Egypt’s Ramla brings architectural inspiration to artisanal footwear

Ramla is an ethical brand of effortlessly chic leather mules, convertible loafers, sandals and slippers. (Badriyah Al-Mudhaf)
Updated 09 August 2018
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Egypt’s Ramla brings architectural inspiration to artisanal footwear

  • The 27-year-old designer had spent the years leading up to founding Ramla in Florence, Italy
  • Ramla is an ethical brand of effortlessly chic leather mules, convertible loafers, sandals and slippers

CAIRO: Ramla is a colloquial Egyptian word for sand. It is also the name of a new artisanal shoe brand taking Cairo by storm.

“The word ‘Ramla’ has an Egyptian essence. It invokes memories of the beach,” the brand’s founder, Reem Alaa Hamed — an architect and interior designer — told Arab News. “From an architectural perspective, sand is an important construction material that goes into the making of almost everything.”

Founded by Hamed in June 2017, Ramla is an ethical brand of effortlessly chic leather mules, convertible loafers, sandals and slippers. Hamed prides herself on offering entirely Egyptian-made products, sporting handmade silk tassels, sarma embroidery and/or fine fabrics, to mention just a few product highlights. The online store is proving increasingly popular in Cairo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Italy.

The 27-year-old designer had spent the years leading up to founding Ramla in Florence, Italy, getting hands-on experience at a workshop specializing in customizable handmade artisanal men’s shoes, while simultaneously pursuing an MA in Luxury Business, before returning to Egypt.

Hamed’s introduction to the leather industry took place even earlier, after completing her BA in Interior and Architecture Design, also in Florence, where she spent some time working as a product developer for a number of retail luxury brands.

Back in Egypt, and working full-time as an architect, Hamed considered drawing on her expertise to create a new shoe brand. She mulled it over for a bit and settled on designing “comfortable, simple and fun women’s shoes.”

“I always went to after-work gatherings feeling I was a bit too formal for this more laid-back part of my day,” she said. “I wanted to create something elegant and borderline casual. Shoes I could easily slip into, anytime and anywhere.”

Ramla’s debut collection came out in June 2017. It was created from materials she had picked herself, handcrafted by Egyptian artisans under Hamed’s instruction. The collection consisted of a “Timeless” line of black mules and a “Tropical” line of more vivid ones, all paired with colorful tassels.

“I had two types of women in mind while conceptualizing these designs; the formal woman with a classic style versus the more casual and arts-y one,” she explained.

Ramla quickly began creating an online buzz, and Hamed was invited to exhibit some of her work at the Dubai Fashion Forum in October 2017.

For her winter collection, Hamed brought in her passion for architecture, creating items inspired by what she described as the architectural notions of “subtracting, adding and moving.” It included unusual V-shaped slip-ons with lines inspired by architecture, as well as a selection of low and high heels.

“I still had the same vision of creating comfy and simple designs, nothing extravagant. Except that the mule changed into a slip-on and was more of an evening thing now.”

Eager to further expand and experiment, Hamed went on to incorporate serma, a hand embroidery technique practiced in Upper Egypt, into the winter collection.

The buzz only grew louder and Hamed was soon invited to collaborate with Maya, a Kuwaiti eco-friendly brand, on a seasonal home collection; the outcome of which was a successful pop-up event held last April in Kuwait.

Hamed’s fascination with — and interest in reviving — the art of serma inspired her most recent SS’18 palazzo serma collection; which is also inspired by architecture. Eager to keep the summer spirit alive, Hamed introduced vegetable-dyed leather slippers and sandals to give the customer “a new kind of fun shoe.”

The young designer is currently working on her next winter collection, again inspired by “pure architecture, with a ‘belonging’ theme and exhibiting a mix of materials — all the while maintaining Ramla’s identity.”

Which is?

“It’s comfy, it’s classic, it’s everyday,” Hamed said.


Arab style stars front new Michael Kors campaign

Updated 13 November 2018
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Arab style stars front new Michael Kors campaign

  • Lebanese beauty queen and model Jessica Kahawaty takes the lead in the Michael Kors campaign
  • The special-edition Whitney bag will be unveiled on Nov. 14

DUBAI: Fashion powerhouse Michael Kors (MK) has enlisted the region’s style icons to unveil an exclusive Middle East design of a limited-edition shoulder bag.

Lebanese beauty queen and model Jessica Kahawaty takes the lead in the elite portrait series showcasing a special-edition of the Whitney bag, set to be unveiled at an exclusive event in Dubai on Nov. 14.

The beauty queen took to Instagram to announce the stint, where she posted a picture of herself along with other Arab fashion icons strutting the newly redesigned Whitney bag, including Dubai-based influencer Leena Al Ghouti, fashion blogger Ola Faharat, and filmmaker Lana Al Beik..

“So honored to be fronting this @michaelkors campaign for their new Whitney bag. My MK family is here in Dubai all the way from New York for the celebration this week and I couldn’t think of more powerful ladies to share this photograph with,” Kahawaty wrote.

Dubbed as the Whitney, the compact bag is one of the newest additions to the fashion label’s exclusive accessory collection. The bag is crafted in panel-quilted lambskin, accompanied by a sleek chain strap.

“We were able to incorporate a very subtle M-shaped outline, something I’ve been sketching since I was in middle school,” American designer Michael Kors himself said.

The Middle East edition will be released in a rich blue, which Kors described as “the perfect blend of sophistication and luxury for our customers” in the region.

Kors has expressed how the Middle East is an important region for his fashion label, saying “our customers in the Middle East truly love fashion and glamour, which makes it a fun and exciting place to be as a designer.”

MK, widely known for its premium leather handbags, recently bought luxury designer Versace for $2.05 billion, bolstering its position against its larger European rivals.

“With the acquisition of Versace we have created one of the world’s leading fashion and luxury groups,” said John Idol, chairman and CEO of Michael Kors Holdings.

This came a year after it also acquired British stiletto-heel maker Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion.