What’s your golden fashion advice?
To clients, I’d like to tell them to keep it simple and to go for something that suits them before following certain trends. Maybe you’ll find all designer advising the same, but that’s only because we always run into the same problem with our clients. To designers, I’d like to advise them to plan their strategies before taking any big steps. Don’t just go with your passion without calculating your steps. Take the risk, but in a planned manner. Because it will be shocking when you just launch a big collection and find no clients for it. And this goes especially for beginners. Also, take the advice of others in the market before you proceed.
How hard is it to acquire materials in Egypt?
It’s not easy. Especially because I’m working in mass production as well as couture. For the latter, if you don’t find your fabric you can just make it, and that’s basically what I do now. We make the embroidery and everything ourselves from scratch, and we create a dress without a fabric we just import from abroad. We only purchase the base and create our pieces ourselves. But when it comes to ready-to-wear, it’s very difficult because we have to import big quantities in hundreds of kilos, and the options are very few. But slowly, that’s changing. Lots of Syrians are bringing their own fabrics here as they migrated to Egypt, and you can say that we have more fabric for casual wear, though still not enough.
Do you think it takes natural born talent to be a good designer?
At the beginning, it definitely has to be originally there. But a talent is not enough if you do not pursue an education to develop it. For a certain level, you will have to learn techniques, specifically in the fashion industry. It’s very hard to compete in this industry because every fourth month there is a new trend. And if you don’t learn to keep up with this rapid pace, you will not keep your position. Maybe four or five years you may have heard of emerging names whose names have disappeared from the industry, and that’s because they couldn’t keep up. It’s very hard to remain in this scene if you’re not actively trying to learn more.
What are we missing, then?
A lot, actually. We’re missing the academic part of it, which is just as important. We don’t have universities for just fashion, only a few institutes, and the steps are very small toward the scene. We’re also missing a much needed push from the government. Factories in Egypt need to employ the creativity of local designers. Until now, local designers are compelled to sell their work to big names, rather than go regional with their own work. We have local brands, but they are not that huge. We need to be able to compete with foreign brands.
How do you evaluate the fashion scene in Egypt right now versus ten years ago?
It’s definitely evolving to say the least. However, I cannot say that we’re now coping with the market on the international level, who are making billions each season.
What do you plan to achieve in the long run?
I don’t I’ll continue customising dresses for all my lifetime, and I’ve already started straying away from this a little. Since the last of the fashion bazaar hosted in Alexandria’s City Center, I started to work in mass production but I didn’t market it as something by Maison Saedi. So I started to manufacture for other brands and work as a fashion director for them. As for my brand, I will continue to make more ready-to-wear dresses. By Janurary, I’m launching another brand called ‘Jada’ it’s a casual wear line by Maison Saedi. So I’m thinking of coping with the market more directly, because people now are more into ready-made wear than anything customized. Few want this, because it’s a very hectic process and life nowadays with its fast pace doesn’t afford people enough time or energy to go to a designer and wait for their dress to be made.
How would you describe a person who wears your designs?
I always say that I can curate anything for my clients. I know that other designers don’t really go by this rule, but I like to bend my own rules and create something that suits different tastes. That’s why many of my clients tell me that they never see me create just one kind of style. I create different designs every collections that goes in different directions. But of course, when we launch a collection with the intention of promoting the brand of Masion Saedi, I like to imagine the woman that will wear my designs, that she’s a bit feisty, but at the same time she’s very feminine. It’s a very hard blend, but I always like to bear this in mind. Egyptian women are fighters for facing everyday life in this country, so I always think of my clients as both fierce and feminine. Life is not that easy for them here, so you can find something like a structured dress, which exudes a wild aura, but at the same time it’s made of chiffon so it’s very flowy and feminine, but with sharp symmetrical patterns. That’s always the combination I go for. I also love jumpsuits because they show femininity, but they’re simultaneously very sharp in appearance. I love using leather as well for the same reason.
As a designer, when do you know it’s safe for you to launch risky collections that are more artistic than wearable?
I’ve been working now as Maison Saedi for over seven years. So when I started, even though I felt artistic, I didn’t take such a risk because my name wasn’t known in the market enough for people to accept such a collection. People are always waiting for something that they can wear, but now most of my clients know that I’ll have that kind of thing ready for them for whatever occasions or shows they want to attend, so now they can accept something a little eccentric and out of the trend scene because they know me. They know they can have both, and not just bold statements they can’t wear.
What’s trending with Ahmed As’Saéd?
I’ve displayed my latest collections at the fashion bazaar and some pieces from my upcoming collection which is yet to launch. This collection is a bit artistic and not as commercial as my past work. It’s where I show off a little bit of my techniques and what we’re good at, not only to make sellable dresses. In a couple of months we’ll be launching the spring/summer collection so I decided to make few dresses, not just what the commercial market craves. And it’s always something inspired by Egyptian culture – the patterns are remiscent of pharoahnic times but in a modern way.
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