Starting from 8 o’clock in the morning until the long-awaited 5 o’clock in the evening, Ezz El-Dien Mokhtar and his wife Joselin El-Kholy sat in their offices processing endless paperwork and stressing about a nonstop parade of deadlines. Every night they hoped to get a break from their monotonous corporate lives; yet, every morning at 8 o’clock, they went back.
One morning in 2014, the couple woke up with a firm decision that their life-long dream could not wait any longer. They sent in their resignations, packed their luggage, and set out on a trip that forever changed their lives.
Mokhtar and El-Kholy spent the next few months travelling across the country’s hidden pathways and forgotten towns before returning to Cairo with a database of Egypt’s most-talented artists. Jozee Boutique is the couple’s current occupation, where they feature the work of many local artisans along with their very own fashion line of handmade showstoppers.
“Jozee Boutique is a place where brands, designers, and artisans can showcase their products. We feature many talents, many of which are local. We also showcase our own fashion line that is produced locally between Siwa and Sinai; where local artisans apply their hand-made patterns and embroidery on it,” said Mokhtar.
Mokhtar and El-Kholy currently depend on a wide network of hidden talents that consider Jozee Boutique their space to reach out to a larger spectrum of the market. The featured products vary between leather goods, jewellery, clothes, and even home accessories.
“Our network is continuously growing because we have two different tracks: things that we produce and others that we only feature,” Mokhtar added. “Our own line requires a very strong and wide network. We regularly try to tap into new areas and governorates. We also depend on word-of-mouth. People naturally talk; they either recommend us to new artists or put us in contact with others.”
Over the years, the couple managed to build rapport with many artisans that preserve the country’s endangered handcrafts and cultural products. According to Mokhtar, their travels have reached all the way to Siwa and Saint Catherine, where they met the artisans they still work with even today.
Meanwhile, the low-key boutique has managed to position itself as a destination for people, who appreciate art and originality. The Zamalek-based shop is currently a hot spot for local and foreign appreciators of hand-made crafts.
“We believe that we cater to a special type of audience that seeks unconventional designs. We always try to keep our items artistic and different; for example we have many unique designs for harem pants,” said Mokhtar.
The recent increase in the popularity of embroidery and ethnic fashion locally has certainly reflected on the boutique. According to the founders, the current levels of diverse fashion is incomparable to when they first started.
“Awareness has certainly increased in the past few years; a lot of people are far more interested in hand-made goods and embroidery. Customers are currently much more aware and they are highly keen on having the ability to stand out amongst the crowd,” said Mokhtar.
As for their international reach, it is no secret that local craftsmanship is often much more popular abroad rather than locally. The couple says that the international market is never missing from their expansion plans.
“We hope to expand to have other branches around Egypt but also aim to increase our overseas reach to markets in the Middle East and Europe. Currently we are planning to work on our exports since a lot of our products are quite popular abroad,” said Mokhtar.