Comfort is key in Egyptian designer Amina’s dresses

Updated 21 October 2016

Comfort is key in Egyptian designer Amina’s dresses

For someone from the younger generation, the mention of Egyptian designs brings to mind clothing items or jewelry embellished with old Pharaonic influence, or some oriental patterns that could be found in the old souks of the famous Khan Al-Khalili market. But this is not true in anyway. Egypt is the first and the biggest country in the region to pioneer textile manufacturing using the best cotton and linens that are cultivated in its lands. It comes as no surprise that a country as big, diverse and culture rich as Egypt now has an army of promising young fashion designers, who are making good use of both Egypt’s extensive culture and heritage, and the fine fabrics and resources that they can find in abundance.
Designer and founder of the Egyptian brand Amina K., Amina Khalil is a working mother who was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. She then moved to London to study Fashion Design and Marketing in AIU, followed by a two-year internship at Diane Von Furstenberg, and intense fashion courses at LFC and Central Saint Martins. She is one of the few (ready-to-wear) Egyptian fashion designers who started their careers at a very young age, which is why she has 12 collections already by the age of 31.
She started simultaneously at the time international fashion brands invaded the capital Cairo, and although branded clothing was much sought after then, many fashion-forward people knew that the key to looking stylish is to stand out by mixing and matching local designers with high-end and high-street brands.
We got to sit and talk with Amina, and ask her a few questions about being a fashion entrepreneur in Egypt.

How did you get into the world of fashion design?
I always knew I wanted to study and work in fashion ever since I was 10. Everything I did lead me to where I am now. After I showcased my graduation collection in London the feedback was very encouraging, which pushed me to start my own brand and one thing lead to another.

How was the reaction to your first collection?
It was very positive, people were excited to see something new and Egyptian. They wanted something ethnic and original but wearable and fashionable at the same time.

You started with abayas and kaftans and then shifted to ready-to-wear, why? And do you plan on going back to designing abayas?
It was always my intention to have a ready-to-wear brand. Actually, my first collection had the full range. I started with a bit more ethnic in terms of styles and fabric. It was a natural development for me as a designer and a brand. I wanted to start showing different sides of Amina K. and not put myself in a corner. I will always try to stay true to the Amina K. brand identity but I am currently enjoying the creative freedom of experimenting and developing the collection.

You have 12 collections so far, how different is each collection from the other?
Each collection has a different theme and concept behind it so naturally they are different but I believe some elements are still the same, they develop but don’t change.

You always find your inspiration in Egyptian culture and heritage, will you continue doing that, or will you be searching for another inspiration?
I am trying to merge different cultures and themes. For example, SS’16 was inspired by Islamic tiles, which were not only found in Egypt. I am now finding inspiration in other cultures as well. I like to keep an open mind, anything can inspire me.

What are the fabrics you love and feel comfortable working with?
Cotton, viscose, chiffon, gabardine and woven knits.

What is your personal style, and do you design all of your clothes?
My style is very basic, mainly jeans, shirt or t-shirt, and sneakers or ankle boots. I like to layer and mix things up but comfort is key in my lifestyle. I wear Amina K. a lot and enjoy incorporating it with other brands to make it look different. I like to show how wearable and comfortable it is. At night I like to dress up and glam it up. It is fun to put some effort sometimes, it makes you feel good to look good.

What are your favorite collections? And are there any pieces that are close to your heart?
A lot of them are very special to me but some more than others, such as, SS’14 ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, FW’14’Urban Chic’, FW’12 ‘Shifting Gears’, and now SS’16 ‘Prints of the Orient’. I love to wear our winter biker jackets and vests, as well as our maxi floral pieces from the summer collections and wrap jumpsuits.

How do you see the fashion scene in Egypt? And how is it different from that in other Middle Eastern countries?
It is definitely growing, we have more designers, models, stylists, bloggers, etc. than ever before. But I feel most designers are focusing on evening wear as opposed to ready-to-wear. I still feel Egyptians are not shopping locally as they should do or at least from local brands. People are still more inclined to shop from international retailers and brands. Egyptian designers must work on perfecting their products in order to catch up with international competition.

What is so unique about your designs?
I would say the way we mix colors, prints and fabrics. We also always have a handmade feature and we work with local workers on their handicrafts. This gives a uniqueness to the brand and a personal touch. Details and finishes are extremely important to us.

Who from the international scene would Amina K. brand wish to collaborate with?
Azza Fahmy, of course.

Which celebs would you want sporting your brand?
Locally, Lara Scandar and actress Amina Khalil. Internationally, the list is endless, Blake Lively, Olivia Palermo, Beyonce, etc.

Tell us about your recent collection.
For this Spring/Summer ‘16 collection, the theme emerged from the desire to revive the Egyptian fashion scene during the late 20s to 40s, which was greatly influenced by the British culture of dress and decorum. This collection is a fusion between the Oriental dress-code and European finesse portrayed by infusing modern designs with ethnic flavor, and oriental silhouettes with western aesthetic. Garments were designed mainly with the notion to provide the wearer ease and comfort, which is imperative for the modern lifestyle, thus using light-weight fabrics and nonrestrictive shapes.

