Egyptian fashion designers benefit from an outstanding an domestic craft industry, but suffer, like many designers in Arab countries, from a lack of support for their industry. Here, the two Egyptian Fashion Trust Arabia Prize finalists talk about their country’s fashion industry.

Growing up in Egypt, surrounded by the traces of one of the most brilliant civilizations of the ancient world, certainly imbues designers with a sense of history and culture. And what heritage! There is no skill that was not developed on the banks of the Nile, as humanity awakened to its own talents.

Fatma Mostafa, FTA Prize finalist in the Jewelry category, and Karen Gaballa, in the Accessories category, are both part of a long line of Egyptian creatives. Here, they  talk to Pulse about the contemporary fashion design scene in their country. They both agreed on the exceptional character of Egyptian craftsmanship and know-how. But they also pointed out the lack of support for the fashion and design industry in their country, although it is nowadays in full swing.

Craftsmen also need support”

Mostafa tells us that “The fashion scene in Egypt is constantly evolving. From time to time, emerging designers appear with new ideas that foretell a promising future”. She sees “a lot of creators with amazing work and inspirational success stories, but the most inspiring experiences, for me, are to be found in [the] ancient civilizations and traditional jewelry in each city. Such as Nubia in Aswan, or jewelry from Fallhy and Siwa, because they speak of instinct and natural inspiration and are truly in tune with their surroundings”.

“We have in Egypt many crafts that can be used in the fashion industry”, she adds, explaining that “There are two main crafts that I work on: hand embroidery and handmade jewelry, all of them by Egyptian artisans. But there are also many other crafts such as glass blowing, pottery and carpet sewing that can be used in one way or another in the industry”.

“I feel that there are many challenges for us creators in Egypt, but what we need most is to create a larger space for emerging designers to rise with their new ideas in order to develop the scene in Egypt” confides the jeweler. She suggests that “organizing competitions or events” would also contribute to supporting the fashion scene in her country. “Craftsmen also need support”, she insists, “in order to ensure the continuity of their know-how, which is a precious addition to Egyptian industry”.

A major leap”

For Karen Gaballa, founder of the BOADK accessories brand, “the fashion industry in Egypt is growing, despite a struggling economy and a lack of resources”. She explains that “Egyptian designers are struggling to boost to an industry that has a long way to go, giving insight into their own different experiences and diverse backgrounds that eventually lead them to making names for themselves in Egypt”.

Born on the Pharaonic shores, she reminds us that “for thousands of years, Egyptians have been in the crafting business. People always used to make their own accessories and clothes from almost the same materials that we use today”. In this respect, she says that ”fashion was influenced by different civilizations and cultures that Egypt was a part of throughout history, like the Greek and Roman empires, and even at a time when Egypt was part of the Islamic empire”.

Speaking of today, Gaballa states that “the fashion design scene in Egypt has witnessed a major leap recently. Egyptian fashion designers are working hard to go past the point of creativity, they have the ability to develop incredible collections that carry unique styles and signatures, although the fashion industry in Egypt is still in its early stages of development”. Nevertheless, says the accessories creator, “Egyptian fashion designers are setting new rules in the industry. They are pioneering in their art, [they are] fearless and more persistent than ever. If there was a time to appreciate local brands, it is right now”.

“Egypt has already found its place in the industry, but we are lacking awareness on how to be fashion responsible and how to focus on our stories before starting to sell our products”, says Gaballa who highlights Okhtein and Sabry Marouf as the creators she personally looks up to in Egypt.