Egyptian label Toroz incorporates local embroidery techniques into its contemporary clothing

Toroz was founded in 2019 by Egyptian designer Lobna Zogheib. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Egyptian label Toroz incorporates local embroidery techniques into its contemporary clothing

CAIRO: “Your heritage speaks volumes about who you are. Wear it with pride.”

That’s the tagline for up-and-coming Egyptian fashion label Toroz, which aims to revive local embroidery traditions and revamp them for modern, contemporary wear.

Founded in 2019 by Egyptian designer Lobna Zogheib, Toroz works with female artisans in Sohag in the Upper Egypt area and in the Siwa oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert to create high-quality locally embroidered garments, becoming, according to its Instagram page “a gateway between cultural iconic craftsmanship and modern-day fashion style.”

“I’ve always had a passion for handcrafted work, especially traditional Egyptian embroidery,” Zogheib tells Arab News. “Our embroidery techniques are incredible, but I always felt that the designs were a bit outdated and in need of a revamp. This is how the idea of setting up Toroz came about.”

Zogheib works with two forms of embroidery. The first is Tally, an Upper-Egypt embroidery tradition dating back to the 19th century, in which metal threads — either silver or gold — are sewn into tulle or other fabrics.

She also works with Siwan embroiderers, creating designs inspired by Siwa’s traditional wedding dresses.



Carry your heritage with pride and look fine while you’re at it

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Zogheib came up with the concept for Toroz during her senior year as a graphic design student. For her graduation project, she traced the history of different traditional costumes of Egypt. As part of her research, Zogheib spoke to local artisans and was surprised to find that they weren’t selling many of these costumes.

“I also found out that Siwan women were no longer wearing their own traditional dresses due to their high prices. Unless they inherit these costumes from their own mothers or grandmothers, none of these women buy them anymore,” she says.

Zogheib also looked into the multiple meanings of the motifs and symbols typical of Tally garments and Siwan embroidery pattern designs, which include plant motifs, particularly palm groves.



Inspired by the natural beauty of Siwa

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“Siwan women typically incorporate the colors of dates in their different stages of ripening into their designs — ranging from the green and yellow to the red, dark red, and, finally, black,” she explains.

As part of her project, Zogheib designed pieces inspired by the traditional clothing of both Sohag and Siwa. One of her earliest designs was of a basic black jacket with oversized sleeves, the latter being typical of a traditional Siwan bridal dress, which is comprised of rectangular pieces of fabric sewn together.

After graduating, Zogheib decided to take her interest in reviving these local traditions a step further by setting up Toroz.



A little story of Egyptian heritage made into a modern Talli piece.

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“We may have many local Egyptian brands, but not so many Egyptian-inspired local brands, so I wanted to start a brand that belonged to the latter group,” Zogheib says. “I started going to more local exhibitions where I met many of these local artisans and commissioned some of them to create high-quality embroidered pieces.”

Zogheib sends her designs to artisans in Siwa and Sohag who embroider them on cloth. She then integrates these embellished pieces into her garments.

To date, Zogheib has released a variety of casual and formal garments ranging from skirts and blazer dresses to trousers, jackets and cardigans. Most of the items are in either black or white, although she says she would be open to “experimenting with more colors later on.”



This is a shoutout to the women of Suhag who bring our designs to life

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The resulting designs are timeless, elegant and minimal. “I guess what makes Toroz stand out is how the motifs are implemented in design — and how the patterns come together — in minimal, clean finishing,” Zogheib says.

Each piece is made by order, and usually takes around three weeks to finish. The intricate embroidery can mean that they tend to be on the expensive side.

“I don’t expect everyone to appreciate the designs or understand their value. Some believe that our work is overpriced and do not realize its handmade quality,” Zogheib says. “But those who are familiar with our traditional embroidery and the effort that goes into it certainly understand the high price tag.”



For the love of white

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The design quality isn’t the only reason for the cost, she points out. Higher prices also ensure sustainable livelihoods for the local female artisans working with Toroz, something that is central to the brand’s business model.

