Egyptian-French designer Mariam Yeya started her career in the corporate world, but her innate sense of style meant she was regularly spotted on regional best-dressed lists. Her elder sister Yasmine is a well-known fashion designer too, with her Maison Yeya workshop based in Cairo, so Mariam always had an insider’s view into the world of fashion. Seeing a gap in the market, she launched her own label Mrs. Keepa four years ago, also the name of her much-followed Instagram account.
For this 30-something mother, sustainability is a core issue. “Sustainability is a key value to the brand since its very first beginnings,” says Mariam. “Some of the fabrics used in the first collection were from the curtain fabric of my first baby Isabelle Lilly’s room.” While the Dubai-based designer is fashion forward, she always puts style before trends. “Materials used in our collections are carefully selected for glamorous, modern designs, giving them a timeless ability to appear in future collections without losing impact.” Many of the fabrics she uses are sustainable, and for her fall/winter 2018 collection she introduced vegan leather, a story she intends to take further and also make it a strong part of her recently launched men’s collection.
A full vegan leather drop is in production right now, and it forms part of the Mrs. Keepa fall/winter 2021 collection. “With every new collection, we are increasing our sustainability practices,” says Mariam. And the brand’s take on sustainability will always have an avant-garde spirit, so look out for vegan black leather dresses with multiple cutouts for women, and matador high-waisted trousers and crop jackets for men.
Though the label does sell at key concept stores in the region, online is what has worked for Mrs. Keepa so far. “My advice to other new designers is to consider the commercial aspect of things when they develop their designs.” And Mariam admits that often practices of sustainability do not work well with both the bottom line and her design ethos. “It’s quite challenging to find fabric sources that are all sustainable,” she says, “especially that the Mrs. Keepa brand is known for its fabric diversity.” In her four years as a designer she has realized that staying authentic to your own identity is the key to survival for independent designers.
Like most homegrown designers, her ultimate aim is to find international stockists. “It’s not about being with a big retailer for a label like Mrs. Keepa,” she says, “just a presence in every city’s boutique-style concept store that is the go-to spot for fashion-forward people.”
While Mrs. Keepa is known for statement pieces, Mariam explains that her clothes are made to be reworn. “Our design approach is to allow pieces to be restyled in multiple ways, increasing their life and wearability,” she says. “Anything that is boring does not work for me.” Which is why she hopes that clients who invest in her vegan pieces will wear them for a lifetime.