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

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.


Meet Aya Barqawi, the Saudi-born social media star

Updated 18 August 2019

Meet Aya Barqawi, the Saudi-born social media star

  • Barqawi promotes what she calls ‘high-street fashion’
  • Barqawi’s Instagram posts are designed with digital frames to add a unique touch to her content

DUBAI: Between the luxurious fashion statements and international runways, Palestinian-Jordanian Aya Barqawi continues to inspire her followers with thousands of on-budget styles.

“I always try to make people feel inclusive. I want to end this intimidation that comes with fashion,” the Saudi-born blogger told Arab News.

Barqawi promotes what she calls “high-street fashion” and finds the challenge of adapting to international trends “fun.”

“I am looking for new ways to make trends work for me,” she said. “You just need a little bit of creativity and imagination.”

Like many women her age with similar passions, the 24-year-old was unable to study fashion in college because of a lack of opportunity in the Middle East. Now, as a design graduate, she incorporates her field of study with a social media career.

Barqawi’s Instagram posts are designed with digital frames to add a unique touch to her content. “Studying design helped me shape my visual identity on Instagram because I do a lot of graphic work on my photos. It makes it easier for me to create digital content,” she said.

The stylist also worked as a fashion photographer for a brand in Berlin. “I never thought they would pick me over people who are actually from Berlin, who were actually German,” she said. “But my work spoke for itself.”

Barqawi is always looking to motivate other women. “No matter what the field of work you are in, never underestimate yourself. Never second-guess yourself and never compromise your standards for anyone or anything,” she said.

The fashion blogger has also worked in media as a TV producer and segment producer. “I have done digital, I have done TV, so now I am just open to anything that comes my way,” she said.