“I want our female artisans to generate their own income. It’s hard for these women to join me as full timers, as they have families to look after. So, they’re usually commissioned by piece,” Zogheib says.

Right now, Zogheib is busy preparing for a new winter collection. The young designer is as determined as ever to continue celebrating Egypt’s cultural heritage, and empowering female artisans in the process.

Tom Hanks talks ‘News of the World’ and the comeback of Westerns

Tom Hanks stars in ‘News of the World.’ (File/AFP)
Updated 29 November 2020

Tom Hanks talks ‘News of the World’ and the comeback of Westerns

LOS ANGELES: Depending on who you ask, Westerns are either on their way out, gone for good, or making a slow comeback in Hollywood. At one point a staple genre of the film industry, the classic Western rarely makes it onto the movie theater marquee these days. Big-budget flops such as 2013’s “The Lone Ranger” have served to usher the genre out of popularity, but critical successes such as Quinten Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful 8” and the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” are doing their part to keep Westerns from dying off completely. 

On Christmas Day, “News of the World” will be doing its part to keep the Western genre alive, and hopefully bag Universal Pictures a few Oscar nominations. Arab News heard more from the film’s star Tom Hanks.

“I love listening to a great story as much as I like telling one, and that’s why I was so excited about playing Kidd,” Hanks said, giving audiences a taste of what his performance has in store. “He is a storyteller. He is driven, emotional. He is noble. He is moved by a pursuit of the truth.”

Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former army officer who, after the death of his family, makes his living traveling around Texas reading the news to illiterate townsfolk and entertaining with true tales from across the world.

“'News of the World' takes place in the shadow of the Civil War’s end. There is defeat. There is strife and anger. Because of the war, Kidd came back to having nothing left,” he told us. “Reading the news gave him a purpose. He got up. He collected the stories. He delivered a reading and then he moved onto the next town.”

 As he continues in his travels, Kidd comes across Johanna, a young girl who had been taken from her pioneer family and raised by the Kiowa Native Americans. 

“She has no idea who her family is,” Hanks shared. “Burdened by his own decency, Kidd is going to have to return her to her family and this coming from a man who has lost any semblance of what a family is.”

The movie is adapted from the novel of the same name by author Paulette Jiles, and while it is not based on a true story, its main characters are inspired by real people. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is based on the ancestor of a friend of Jiles’ — the similarly named historical figure Captain Adolphus Caesar Kydd — who performed readings of newspapers in the 1870s. Johanna is inspired by the more well-known historical tale of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped and raised by the Comanche Native Americans.

Interestingly, there seems to be a disagreement between Jiles and film director Paul Greengrass about their goals in portraying the story of “News of the World.” In a 2016 interview with Texas Monthly, Jiles stated that she had no intention of making a commentary on contemporary politics with the original book, preferring to “move people into the world of imagination.”

Greengrass, on the other hand, told reporters at Vanity Fair that he saw the film, which features families and communities in conflict with each other, as representative of the societal divide in the modern-day US. With these opposing ideas woven into the fabric of the story, it will be interesting to see what audiences take away after watching.

It is clear what Universal is hoping to take away, and that is an Oscar. “News of the World” sees Hanks and Greengrass working together again after their previous collaboration, 2013’s “Captain Phillips.” While not an Oscar-winner, “Captain Phillips” received six nominations as well as attention at the Golden Globes and other award shows. With the film releasing at the tail end of the Oscar season, and a road-tested team of director and star, “News of the World” could be Universal’s best shot at an award for the 2020 film year.

Between award season dreams and the hopeful continuation of the Western genre, there is a lot riding on “News of the World.” At its core, however, the movie promises A-list performances and a compelling story full of action and heart.

“Kidd goes through something that saves him as much as he saves Johanna. She gave him a true purpose,” Hanks told us. “His real message is ‘when you have love in your life you will be alright.’ That’s what all great stories are. It’s just pure love for another human being.”