Sustainable and ethical fashion gaining currency in Egypt

The Rosette blazer from Saqhoute, above and above right. The Saint Catherine embroidered wide belt from Jozee Boutique, right. (Supplied)
Updated 01 June 2019
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Sustainable and ethical fashion gaining currency in Egypt

  • Critics of fast fashion say manufacturers should focus on quality products
  • Fast fashion is plagued by ethical concerns, including the treatment of factory workers

CAIRO: Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” While it is affordable, fast fashion is plagued by ethical issues, including the treatment of garment-factory workers.
Its effect on the environment — from the disposal of cheap apparel to the pollution of natural resources — is also a growing cause for concern.
Some entrepreneurs in Egypt are confronting these issues by creating more sustainable and ethical fashion solutions.
One such entrepreneur is Norhan El Sakkout, founder of Saqhoute sustainable fashion.
“We need to eradicate the system,” El Sakkout said. “People need to consume less.”
Coming from a fashion-brand owner, this may sound counterintuitive, but El Sakkout is confident of her business philosophy; fashion should focus on producing quality products.
“My products are priced higher than fast fashion, but my designs are versatile and long-lasting,” El Sakkout said.
Shopping is not only about fashion and price. For many, how their clothes are manufactured matters.
Josline El Kholy, co-founder of Jozee Boutique, an ethical fashion brand, believes companies are ultimately responsible for informing their customers about their products.

“The responsibility is on us (fashion brands) to raise awareness on how our clothes are produced. They (customers) have to know the story behind the product.”
El Kholy, who founded the brand with her husband, Ezzeldine Moukhtar, works with men and women across Egypt to produce bespoke embroidery on their clothing.
The key, according to El Kholy, is having a good relationship with employees.
“Our relationship is like a partnership. We don’t rush things. They (employees) work at their own pace, in their own homes, and can be creative with embroidery. It’s more like a collaboration instead of an employer-employee relationship.”
Such collaboration is also valued by El Sakkout, who believes in paying a fair wage to the people who produce her clothes.
Although, the minimum wage is common for workers in Egypt, El Sakkout prefers to pay above-market rates. “I pay people to live a dignified life,” she said.
But higher wages also mean higher costs for consumers. Not everyone is willing to pay more for a local brand, particularly given Egypt’s economic conditions.
“This is something that we struggle with today,” El Kholy said. “But once (consumers) know the story of how our clothes are made, they are more appreciative of the product and its uniqueness.”
Beyond pricing, sourcing fabrics is important for any sustainable and ethical fashion brand.

Natural fabrics such as organic cotton, linen and wool are commonly favored by conscious designers, particularly if they are grown without the use of pesticides, fertilizers and use less water.
But natural and organic fabrics are not always easy to find in Egypt. Despite the global popularity of Egyptian cotton, many local manufacturers rely on imported cotton.
El Sakkout tries to source locally produced natural fabrics, but she is not always successful. “Sometimes I’m able to find 100 percent locally produced cotton and linen in the market. At other times I’m not.”
As a result, she often relies on using blended fabrics, which is also important for supporting local craftsmanship.
“Currently, we have a problem with job creation in Egypt, so using what’s available in the domestic market helps keep our heritage and crafts alive,” she said. “It’s not an all-or-none approach.”
Meanwhile, El Kholy also faces the same problem. “It takes effort to get the type and quality you want, but you have to be persistent and knock on all doors,” she said.
Regardless, sustainable fashion is a growing trend across the world and Egypt is no exception.
Although Egypt was slow to embrace sustainable fashion, the practice is now growing steadily as people become aware of the importance of ethical and conscious consumerism.
Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have aspect of today’s fast-changing business world.
“Any new business entering the market will have to keep sustainability in mind,” El Sakkout said. “That’s where the world is heading. The concept may be relatively new in Egypt, but we can bridge the gap and cross over really fast.”

This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of The Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 58 min 56 sec ago
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
cl/sst