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.

MUSE: Rawan bin Hussain talks social media stardom

Updated 20 September 2018

MUSE: Rawan bin Hussain talks social media stardom

  • Rawan Bin Hussain is one of the largest influencers in the region
  • Aside from launching a lipstick line, the Kuwaiti blogger studies law in London

DUBAI: The Kuwaiti influencer, who has 3 million Instagram followers, talks about studying law, learning to fly and why gender biases are ‘so 1800s’

Being a fashion blogger is not the opposite of being a lawyer – they don’t conflict. I didn’t leave law behind. I’m still studying it. I could have moved to Dubai and made millions a month like other bloggers, but I’m not. I’m living in London making nothing a month because education comes first for me.
To show that lawyers don’t only fight for justice in court, but also in real life by giving back to the community, I launched a law association in Kuwait for female law students, law graduates and lawyers. If you have knowledge in the field of law, I want your experience and we can work together to do charity work and attend workshops.
I’ve always loved traveling around the world, so why not have my own license and my own airplane jetting around the world?
I don’t mind taking risks because I think people who don’t take risks are cowards. Life is fun, life is full of experiences, full of lessons. If you don’t fail and if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you won’t achieve anything in life. It doesn’t come on a plate of gold. You have to work for it.

View this post on Instagram

Happy to be here! @noorandzee

A post shared by Rawan Bin Hussain (@rawan) on

A lot of people think that when you are a beauty icon, you are an empty head, empty-minded. We are not. A lot of bloggers are good mothers to their children, they are engineers, doctors, lawyers. They have a career, they just choose to do blogging, which is what they love, and I respect it because you should do what you love and love what you do.
We need to stop stereotyping, criticizing, judging based on the way she looks, the way she dresses, the way she appeals to others. I cannot please everybody as, most of all, I need to please myself.
I regret being too transparent sometimes. I am too spontaneous. I say my opinion in a very casual way – maybe I don’t think about the circumstances or the consequences. But if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn a lesson.  
We shouldn’t look as men as competition or a dangerous threat. We can work together to make this world a better place.
As a woman, I want to say look at me, I’m here. I can be a lawyer, a pilot, a public figure, an entrepreneur. I am capable of doing so many things. Men need to see that and respect that and not underestimate us because we are females. Judgment based on gender is so 1800s.