Egypt Fashion Week saw designers from its abundantly rich homeland heralding a new era of creativity and finesse.
From Givenchy and Lanvin to Valentino and Christian Louboutin, the splendors of ancient Egypt have long been a source of inspiration for fashion houses around the world. But contemporary Egypt itself is home to an accomplished pool of designers and creatives. In May 2023, the inaugural edition of Egypt Fashion Week launched in Cairo amid much fanfare, unveiled by the Egypt Fashion and Design Council and thrusting these designers to the forefront of the global stage. Beyond honoring the past, EFW spotlighted contemporary talents, artisans, and industry leaders that make up the current regional fashion landscape, a growing textile industry, and the forces driving their future in Egypt, Africa, and the wider Middle East.
The fashion week kicked off with an exclusive event held amid the grandeur of the country’s ancient relics at the old Egyptian Museum in Downtown Cairo. In the days that followed, more than 70 designers showcased their creations among the lush greenery of the Museum of Agriculture, an architectural treasure in its own right. Dating back to 1937, the newly refurbished museum traces the history of agriculture and cotton in Egypt, from prehistoric times to the modern age, acknowledging agriculture as the basis on which ancient Egyptians built their prolific civilization.
In addition to the runway shows, exhibitions, and workshops, the event featured panel discussions from local and international experts, sharing their takes on the current and future fashion landscape, and discussing issues such as sustainability, the importance of education in the industry, connecting cultures through fashion, keeping local craftsmanship alive, and support systems for startups. The three-day fashion bonanza wrapped up with a Shop the Runway event held at Mall of Arabia. Here, Vogue Arabia spotlights the key Egyptian fashion designers who are pushing regional fashion to the future.
Founded by Egyptian fashion designer and entrepreneur Ahmed Al-Saedi in 2012, Saedi is a celebration of “the soft warrior woman.” The persona and muse he saw in his own hardworking, yet warm and feminine mother. Inspired by female empowerment and a drive to succeed, Saedi developed a unique design aesthetic over the span of a decade, merging unconventional fabrics and cuts to create daring, original pieces. “I like solid colors, the mix of soft and hard materials in the same design,” says Al-Saedi. “I believe that every garment should tell a story that creates a personal experience relating to the owner of the piece.”
After dedicating her life to raising her family, Heba Abou Ouf decided to pursue her passion for design, establishing Mazoura in 2012. “I was always fascinated by the look and feel of fabrics, threads, and buttons,” she shares. “Most of my special outfits were my own creations and I was always complimented on them by friends. So, I felt it was never too late to fulfill my dream.” Inspired by global trends, Abou Ouf aimed to create a brand that addresses the need for premium quality apparel, catered to a segment of the Egyptian market that would normally shop abroad. The brand pays close attention to detail in order to execute exclusive collections that spotlight not only elegance, but also comfort, body inclusivity, and sustainability. Using the finest fabrics and the most skilled local craftsmanship, the brand offers uniquely tailored pieces at relatively affordable price points, supporting Egyptian production and local industries.
Maison Farah Wali
Fashion designer and mixed media artist, Farah Wali is known for her innovative collections that embody the concept of wearable art. Inspired by Egyptian culture, her eponymous brand offers handmade, artisanal pieces with a globally relevant and contemporary touch, using recycled fabrics and sustainable ink for all prints. Wali combines an artistic aesthetic and superior quality local materials, crafting each into customizable garments that showcase the uniqueness of the individual. The brand aims to empower its clients, encouraging them to be bold and expressive, yet comfortable. The designer believes that a woman who dresses in her pieces is “wearing a canvas of imagination, walking with confidence, spreading beauty, and helping others do the same. Our design aesthetic is ‘street couture,’ derived from a mélange of experimental, modern, and chic.”
Founded in 2018 by Christine Massarany and Rami Ashraf, Christine Massarany is a semi-couture and ready-to-wear design label that draws inspiration from the female silhouette. Combining elaborate fabrics and overtly feminine lines, the brand offers exclusive statement pieces that focus on individuality and uniqueness. “For me, fashion is art,” says Massarany. “It’s not about how luxurious the brand is, it’s about a style that reflects who you are, a form of self-expression.” Inspired by Ancient Egypt, the label launched its latest collection at Egypt Fashion Week. “There’s so much beauty and mystery to draw inspiration from,” shares Massarany. “From the beaded dresses and ornate patterns to the abundant luxurious fabrics, the pieces I designed would make any woman feel royal.”
Lebanese designer Nadine Chamaa left Lebanon during the war in the mid Seventies as a child, moving to Cairo first for high school, and then again in 2008 to be close to her mother. This is also where she went on to establish her brand. “To see, to touch, to feel, and to be moved by beautiful fabrics has always been part of my desire for discovery,” says Chamaa. “Nadine Dans Tous Ses États is a brand inspired by a life lived in-between cultures,” she elaborates. Spirited in nature, refined, and complex, yet always evoking subtlety and delicacy, her pieces are inspired by elements of the earth. Through her various travels across South America, the Far East, and Europe, she learned to use age-old techniques such as Japanese Shibori 3D, indigo dye from Mali, and Argentinian wool felting among others. Chamaa incorporates these traditional techniques into her natural blends of fabrics such as crisp Egyptian cotton and linen, as well as upcycled materials. The label aims to stay at the forefront of sustainable fashion, offering an ethical choice to eco-conscious fashion consumers.
