Harboured at the heart of any library, the self-help section would normally offer tips and information about various disciplines. From mastering numbers to knowing your way around computer software, you can dive into many specialties overnight. Nevertheless, establishing a career in the fashion industry often requires far more than a couple of books.
Whether inspired by the heliographic hidden inside the mighty pyramids or motivated by the vastness of the enchanting Arabian Desert, numerous Middle Eastern talents have managed to steal the international spotlight and plant their roots in the global fashion industry, regardless of the multiple operational and financial challenges obscuring their routes.
However, all those who made it to the surface share the same long and hectic journey. Between the lack of resources and minimal educational aid, many talents prematurely lose their way and fail to meet their well-deserved success.
Therefore, her average daily work tasks are enough to make her a real-life hero, who dedicates her efforts to support rising Arab talents. Originally a communications engineer, Noheir Saleh did not take long before choosing to follow her family’s steps. After completing her MBA from Harriot Watt as well as a handful of post-graduate courses in fashion, Saleh gravitated toward fashion in 2011, when she began managing her family’s denim factory.
Amid the daily grind and following up with important orders, Saleh began to notice a pattern. While her line of work has introduced her to many local talents, it has also opened her eyes to all the obstacles they are required to overcome.
“Whether to find the right material, a production facility that would understand the design and does not have minimum quantity requirements, packaging, labelling, or even marketing – designers are asked to handle many difficult aspects simultaneously,” said Saleh passionately.
Accordingly, the entrepreneur chose to stop being a spectator and offer a helping hand to those struggling to keep their green brands afloat. With the aim of establishing a one-stop shop for designers to help them enter the market much faster, Saleh founded The Fashion Incubator (TFI).
“We hope to be able to change the stereotype that deems local products poor in quality and fitting patterns. In the design and production phase, our target is to help designers produce their collections with high quality patterns, materials and trims, without a minimum quantity and at convenient prices,” Saleh announced, adding, “As for the design and marketing phase, an area where lots of designers fail to achieve, we aim to help them through our network, social media, and by opening new areas of customer exposure through deals with e-commerce websites, retail outlets, and trade shows.”
In parallel, TFI team also hopes to change the fashion calendar in the region to meet the international calendar through pressuring suppliers to showcase the materials earlier, as well as educating designers about planning and scheduling ahead. These grand goals are met through a handful of services.
“Our list of services start from the design phase up to selling the final product,” Saleh added while counting on her fingers, and elaborated, “We offer design consultancy as well as in-depth assistance with material and trim purchase, production, packaging, labelling, marketing, and sales.”
According to the founder, the TFI is not an incubator in its traditional sense as they offer their services to any designer willing to join forces, whether they are still fresh or have already managed to establish a professional brand. Therefore, TFI already works with 80+ designers including Kojak, Nanushka , Yoli & Co, Lamita Collars, and Skin sportswear.
Based between Cairo and Dubai, the TFI gives designers access to the best of both markets. “We chose Cairo to be our production base because resources are more affordable and available here, compared to the region. Meanwhile, Dubai is the Fashion hub of the MENA region. Any designer aiming to go international has to start from Dubai,” explained Saleh.
Based on their keenness to connect designers with credible launch pads, TFI showcases the work of their talents at 1422 in Dubai. The multi-designer brand is managed by the Arab Fashion Council. “After reviewing their marketing plan, we think that there is a promising future to the store,” stated Saleh.
In addition, Saleh and her team are already focused on tackling the next notorious challenges, including creating a network of suppliers which offer high-quality materials as well as opening more room for exposure.
With that said, Saleh agrees that knowledge is already growing very fast in the region. Simultaneously, designers have become more aware of international fashion trends, the identity of their brands and collections, and technical information. “This progress has helped the industry develop a lot in the past 15 years and local designers are on the rise each day,” shared the entrepreneur enthusiastically.
Nonetheless, she still believes that the industry is in need of more education, whether for suppliers or designers. Furthermore, it is quite essential for the government to offer more attention to the industry, by for example opening opportunities for export/import of raw material, organising more trade shows, supporting local designers financially, and offering knowledge.
As for her future plans, Saleh hopes to expand TFI into a hub for all designers and creatives in the region, whether fashion, product, interior, or graphic designers, offering them the equipment and materials they need. “A hub for networking and learning, and a place where designers can turn their dreams into reality,” expressed Saleh admiringly.