Heritage and ethnic history is often reserved for museums and hefty school books. In today’s homogeneous universe, where the world is connected by an invisible thread of digital communication, authentic fashion is encouraged in public, but rarely supported when it comes to actually buying it.
While the androgynous white t-shirt is an international must have, for three consecutive decades, a team of visionaries has been leading a style-induced coup. Supported by ethical local materials and the unmistakable talent of craftsmen, they became an undisputed local pioneer.
Mix and Match is a well-known name that has been fighting to maintain an equal share of attention under the contemporary light of globalisation. The ready-to-wear brand is based on the country’s significant heritage and targeted at the modern customer. For years, the brand has managed to follow the rapid pace of the international and local fashion industries.
Through utilising Egypt’s most famous fabrics—cotton and linen—the brand has managed to cater for generations of women who search for breathable comfort and sustainable style. Far from the contradicting short-lived trends, Mix and Match has created a timeless aesthetic that different age groups can share without boundaries.
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with Shahira Fahmy, co-owner and head of design, to talk about ethical manufacturing, staying ahead of the curve, finding a vantage point on the international fashion map, and making use of the decade’s digital advantages. The transcript is below, lightly edited for clarity:
How would you define your brand’s aesthetic?
Mix and Match draws from traditional ethnic clothes and gives them the spirit of contemporary designs, where each collection is inspired by a different aspect.
We have always been true to our initial vision of the brand; we wanted to create timeless, eco-friendly, beautiful, and unique clothes made from 100% natural cotton and linen in Egypt, while collaborating with local artisans and craftsmen.
Which market gap did you aim to tackle with this brand?
Mix and Match was launched 30 years ago, when there was a big need for ready-to-wear women’s fashion, as well as a lack of locally designed and manufactured garments. The brand’s aim was to support local production of textile manufacturing, dying, printing, and knitting by providing an Egyptian ready-to-wear product that can compete with international brands.
Who is your clientele?
We tailor for women of all shapes and sizes with designs that can appeal to all ages, ranging from age 20 to 60+. Meanwhile, we are proud to announce that Mix and Match recently ventured into men’s wear with a capsule collection, which can be found in our Zamalek store.
We aim to be pioneers in our sector by investing in people and local talent, while increasing the competitiveness of our country on an international level. By collaborating with Design Studio by Azza Fahmy, we provided the tremendously talented students with an outlet for them to display and sell their beautifully crafted pieces, which complement our Siwa-inspired Spring/Summer 2018 collection.
Your brand came out before the current fashion rise. What obstacles did you have to overcome back then that designers of today do not face any more?
In the digital era we live in today, it is much easier for brands to gain exposure in local and international markets. Modern marketing and research tools made the world a click away, which has helped new fashion designers and us immensely.
New technology also plays a great part in today’s manufacturing process—effecting all parts of the garment production industry, from the textile to the dying and printing process, as well as the technical work such as embroidery.
Despite the increasing number of local fashion designers, we still do not have a sufficient number of RTW brands. In your opinion, what are the main obstacles currently standing in face of more local brands?
The main obstacle is foreign competition; brands that use synthetic materials and manufacture in countries with cheaper labour are able to market their products at a cheaper price point than brands that use natural materials and are locally grown, such as ourselves.
However, with the current rise in the manufacturing industry in Egypt and the support of governmental entities, Egypt can become one of the leading countries in the fashion industry and other industries alike.
Tell us more about your manufacturing process.
Our design team, which is being led by Fahmy and Rola Hussein, draws their inspiration from the universe and all its endless glory. There is beauty in almost everything around us—endless colours and exciting patterns in our surroundings. We go by the “no boundaries” rule, and that could take us anywhere.
After thoroughly researching the main inspiration for the season, the design team fuses details of the findings, such as silhouettes, colour schemes, prints, embroideries, weaves, and other elements from our own traditional wear, to develop the collection.
Thus, ethnic and local features of garments are combined to form functional lifestyle wear, accented with prints, embroideries, and designs to create unique pieces that stand out. A wide selection of colours is used that can be mixed and matched together in a manner fitting to the modern woman.
All of our materials are locally sourced and are 100% natural (cotton and linen). Mix and Match manufactures its products in its own factory, with over 150 talented and creative family members in its work force.
We are proud of the fact that we have just started exporting our products to the Gulf region—to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Meanwhile, we are currently stocked at a few boutique shops in Europe—in countries such as Switzerland and France.
The current marketing tools have made our brand more visible to buyers who are interested in carrying out products in their shops.
What are your near-future plans?
Our current focus is on exporting our products globally and making our designs approachable by as many women around the world as possible. We are working hard on the quality of our products to maintain a standard that is worthy of being exported to the world carrying the “Proudly Made in Egypt” label and to ensure a respectable status on the global fashion map.
We are also working on expanding in the local market through opening new stores to cover all major areas in Cairo. Furthermore, we are currently working on establishing an online shopping website in the very near future.