhood dreams can turn into lifetime careers.
Daily News Egypt met the drape maestro to know the full story behind the dolls, her signature, and to discuss the complicated situation of veiled fashion in Egypt.
How did you get into the fashion business?
I started sketching and sewing at the early age of three. I was a quiet child who rarely talked, yet I was a kid that used to work with her hands. I do not remember anyone teaching me how to sew. I used to see a Barbie, and think I don’t really like what she was wearing, so I would take off her dress and create another one. My mother is a great tailor, so she started teaching me few stitches and techniques when she noticed my enthusiasm.At the age of 17, I was certain that I was born to be a designer. By that time, I used to get inspired by anything around me including curtains and carpets.When I got older, I started redesigning the clothes of everyone I met; I even did voluntary consulting to every lady walking in the streets! Later on I dedicated a room in my place to be a workshop; from then on, I started my own business.
Where did you study fashion?
I studied at the Fashion Design Centre (FDC) plus the”Istituto di Moda Burgo” in Italy. I have also studied graphics at Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, and most recently I participated in the TV show Art Studio, and received a bronze medallion from the prominent designer Simon El-Asmar.
Why did you choose to specialise in Haute Couture?
It requires the most sophisticated and complicated sewing technique. I am very artistic in what I do. Everything in my life is Haute Couture; meaning that when I cook, I always prefer cooking something that is difficult and so on and so forth. Yet simplicity is somehow my motto, yet precise detailing is essential.
What is the biggest misconception cemented in the local and regional mentality regarding couture?
A lot of people have no idea about it; it is a disaster. Some use machines for manufacturing couture, which is unacceptable. While others do not mind recreating the same design over and over; haute couture is the utter opposite of mass-production.
Bridal couture is rapidly becoming your specialty. In your opinion what makes bridal fashion different?
Bridal has a special aura and a margin for the designer to display his/her talent and personal taste. Women wear a dress every day, and she can attend a special event once a month, yet her absolute persona and the designer’s creative character shine through wedding dresses more vividly because each lady only gets one white dress in her entire life. Therefore, the right designer should be able to control the bride and stop her from cluttering too many ideas in one gown.
What is your personal signature?
I use several materials in a collage. If I use one embroidered fabric I directly pair it with another matching one. This technique is much more difficult, which keeps copycats from replicating my designs. Long sleeves are also one of my signatures, I just love them. It is a difficult piece, and local designers tend to stay away from it, because it needs high sewing techniques. A sleeve covers a very sensitive and active joint that moves 360 degrees, it is also the first thing others notice, unlike any other body part.
How much are you involved in the manufacturing process?
I know how to create a dress from A to Z, yet I am always keen on delegating work to the tailors. Throughout the manufacturing process, I supervise each and every dress. Also, all dresses are revised by me twice throughout the process for quality checking.
How did being veiled in an industry that normally neglects veiled clients reflect on your work?
We cater for a very big segment of the community; their only problem remains in a mistaken concept. Many do not understand that veiled dresses have got to have long sleeves. A very large clientele strongly believes that soiree dresses are always revealing and it is a designer’s job to create an additional piece to cover it up, which could not be further from the truth. Veiled dresses should always be designed with sleeves without the need for any additional pieces. When I first started working, I had clients who would refuse taking a dress with long sleeves, preferring to wear a top underneath it, as they absolutely believed that long sleeves made them look older.
Where do veiled women stand in the current fashion evolution?
There is an obvious improvement due to the rise of bloggers and designers. However, this improvement is relatively associated to the ready-to-wear genre rather than couture. Personally, I am not a fan of any veiled couture designs. Their construction and finishing details are normally miserable and haphazard. A veiled dress requires the best of designers and tailors for its unique construction. A veiled woman is covered with fabric from head to toe; therefore, this ever-going mass of fabric should be constructed and put together really well.
How popular are veiled bridal dresses nowadays?
It has got much better recently, better than veiled couture especially after Kate Middleton’s bridal gown, which had long sleeves.
You have been around for over 13 years, what has changed in the local fashion industry during this time?
I have been around long enough to create a base of clients plus a strong brand image. I no longer need to write my name on the garments for people to identify the designer behind them. What I can certainly notice nowadays is that most of the new designers do not tend to work hand-in-hand with their workers also unfortunately most of the prominent names have never received any formal fashion education.