The simple task of standing out from a crowd of fashion-forward millennials, who understand the balance of style and trends, as well as the increasing power of pop culture, is inevitably getting more complicated every day.
Contrary to expectations, the recent expansion of international brands has highly affected the authenticity of local consumers’ personal style. Due to the era’s keenness on fast fashion, local customers have rapidly started shifting towards local designers, who tailor collections based on local concepts.
UNTY Designs is one of the many names that heavily contribute to the country’s growing portfolio of streetwear brands. Over the course of eight collections, the local brand has been able to mix art and fashion while staying true to individuality. This season, UNTY went against all odds and created a monochrome seasonal collection with minimal colors. Meanwhile, they maintained their lucky charm: a limited number of pieces.
With that said, the label’s latest addition is the true game changer of the season. The local legends series is a tribute to local brands and identities that any Egyptian can visually and aesthetically relate to.
According to the founders, the label will launch only one design from the series in each season, along with a separate seasonal collection. For the SS16 season, UNTY started the series with a special dedication to the timeless Stella beer.
The Stella t-shirt is based on the beverage’s iconic bottle, mixed with a few elements that represent UNTY. While the design mentions Stella’s founding date, it also refers to the fact that it is part of the UNTY’s 8th collection.
We sat with UNTY’s co-founder, Omar Harbi, to discuss the local legends series, streetwear, and manufacturing obstacles in Egypt.
What inspired you to create the local legends series, and what did you aim to communicate through it?
The brand is made and designed in Egypt. However, our designs usually carry an identity that is relatable, regardless of your background or upbringing. We wanted to start a series that is solely dedicated to tribute local brands, places, or people. The brands or entities are chosen based on their authenticity, history, and identity, which are our primary principles at UNTY.
What are the brands and identities that you have included in your series? Why did you choose them in particular?
The Stella t-shirt is the first in the series, released with our 8th collection. Each collection will feature another addition to the series. The first one we chose is a tribute to Stella.
The local brand has been around for over 115 years. The bottle has featured different designs that have evolved with time, without ever losing its identity. We picked this brand specifically for that reason, given it is something that we respect and a quality we aspire to maintain, just as much as they do.
Why are you always keen on producing a limited number of pieces?
We sell to a specific society in Egypt and this target audience happens to be a niche which lives in a bubble of authenticity and uniqueness. Accordingly, we do not want to overexpose our brand by giving access to everyone. Limited numbers reduces the chances of you seeing everyone wearing the same thing.
You released your summer collection last June. Is the local legends a separate collection or is it a continuation of your SS16?
It is a continuation of the SS16, but we chose to release it later because it is a special edition t-shirt that is not linked to the collection’s concept.
Quality and factories are always an issue for home-grown streetwear brands. How did you secure your current quality and do you still search for or try out different suppliers for better quality?
It was a long process because you have a lot of factors that play into it: the quality, the cut, the print, the production time. Meanwhile, because we work in limited numbers, it is a hassle to agree on a quantity with the factories. However, we have settled on a supplier that, so far, has been very reliable.
What are the main factors that the common public still does not understand about local streetwear brands?
They don’t understand that our products are not just graphic pieces. They’re a brand, and the brand has an identity─something to feel a connection with. Streetwear has gained an increasing popularity over the past couple of years because of its exclusivity and because it makes people feel different.
The fashion genre has a certain vibe that is highly linked to authenticity. There is only one version of you and how you dress should reflect that.
On your website all prices are in euros. Is your key market Europe or Egypt?
Our website is initially for international orders. My partner, Omar Fayez, is based in Munich, where we have our second largest market after Cairo. We started marketing ourselves in Munich last year and have grown quickly since then. The ongoing orders have encouraged us to put up the website, since online shopping is a lot more popular in Europe than it is in Egypt, where cash on delivery is the preferred method of payment.