Mix and Match
Mix and Match began in 1985 as a small, family-owned business with ambitious dreams of elevating a budding local fashion scene. By integrating contemporary designs and traditional textile patterns designed in-house, the brand has always focused on supporting local artisans, suppliers, and governmental manufacturers in order to help preserve Egyptian heritage and support small, local businesses. Despite its exponential growth in recent years, the label is an advocate of “slow fashion.” It has taken significant steps towards sustainability, using 100% local fabrics and natural dyes, supporting local NGOs and women with small businesses, and opting out of plastic use by using leftover fabric to produce its shopping bags.
Inspired by women’s innate power and strength, designer Sarah Bahaa was driven to found her eponymous label in 2021. As a supporter of sustainable fashion, Bahaa strives to highlight the importance of environmental awareness through her statement designs by ethically sourcing and using a variety of materials and upcycled fabrics. To the designer, economic status bares little worth, “You can always find a way to create art, wherever you are in life,” she states. With this philosophy in mind, Bahaa creates striking pieces from fabrics salvaged from the Egyptian Clothing Bank, such as her signature dresses that pair a simple, black body with a single, ornately beaded, voluminous sleeve. She views Egyptian Fashion Week as a breakthrough moment for her fledgling brand, allowing her to share her Egyptian aesthetic with the world.
Rasha El Gammal always loved color; but it was watching her television presenter mother, Samia El Etrebi, traveling the country in search of Egyptian traditions that solidified her passion for artisanal design. “My mother told Egyptian stories of traditional crafts, vernacular folklore, authentic garments, and most importantly, of the heroes that artfully crafted them,” says El Gammal. “I decided to channel my creativity into putting these artisans and our traditional aesthetics of vibrant colors and textures back on the map and produce my own bold, and colorful style.” From the vivid, cotton-silk kimonos hand-embroidered with luxuriant images of animals and foliage, to the patchwork jackets in joyful primary colors, Rasha Pasha layers cultural elements and luxury fabrication, with lighthearted humor. “Our clients have always been fond of our outerwear and longer silhouettes, but EFW was a great chance for us to introduce even more fun, wonderfully tailored pieces with new cuts to a different clientele.”
In 2020, Rana El Sheikh left behind a decade-long career in the corporate world to pursue her fashion dreams. She founded Manza, a brand that offered everything that she herself had struggled to find in the local market. The ready-to-wear label prides itself on fusing statement designs with high-quality fabrics, printed in-house in a range of dynamic color palettes. “At Manza, we create timeless investment pieces. Our focus is on craftsmanship and ensuring that every design fits every woman,” explains El Sheikh. “We know that finding the right fit is the key to an outfit that feels and looks exceptional.” The brand heralds femininity through slick bustier silhouettes. The pieces feature futuristic cuts and darts that offer an edgy feel, far from gentle romance, instead leaning into a racer style for the woman on the go.
Founded in 2019 by Dara Hassanein and her mother, Dalia Abbas, RebelCairo is the fusion of two visions, one fiery and free-spirited, the other perceptive and settled. “Every piece we share with the world is part garment, part art; always merging both worlds together,” say the founders. With a slower, more considered approach to fashion, many of the signature prints that decorate RebelCairo garments are meticulously illustrated, taking up to 40 hours to finish by hand. “We believe that the initiation of an Egyptian fashion week is the first step to showcasing Egyptian talents to a global audience. As a brand, we’re also excited to witness and be part of the development of the fashion industry as a whole in Egypt.”
Established in 2020, Almah is a collaborative social enterprise, designing, and archiving unique high-end products through the upcycling of excess resources provided by the Egyptian Clothing Bank, a charitable NGO that aims to become a zero waste entity. It serves underprivileged communities across Egypt, specifically orphans, the elderly, and individuals with physical disabilities. As social and environmental advocates, Almah strives to offer artistic resources and creative solutions to their customers by providing unique upcycled products, rental of one-of-a-kind pieces, as well as educational practices and collaborations.
With her unique combination of culturally rooted and interactive designs, Creative Director, Youssre Abdelkader, upholds the core pillars of circularity, education, innovation, and creativity on which the brand stands. The brand has found many sustainable alternatives to problematic materials, such as their award-winning “Foe-Fur” which uses scraps of other fabrics to create various animal-like textures. Thanks to the slashing and brushing techniques used, this unique innovation takes on any shape, form or color, depending on the combinations of fabrics. “Our processes include various techniques such as patchworking, quilting, weaving and more,” says Abdelkader. “In order to reach maximum impact and efficiency, we believe that emphasizing the small matters always leads to greater results in both, our message and design process.”
Originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Yasmine Kenawi
Creative director and producer: Nadia El-Dasher
Hair: Osma Attar
Makeup: Lina Abo Srea
Furniture design pieces: Don Tanani
Gaffer: Mohamed Mabrouk
Production coordinator: Marwan Rizkallah
Photography assistant: Mohammed Mostafa
Style assistants: Farida Hammouda, Fardida El Badawy
Models: Buliana at Vigor & Alia at UNN
Location: Ardi Dahshur