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

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.


‘On the Rocks’ — Bill Murray is a steal in this dad-daughter outing

Updated 25 October 2020

‘On the Rocks’ — Bill Murray is a steal in this dad-daughter outing

CHENNAI: Bill Murray is the most endearing aspect from “On the Rocks,” Sofia Coppola’s seventh film as writer-director. Behind his trademark deadpan expression, Murray still has twinkle and mischief in his eyes. And he brings out the same kind of lonely wistfulness we saw in his earlier association with Coppola in 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” in which he and Scarlett Johansson meet in a Tokyo hotel and find comfort in each other. There was no romance there, as there is none in his latest outing as Felix. Daughter Laura (played by Rashida Jones, who has starred in “I Love You, Man” and “The Social Network”) is troubled thinking that her life is about to go into a tailspin. 

“On the Rocks” is now on Apple TV+. Supplied

“On the Rocks” — on Apple TV+ and set in New York — is just as sentimental and sweet as “Lost in Translation.” As Coppola’s latest adventure begins, we see Felix, who has made his millions as an art dealer, in the lap of luxury with a chauffeured Mercedes, first-class hotels and sensational magic in his persona. But having divorced his wife many moons ago, he longs to nurture the relationship with his daughter Laura, who is married to the very successful Dean (Marlon Wayans) with two lovely daughters. 

However, in a kind of mid-marriage crisis, Laura begins to have doubts about Dean’s fidelity, especially after he gets busy with his new professional venture that takes him away on frequent trips. His “leggy” assistant, Fiona, accompanies him, and Laura confides this to her dad, who weaves stories of all that could be happening between Dean and his assistant. Felix suggests that they follow the possibly philandering husband, and a troubled Laura gets talked into it.

“On the Rocks” has great moments, and is compelling to a great extent. Supplied

All this leads to hilarious situations with Felix always being in command, even when cops catch him speeding as he is trying to tail Dean’s cab. Wittily calm and composed, he is the sort of guy who will unabashedly say to a passing stranger that she looks ravishing and get away with it, much to his daughter’s consternation.

“On the Rocks” has great moments, and is compelling to a great extent, with Murray engaging us with full-of-life banter. Jones matches up to him, a nervous wife tottering on the edge of what has been a great marriage. She hides her angst with remarkable alacrity, trying to play a good mother to her kids, while her dad leads her up the garden path. “On the Rocks” is happily no weepy tale, and Coppola spices it up.