Heba el-Awadi is the talent behind the two clothing line brands Hebz and El Horreya: Designs for Freedom. A designer in the spotlight, el-Awadi's designs reach across the world and she has already featured in a number of local and international publications. The Cairo-based designer talked to Al-Masry Al-Youm about her business, her passion and her future plans.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: When did you begin your career as a fashion designer?
Heba el-Awadi: I graduated from London with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and marketing and began my career in 2008 when I launched my first collection at the Wimbledon Fashion Week in the UK.
Al-Masry: What inspires you to design a piece or a collection?
El-Awadi: I am inspired by the feeling I get when I work. I travel often and absorb a lot from different parts of the world, which is reflected in my designs through colors, fits and styles. It has to be something I feel since I try to see things through the eyes of a client. My designs also reflect my lifestyle.
Al-Masry: In your opinion, what can't a fashion designer do without: talent, education or connections?
El-Awadi: All three! Fashion is a business. What good is a product if people don’t know about it? You’ve got to be able to reach your customers and know about their lifestyle. You also need a good product, therefore talent is necessary. You need education to know the basics, to be able to carry out the logistics, and you need a brain to plan. Connections are needed to spread the word, to reach more customers and expand.
Al-Masry: Do you like to work with particular colors?
El-Awadi: That changes every season. I love subtle colors like grey, white and black and I’m a big fan of the color pink--particularly florescent pink. I love all metallic colors as well.
Al-Masry: What is Hebz’s connection with El Horreya?
El-Awadi: I'm a co-founder of El Horreya along with my sister Hana el-Awadi who is a jewlery designer, artist Dina Sabet, and architect Meram Maafa. There is no connection between the brands except that I am part of both. They are both my babies--something I started and watched grow. I am working on a line for El Horreya which we call “Freedom” and targets the younger generation.
Al-Masry: Which designs would you say are closest to your heart?
El-Awadi: My “Peace and Love” bracelets. They were created for a good cause and brought good fortune. The bracelets' popularity picked up in other parts of the world and were featured in Vogue magazine in the UK--every designer’s dream. My new charm designs are just as amazing, but they originate from the “Peace and Love” collection.
Al-Masry: Do you feel you have strong competition in the Egyptian market?
El-Awadi: I don’t believe I have a direct competitor in Cairo. There are a lot of emerging designers at the moment. Everyone, I guess, has his or her own style and clients.
Al-Masry: Do you think Egyptians trust Egyptian products?
El-Awadi: I think the market in Cairo is accepting of Egyptian products because Egyptian products have begun to prove themselves. At first, people weren’t ready to accept Egyptian designers. It has taken a lot of hard work to produce high quality products and slowly change the consumer's mind.
Al-Masry: Do you think one day Egyptian designers will be able to compete on an international level?
El-Awadi: Yes, of course! We are getting there--slowly. Nothing is impossible. You just need to work hard. Nothing comes without effort.
Al-Masry: Who are your favorite designers--locally and internationally?
El-Awadi: There are great local talents,but obviously my two brands, Hebz and El Horreya, are my favorites. Internationally, I like a lot of designers including Matthew Willamson, Balmain, Bottega Venetta, Alberta Feretti, Alice Temprely, and Rick Owens.