What is the design process like for Amina K.?
We start by researching themes and concepts, techniques and silhouettes, as well as the color pallet. We start sketching, and move on to sampling and draping, which takes quite a while. We also source the fabric in parallel, fabric selection is extremely important. Once the final sample is ready we do a final production sample and we move the style into production. It is an intense process because we recently started designing our own fabric prints so we are involved in every single detail.

What are your upcoming projects for 2017?
We just launched our online store and are very excited to start pushing it and entering new markets through it.

What advice do you have for those following your footsteps?
Gain as much work experience as you can in the fashion industry before starting your own brand. It is not an easy path and requires very hard work, dedication and extreme passion. Research the market very well and make sure you can provide something no one else can.

Karl Lagerfeld: Looking back at his rise to fame and love of Arabian fashion

The designer died at the age of 85 on Tuesday. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019

Karl Lagerfeld: Looking back at his rise to fame and love of Arabian fashion

DUBAI: As tributes pour in from across the fashion world over the death of industry icon Karl Lagerfeld, we take a look at his storied rise to fame, as well as his controversial comments on Middle Eastern migrants and his love of fashion from the region.

The designer died at the age of 85 on Tuesday after he failed to make an appearance at the Chanel show at Paris Couture Week in January, prompting industry insiders to question the state of his health.

Reuters reported that Lagerfeld enjoyed the stature of a deity among mortals in the world of fashion, where he stayed on top for well over half of a century and up to his death, at an age almost nobody apart from himself knew with to-the-day precision.

The German designer was best known for his association with France’s Chanel, dating back to 1983. The brand, the legend now goes, risked becoming the preserve of monied grannies before he arrived, slashing hemlines and adding glitz to the prim tweed suits of what is now one of the world’s most valuable couture houses.

But Lagerfeld, who simultaneously churned out collections for LVMH’s Fendi and his eponymous label — an unheard of feat in fashion — was almost a brand in his own right.
Sporting dark suits, white, pony-tailed hair and tinted sunglasses in his later years that made him instantly recognizable, an irreverent wit was also part of a carefully crafted persona.

“I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” runs one legendary quote attributed to him, and often recycled to convey the person he liked to play. “It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”

Tributes pour in 

The world’s fashion elite took to social media to pay tribute to the hugely respected designer, with the likes of Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace and Lilly Allen leading the pack.

Versace shared a similar message.

Singer Allen took to social media with a touching message.

Meanwhile, Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad also paid tribute.


In great honor and admiration of the iconic fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld - Rest In Peace

A post shared by Zuhair Murad Official (@zuhairmuradofficial) on

Model Gigi Hadid shared a message on Instagram Stories.

Controversial comments

His artistic instincts, business acumen and commensurate ego combined to commercially triumphant effect in the rarefied world of high fashion, where he was revered and feared in similar proportions by competitors and top-models.

Lagerfeld was as harsh with his fashion models as he was searingly critical of anyone he considered "not trendy".

He fired his closest female friend, former Chanel model Ines de la Fressange, in 1999 after she agreed to pose as Marianne, France's national symbol, without asking him first.

Occasionally his sharp tongue has stirred controversies, though he also had a flair for a good soundbite.

In 2017, he sparked outrage by evoking the Holocaust in an attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her opening of Germany’s borders to migrants.

“One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,” the 80-year-old Chanel designer told a French TV show.

“I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust’,” he added.

Middle Eastern inspiration

Despite the abrasive comments, the designer went on to release an Egypt-inspired collection in December 2018 and sent models down the runway in a rich array of Ancient Egypt-themed outfits at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gold shimmered all over the runway, as models strolled past the floodlit temple in everything from gold thigh-high boots to gold brimmed hats to glistening dresses with golden feather adornments, to shoulder-length gold earrings.

Singer Pharrel walked the runway during Karl Lagerfeld's Egypt-inspired show in December. (AFP)

It isn’t the only time he has looked to the Middle East for inspiration, however.

The designer made a much-reported-on appearance in Dubai in 2014 when Chanel staged its Cruise collection show in the city.

That collection was inspired by an Orientalist vision of hazy Arabian nights and featured harem pants, ghutra-pattern-inspired coats and diaphanous jumpsuits, along with a heavy use of mosaic-style patterns.

Karl Lagerfeld photographed at ‘The Island’ in Dubai during the Chanel fashion show on May 13, 2014. (AFP)

In 2018, he worked with Lebanese architect Aline Asmar D’Amman on the renovation of Paris’s Hôtel de Crillon and, in a win for the Middle Eastern fashion scene, he photographed Bella Hadid for Vogue Arabia’s first September issue in 2017.

In rare moments when he was not working, Lagerfeld retired to one of his many homes in Paris, Germany, Italy or Monaco, all of them lavish carbon copies of 18th-century interiors.