Recognizing Egypt’s Evolving Fashion Scene

Photo by Mohammed Hassan from Pexels
Photo by Mohammed Hassan from Pexels

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Western couture houses have continuously taken inspiration from Egypt’s rich ancient history throughout time;  but now Egyptian designers from the new decade are glorifying their take on fashion and heritage.

Fashion and creativity in Egypt have been developing far more than ever, from old to new talent filling up this industry both nationally and internationally. Well-regarded designers, models, online influencers and regional fashion institutions are breaking glass ceilings to reach international clients and audiences.  

Below, Contributing Editor Reefaya Noortaj explores how and why Egyptian brands have gained so much momentum over the past decade. 

The Middle East is filled with rich fashion history dating back since ancient times, constantly evolving to reflect modern lifestyles. Egypt specifically has thrived lately due to its rise of Egyptian designers and models. Simultaneously, Egyptian fashion enthusiasts and designers are becoming more eco-conscious and challenging gender norms. Egyptian fashion designers are pushing the levels of creativity– attracting   local and international attention.

Designers such as Farida Temraz, Okhtein, Fufa, Morena, REDU, Aliel, BOADK and Be-Indie – to mention a few-are taking over the Middle Eastern and global fashion space by storm. From Temraz, who won the first-place award as the best designer in Paris Fashion Week in 2016, Okhtein, whose luxury handbags have been carried by megastars like Beyonce, Emma Watson, and Kris Jenner, it is evident that Egyptian designers boast standout yet high quality styles.

Besides the growing demand in Egyptian couture, a significant number of consumers are demanding eco-fashion in the region. For example, Egypt’s leading vintage pop-up shop S(old), founded by Yahya Karali, models the idea for a distinctive pre-loved fashion haven. In general, about 65% of regional consumers in the Middle East have been said to become more eco-friendly in the last six months of 2021, which includes sustainable fashion. As the concept of S(old) gradually spreads outside of the main city, Cairo, it highlights how the vintage and thrifting scene in Egypt is being embraced amongst the new generations, with more and more consumers no longer shying away from the stigma of wearing “old” or “recycled clothes.” 

In the recent decade, the global fashion industry is starting to embrace a diverse range of POC (People of Color) designers and models such as Sherouk Farid, Yasmine Hany, Sohaila Kandil and Iman El Deeb from the Arab world. The inclusion of prominent Egyptian idols is another example of the aesthetic transformation currently unfolding in Egypt and across the Middle East. What is more interesting is how Cairo’s fashion scene is redefining Egypt’s societal perspective on masculinity. The male youth are opting to step outside the machismo look and are playing with patterns, materials, and accessories to challenge the norms of Egyptian masculinity whilst representing their rich culture. Young men and teens are taking their fashion creativity online due to its lucrative accessibility to fame and ability to establish an identity. In essence, Egyptian youth are breaking barriers in their region by utilizing fashion as a gateway to self-expression, creativity, and empowerment. 

Photo by Ray Piedra from Pexels
Photo by Ray Piedra from Pexels

Fashion-based institutions in the Middle East are creating abundant opportunities for Arab designers, a goal to help designers gain exposure amongst international audiences. The most prominent organization, Cairo Fashion Week (CFW), which is identical to international fashion events, is supporting Egyptian designers and creatives by giving participants a platform to display their work. CFW has played a major role in the region for the last 70 years in contributing to the growth and development of apparel, beauty and all other subdivisions of fashion. Both men’s and women’s fashion are displayed as a part of the organization’s diversity umbrella. Another chief fashion institute in the Middle East is the Arab Fashion Council (AFC), which is the world’s largest not-for-profit organization that aims to unit 22 Arab countries under the creativity umbrella. Based in the UAE, AFC was founded in 2015 under the UAE federal law number 37, article 16 of the year 1992. The AFC’s strategic pillars are based on creative knowledge, made within the Arab Fashion System, education, sustainability and fashion for humanity. Lastly, there has been a recent prominence and intrigue with buying Egyptian brands online since COVID-19, such as via the growing startup EASTWAVE Concept, which markets and sells MENA brands to Western consumers. Through such channels, Egyptian brands have been able to develop and expose their talent to new audiences. 

The Egyptian fashion scene is focusing on merging fashion and art as one, which has earned international attraction. Egyptian designers are constantly pushing the boundaries by blending in their history pride with eye-catching trends.

About The Editor

Born in Bangladesh and raised in the Middle East, UAE and Bahrain, Reefaya is a postgraduate from The London School of Economics in U.K. and an undergraduate from Sussex University. Reefaya has an immense love for sustainable fashion, social development and art.