In Conversation with Okhtein: The coveted Egyptian accessories label you need to know
As one of the region’s most up and coming brands, chances are high that you’ve come across one of Okhtein’s miniaudières. Steeped in medieval charm, the Egyptian label pays tribute to the rich and cultural heritage of its creators. Yes, Aya and Mounaz Abdelraouf have managed to create a young brand that is rife with traditional artisanship, yet effortlessly modern in design. On the fashion circuit Okhtein has celebrities like Beyoncé, Sara Sampaio and Gigi Hadid toting the covetable hammered metal and leather-embossed bags. And it hasn’t stopped there; this season sees the duo leap into the world of art, infusing their designs with the work of some of Egypt’s most talented artists. MOJEH caught up with the sisters to find out how they’re pushing the boundaries between fashion and art.
Designers are artists by nature. What does art mean to the Okhtein sisters?
Art is life, it’s how you think and how you act. Both of us are dreamers, anything that is artistic moves us; if it emotionally provokes us, we like it.
You look to art for your campaigns. Has that had any effect on your designs?
We are always inspired by art and art history to be more specific. We like to go through many styles and techniques and incorporate them into our motifs and signature pieces. This does have an effect on our designs because we change it up every season; yes we keep our signature hardware, but we add other elements inspired by other art movements.
What’s the art scene like in Egypt? Any artists we should keep our eyes on?
George El Bahgoury and Nathan Doss are mature artists we love. As for emerging artists, Naila Marei and Seif Mahfouz are artists with a strong voice for the younger generations. We teamed up with them in a capsule scarf collection to be released in September 2018.
Okhtein joined forces with a few artists for the FW 18 line as well as a capsule scarf collection. Why get involved with local artists?
A philosophy we both had since we started was to create “a carry-able art” accessory brand. So with our scarves we wanted the women to basically wear the art. When we came up with a very deep and powerful message/theme about women empowerment we wanted to join forces with local artists who were aware of how it feels like to be a “malleable” woman in Egypt.
Tell us about your collaboration on the new scarf line Malleable. Why did you pick those 3 artists to work with?
We wanted to create something artistic and personal. It was easy to do so with scarves because they’re blank canvases. We had a strong theme and an art direction all planned out. We thought it would be interesting to show people the same message interpreted by three Egyptian artists. We chose George El Bahgoury because we always admired his work and we are big fans. We stumbled across Seif Mahfouz’s Instagram account and we loved his perspective on many topics. Finally, we chose Naila Marei because her design aesthetic corresponded well with our art direction. After briefing the artists of the message we received black and white sketches. We then scanned them and added graphic work and colours. We are very happy with the results and we can’t wait to release them.
How do you feel the brand has developed?
The brand has definitely developed aesthetically – we’ve integrated our signature motifs and portrayed them in a very different light. We didn’t want to divert from the classic pieces, but at the same time we wanted to give it a little twist. We want to push our brand creatively, design new bags and new products that are unique and daring.
Scroll through the new collection available at Okthein