- Life Style
"Let’s go shopping!" Easy thing, apparently; less so if you live in Cairo, where you usually get stuck in a traffic jam for hours, or find yourself suffocated, squashed like sardines in a subway wagon, drained of energy to get the best affair. But two young Egyptian entrepreneurs, Mona Afifi and Sherifa Mahmoud, have found a solution to enjoy shopping while reducing time, expense and stress.
Style-treasure.com is one of the first Egyptian online boutiques. Created in August 2009, it brings together fashion designers from different Middle Eastern countries and elsewhere, giving the chance to buy handmade creations, from clothing to accessories, bags and shoes, comfortably from home.
“We worked on the website for more than one year before launching it,” Afifi, the managing partner, explains. “Thanks to a previous project of mine, I met many designers from Lebanon, Dubai, Palestine, Jordan and many other countries in the Middle East. I was astonished to see all these talents producing amazing collections at good prices and excellent quality. So I decided to bring all of them under one group, and introduce them to Egypt and the world.”
E-commerce is increasingly growing in Egypt. Many artisans understand the potential of the internet to sell their creations 24/7, reducing their running costs and receiving worldwide exposure at the same time.
Afifi, who graduated in journalism, and Mahmoud, a political science student, both at the American University in Cairo, but from very different backgrounds and no experience in fashion design, took the chance to start their own activity. “Many businesses are managed online,” Afifi says. “And this is the future also for fashion design. Managing an online shop is as difficult as directing a traditional boutique, but it’s more challenging.”
Style-treasure.com is more than just an online boutique. All the designers have a unique style, mixing local designs with Western symbols, updating tradition and making it globally fashionable. The aim of the boutique is “standing out from the crowd by wearing treasures that you can’t find among cliché brands.”
"100% Cairo" proposes a collection of t-shirts with the city of Cairo as its main theme. Amina Khalil, a young Egyptian designer who studied fashion design and marketing in London, creates ethnic inspired clothing, giving them a modern twist. Noriella Hariri, based in Beirut, creates belly-covering and hand-warming scarves. Sarah Hamza, Dina Naguib and Nadia Ahmed design unique footwear in the form of the shibshibi, or flip-flop, based on the combination of oriental and modern style. These are only some of the designers who sell their creations on the Style-treasure website.
In just one year the online boutique rapidly grew. “We started with six fashion designers, and now they are 24. At the beginning, we were happy receiving one order per day; now we reach around 20 orders, sometimes even more,” says Afifi.
According to the managing partner, 70 percent of clients are Egyptians, followed by customers from England, France, Belgium, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. These statistics can be easily explained considering “European countries, especially England and France, have fashion markets, therefore they are not looking for internationally known brands any more. On the contrary, they want something different, unique and special, and this is what we propose: treasure, something very different.”
Online shopping is taking its first few steps here in Egypt. Clients, as Afifi says, were very mistrustful of online payments at first. Style-treasure offers cash delivery in Egypt, but there is also the option of credit card payment to allow worldwide delivery. “Getting the online payment option was very difficult, because Egyptian banks are still not used to it.” For this reason, the two entrepreneurs finally opted for a British bank which currently works with them. “So, it took some time, but people started to cool down.”
Now, according to Afifi, the increased number of orders, and the decreased calls for shopping assistance, prove people are becoming confident about making the transactions.
The managing partner strongly believes that any business that wants to really be competitive should be online “in order not to limit yourself to a small market.” But fashion revolution is not only fostered by technology. According to Afifi, the high quality selection, and financial aid the Ministry of Trade is providing to support young artisans, are encouraging designers to launch their private businesses.
Creating their own fashion label is in the future plans of the two young entrepreneurs, who want to treasure their Egyptian roots and move beyond them at the same time, with only a click.