Egyptian accessory label Sabry Marouf may be new to the fashion circuit but it’s already making waves internationally with its heritage handbags inspired by the ancient pharaohs of Egypt and modernized through artful innovation. Led by designer duo Ahmed Sabry and Daki Marouf, the London and Cairo based brand grabbed the attention of some of the biggest names in fashion, including former Vogue Arabia cover star Elisa Sednaoui, with their debut collection of luxury leather bags that resemble unearthed artifacts from eras long ago. Now, the sartorial pair is reinventing its classic King Tutankhamun top-handle with the upcoming SS20 collection featuring an array of models reflecting seven of Egypt’s quintessential minerals as a nod to the region’s rare treasures. Vogue Arabia spoke with the masterminds behind the Mineral Tut to uncover their seemingly successful creative process on their rapid rise to worldwide fame ahead of the new line’s launch in the Middle East.
What was the starting point of this collection?
We start a collection with a desire to push the boundaries, which always leads to some serious research and development. For this season’s collection, Alabastra, we wanted to create materials that mimic natural minerals and stone, materials that would look exactly like the real thing but act as a functional luxury product and not have the limitations of stone. And that proved to be a great starting point, a good balance between artistry and functionality. Therefore, the Mineral Tutankhamun bag was conceived.
Where did you get the inspiration for it?
Inspiration for the collection Alabastra came from the Egyptian terrain—from the lands’ natural minerals which are synonymous with the landscape in Egypt. Growing up in Egypt, we were always surrounded by these specific materials, like Alabaster, from which the most beautiful vases, bowls, and all sorts of ornaments were made out of. And it is very specific to Egypt—there is nowhere else in the world that has this beautiful, translucent candy-orange tone of alabaster with white opaque veins running through it. We really wanted to bring this strong childhood memory and association to our bags. And it took off from there; we started looking at so many other materials with provenance to our home. The shape of the Mineral Tut bag is also a gentle contemporary nod to the iconic Tutankhamun mask and head-dress silhouette, a hidden message that only the wearer will know, and something for others to ponder on—a sure conversation starter.
Tell us more about the materials that it’s made from.
It is made from a custom formulation of plexiglass which we’ve developed and it is worked in a very skillful way from its liquid form all the way to its final shape. The process is all handmade starting from pigment selection and mixture to molding of the shapes. Taking material innovation to the next level, the custom-molded plexiglass minaudière bags span seven variations representing seven quintessentially Egyptian materials: Gold-leaf, lapis lazuli, rose quartz, white onyx, multi-colored Faience glass, shimmering basalt and, last but not least, Egyptian alabaster.
How much did your brand grow in the past year after releasing your first-ever collection?
2019 was a wonderful year for us! It was a milestone year for the brand and we’re extremely thankful to have been able to accomplish many of our goals. At the start of the year, we took part in Fashion Trust Arabia’s inaugural edition and competed for the handbag category. We went on to win the category, which gave us incredible support and the right exposure our brand needed. FTA was a great platform to share our creations and vision with top influential industry leaders such as matchesfashion.com, who are mentoring us and stocking our collection as part of the prize.
In June, we took part in a special showcase and press day for our SS20 collection at Diane von Furstenberg‘s flagship store in New York City. Later in September our brand was chosen by Vogue Italia’s Sara Maino to show among 70 other international designers (JW Anderson, Bode, Jacquemus, Simone Rocha, Marine Serre, and Thebe Magugu to name a few) as part of Vogue Talents’ 10-year-anniversary. In October, a selection of our bags was chosen by the curator at the Spielzeug Welten Museum in Basel, Switzerland to be displayed as part of the special exhibition: “Bags–Icons & investments”.
We were also picked up by Bergdorf Goodman exclusively for the United States. We’re stocked in Printemps Paris for the launch of their online store, Tryano Abu Dhabi, and AlOthman Kuwait. We’re humbled and thankful to God for all of our hard work since we launched our first collection is paying off.
How do you power through a creative block?
Sabry: Meditation always works—whether prayer, workout, or even hanging out with my dog in the park. A block happens because there would be too much going on up in the head that needs decluttering. Blocks happen and that’s a part of the creative process; you need to know what works for you, how you can get your head clear again.
What aspects of Arab culture are you most proud of?
Where to start? We’re proud of the richness and depth of our shared history. We’re proud of the fact that we span so many countries and yet we are all intrinsically tied together by language and so many common customs, traditions, and even a common popular culture. We’re proud of how we can all laugh at the same jokes. We’re proud of so many admirable traits we all share, like kindness and generosity.
Which Arab women epitomize style and substance?
Those who choose to take the path less traveled, those who are choosing to embrace the culture and experiences which have shaped them, and elevating that using their very modern sense of style.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Dealing with changes in general sometimes proves to be challenging. We are living in times of rapid changes and new chapters unfolding all the time, the changing global retail scene—cutting through the noise.
What kind of music do you listen to when you work?
Sabry: Classic music and original scores always work for me, especially contemporary composers like James Howard Newton, Hans Zimmer, John Powell, and Brian D’Oliveira—these are a few of my favorite musicians and composers. Good cinematic soundtracks always work for me, pieces of music that have that depth and range of emotion.
Marouf: Quiet a varying range of different genres actually. I’d say my go-to is deep EDM that’s acoustic sounding, ambient, and bass-heavy.
Describe your favorite place to work in your studio.
Sabry: There isn’t necessarily one spot; I am mostly all over the place. But, I would say the quietest spot works for me—my desk and my comfortable chair with some good back support.
Marouf: Close to the window where I can be in contact with the elements.
Where is your go-to spot for inspiration in Egypt?
Sabry: Egypt is full of magical spots, though Khan El Khalili has a special place in our hearts. It is where our journey began.
Marouf: The Nile valley and Sinai. I’m also inspired by the people of Egypt, El Misreyeen.
In ten years’ time, what do you hope to have on your fashion CV?
By then, we want to have shifted our operations to become much more sustainable in hopefully all of our operations. We want to have more influence on this front and do our planet a favor by being agents of positive change.
The Alabastra collection is now available online and will launch in Printemps Paris, Tryano Abu Dhabi, and AlOthman Kuwait this month.