Walking into Ghazl Banat takes every woman directly to the heart of major fashion capitals. The exceptional store is Cairo’s window into international fashion. The team behind it makes it their own mission to find hidden gems from across the world and bring them home.
Over the course of a few years, Ghazl Banat created a base of fashion-forward women that seek beauty and art in their day-to-day garments. After adding more than 20 brands on their expanding portfolio, the store decided to open the doors to a few of the country’s home-grown stars.
“I wanted to support local talents, especially after the recent pound flotation and the evident improvement in local quality. On the other hand, I also want to offer a wider spectrum of options to my clients,” said Meram Maafa, co-founder of Ghazl Banat.
Hosted by Soma Art gallery in Zamalek, Mohanad Kojak, Amr Saad, and Farida Abu Shady brought their latest masterpieces to represent Egypt in the global selection harboured by Ghazl Banat.
“The event today is a celebration of the launch of three local brands at Ghazl Banat. The brands are Kojak, Amr Saad, and AFH. Ghazl Banat has always been contemporary and with an all-foreign list of high-end brands; nonetheless, recently, many local designers have proven to have the same standards as international brands,” said Maafa.
Through an artistic and minimalistic display, the two worlds were merged. While Kojak introduced his combo of extravagant fur sleeves and cropped silhouettes, Abu Shady inspired the audience to go back to nature for real beauty, and Saad highlighted the essence of precious eyewear.
“The pieces showcased today are not the new collection. Meanwhile, they are edited pieces from the previous collections. The beauty of handmade craft is the open window to keep editing along the way; in core they are the same designs, just a bit modified,” said Saad who was passionately keen to personally introduce his pieces to each and every member in the crowd.
As a jewellery designer, Saad believes in the importance of silver and precise craftsmanship. While he started his career as a jewellery producer in Italy, today he uses the same techniques in making his one-of-a-kind frames. The designer personally works on each and every design at his workshop in Cairo.
When he first started, Saad’s biggest challenge was to educate the local audience regarding his frames and their value. Nevertheless, Saad’s journey has managed to change many old-school perspectives.
He said that “the local market has very vague dynamics. However, local clients do appreciate innovation. On the other hand, it is undeniable that local awareness is currently on the rise.” He continued, “Nonetheless, since the concept itself of wearing a silver pair of sunglasses is quite new, the idea might be extremely different to some people.”
According to the designer, people are often concerned that silver would affect the weight of sunglasses; accordingly, he is always keen on encouraging every new potential client or admirer to just try a pair first.
While the new economic changes were one of the key incentives behind Ghazl Banat’s change of aesthetic, they have also been a sign of better conditions to many designers, including Saad.
“The new prices have definitely served my brand. Plastic sunglasses are currently worth of 4,000 and 5,000 LE. While mine have managed to stay relevant in terms of price, materials and craftsmanship,” said Saad.
The founders’ main goal was evidently highlighted through the display as the team made sure to place all items closely to blur any separating lines.
“The local designers might appeal to a new type of audience; but, more importantly, I want the same audience to get into buying local brands. Ghazl Banat can help them reach a bigger audience.” Mefaat added, “When put next to each other, very few can tell the difference between local and international brands. Foreign-brand obsession needs to end.”
On the other hand, the designers were only concerned about communicating their brands and art through new, well-established channels.
“Meram and Farida are very nice people; they were also very interested in the brand. For me, once the chemistry is there, anything else is doable. Accordingly, I welcomed the collaboration without hesitation,” said Saad.
According to the designer, there is always a difference between showcasing any fashion item at the designer’s personal studio and at a store. As local designers, many aim to sell their story and inspiration as part of the product. Accordingly, the majority of designers are always keen on the people introducing their brands.
“When a client walks into my studio, they already come with a certain amount of knowledge regarding it; meanwhile, I am always present to introduce each design as well as my personal workshop where I work on each and every one of the designs.” Saad added, “The store takes a bit from the brand’s vibe and lifestyle; nonetheless, it is vital, because more people would love to see it and try it while not everyone would necessarily be able to come to Maadi.”
Saad is one of the designers that have one-on-one briefing sessions with the sales team. “I normally tell the store’s staff to focus on a few key elements, including the fact that everything is fully made in Egypt using precious silver. Furthermore, I make sure to educate them about the brand because there are always other brands featured nearby,” he stated.
With that said, Ghazl Banat had even a longer process in order to bring in the new designers to their well-established entity. According to Maafa, the research and selection phases were the hardest and most consuming, as they wanted to find local designers that did not imitate and could compete with the already featured labels.
“Amr Saad intrigued us with his design and quality,” Maafa said. “He has his own style and direction. Unfortunately, many local designers blindly imitate other designs. Saad has his own character. The same thing goes for Kojak. He has some great ideas, and he mixes many styles in one item; he is very talented. As for Farida, her quality is amazing, and she is very ambitious; I like people who are truly passionate about what they do,” said Maafa.
Ghazl Banat currently stokes 20 international brands and three local labels; furthermore, they are on the search for talents, quality, and value all the time. “We currently harbor many international brands. Ghazl Banat has its own style in a way; nonetheless, I always like to cater to different budgets. I do not want to be a store that has nice stuff that only very few can afford.” Maafa added, “I am personally a big fan of local label because I have already had my own home-grown brand before Ghazl El-Banat. Accordingly, I understand the local potential.”
On the other hand, after the event’s positive feedback, the featured designers are only planning to take further expansion steps locally and internationally. Saad, for instance, is preparing to take a major leap through participating in the upcoming season of Paris Fashion Week.
At the same time, he is finally ready to go back to his initial passion. “Jewellery is by definition my next step. I have been working for quite some time on the branding and the concept behind the brand. It is set to be a self-expressing jewellery brand. I am planning to launch by next May,” said Saad.