From Egypt with love: Find out why handbag brand Okhtein is flying off the shelves

The popular brand is known for its quirky, cute and ultra-feminine bags and scarves. (Photos supplied)
Updated 31 October 2017

From Egypt with love: Find out why handbag brand Okhtein is flying off the shelves

BEIRUT: Founded by two sisters, Egyptian brand Okhtein is one of the country’s hottest exports and for good reason.
The popular brand — which is sold in such high-end outlets as Bloomingdales in Dubai and Harvey Nichols in Saudi Arabia — is known for its quirky, cute and ultra-feminine bags and scarves.
The brand, which means “two sisters,” was launched in 2013 by Aya and Mounaz Abdelraouf and has since gone on to reach astronomical heights in its success around the Middle East.
“We used to work on several projects together when we were kids and both of us had good work chemistry and shared an artistic vision,” the pair told Arab News. “We felt like we both completed each other and we should pursue our dream and start a brand together. We love fashion and both of us love accessories. Growing up, we had a fascination with luxury handbags. We always wanted to wear unique bags that weren’t available in the market, so we both ended up designing our own.”
What is less known is the decisive influence exerted by the duo’s grandmother on their taste and ideas about fashion. According to the sisters, their grandmother kept her clothes from the 1960s and 1970s and allowed the pair to rummage through her closed in search of inspiration.

The sisters believe that the secret behind their success is their story and the fact that they produce their line of bags and other accessories in Egypt.
“We sell our bags to big players in the market who usually have ‘Made in Italy’ stamped on the inside (of their other products). Our ‘Made in Egypt’ (concept) is new and it changes the expectations of people,” the pair said.
To manufacture their products, the sisters take a philanthropic approach to their work based on their desire to incorporate more handmade embroidery and straw into their leatherwork. The pair set up a collaboration with several local NGOs that provide assistance to skilled female workers from economically unstable backgrounds in the country.

And another one! ##GoodNightVibes #okhtein #repoinEgypt #beyonce #theseries

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The duo is proud that the brand is exporting the values of Egyptian craftsmanship and giving back to those in need — all through the power of fashion.
Harnessing the creativity of Egypt is clearly important to the sisters who were born and raised in Cairo. Aya studied communication and media arts along with digital arts and design at the American University of Cairo while Mounaz studied marketing and art at the same university and also went on to become a painter who has exhibited in galleries in Paris and Egypt.
It is no wonder then that the brand is known for its creativity and its ability to capture certain moods and moments in time.
This is especially visible in the brand’s flagship models, the “Palmette Minaudiere” and “Palmette Backpack.”

Thursday mood, weekend vibes with our Dome Plate in gold. #styledby @maisonmehany #ootd #okhtein

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The minaudiere, also known as the box clutch, comes in a variety of colors as is based on the invention of the box clutch in 1934 by French jewelry, watch, and perfume company, Van Cleef and Arpels. Charles Arpels was inspired by watching Florence Gould, the third wife of famed casino owner Franck Jay Gould, toss her personal belongings in a tin box. The small, handle-free clutch bag quickly became the ultimate chic statement and the sisters have put their own, decidedly unique, spin on it.
Recently, the designers chose a brand ambassador to help bridge the gap between the brand and their consumers.
“We’ve chosen Karen Wazen from Lebanon, who lives in Dubai… We love her style, her personality and everything about her. She feels connected to our brand because she’s a twin and has twin daughters, so the bond of sisterhood is very special to her. In addition, we have Egyptian actress, Amina Khalil as our local brand ambassador. She’s strong and charismatic and fits very well with our identity,” the pair said.

Styling two dresses in one with our all time favorite Mini Studded Red Gold. #styledby @maisonmehany

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Avid fashionistas should keep their eyes peeled as the designers are currently working on creating a luxury line of travel bags and suitcases and also plan to incorporate crystals, silk and artificial fur in their future collections.


Spectacular sarees steal limelight at LFW’s India Day showing

India Day at London Fashion Week. (Supplied)
Updated 19 February 2020

Spectacular sarees steal limelight at LFW’s India Day showing

LONDON: Indian fashion was celebrated in high style at London Fashion Week’s Fashion Scout.

A showcase of young Indian designers was followed by a remarkable representation of the country’s rich culture through 17 magnificent sarees selected by female staff at the Indian High Commission in London.

The evening event was led by the High Commissioner of India to the UK Ruchi Ghanashyam, and included a short video message from the Indian Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani.

The sarees selected for the showing represented tradition covering the whole of India. (Supplied)

The Indian designers, who showcased contemporary trends, included Shabnam Harjai, Nabila Saiyedarif Attas, Chaitra Basavaraj Kalyanshettar, Tanishaa Parakh, Sourav Marndi, Sandya Miriyala, Suchitra Rani Sahoo, Darshna Gothi, Ayushi Jain and Pearl Lobo.

Their pieces were fresh and original but what followed opened a window on centuries of breathtaking artisanship and the sheer scale and diversity of Indian traditional design.

The sarees selected for the showing, titled “Six Yards of Elegance,” represented tradition covering the whole of India – from Jammu and Kashmir to Varanisi, in Uttar Pradesh. 

A showcase of young Indian designers was followed by a remarkable representation of the country’s rich culture through 17 magnificent sarees. (Supplied)

The showcase was compered by Maithreyi Seetharaman, who heads Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women International.

In her opening remarks she said: “It’s my pleasure to host this rather special showcase of discovery – not led by a designer – but by the wonderful and talented women of the High Commission of India, showcasing India and its backbone in six yards.

“Since the time of the silk route, the soul of Indian women has found its way to every closet and runway across the globe – from the high street to couture – reflected in the designs, embroidery and materials that are now core to the world of fashion.

“What we wear each day to work, weddings and funerals is perhaps the purest form of the discovery of India, representing who we are and the core of our culture,” added Seetharaman.

The showcase was compered by Maithreyi Seetharaman, who heads Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women International. (Supplied)

Picking out any one saree from those on display was almost impossible, as all had their own unique hallmarks, but of outstanding beauty was the Kerela kasavu saree.

Seetharaman said: “Vibrant colors define the Indian woman but the muted elegance of women in God’s own country, Kerela, can be identified clearly by their use of the traditional kasavu saree. Restrained elegance is on display with its traditional cream color and rich gold border.

“Kasavu specifically only refers to the intricate gold brocade border; it is widely used during religious ceremonies and especially during the Hindu new year when purity and spirituality is reborn, and the journey of the discovery of India and Indians begins afresh.”

The pieces opened a window on centuries of breathtaking artisanship and the sheer scale and diversity of Indian traditional design. (Supplied)

Also breathtaking was the banarasi silk saree. “We stay westward in the ancient city of Varanasi with the silk saree considered the pinnacle of hand-weaving. It is for an Indian woman what a Birkin bag is to fashionistas and part of every north Indian bride’s trousseau,” added Seetharaman.

“Originally crafted only for royalty, each banarasi sari takes a year to make in fine silk with embroidery in real gold and silver and motifs in brocade silk. Banaras brocades and sarees got the geographical indication (GI) rights in 2009, securing protection for these artisanal works.”