August ‘15
Insight Interview

August ‘15


Mounaz and Aya Abdel Raouf have been on the cutting edge of making quality handbags with unique shapes and colors for their renowned brand 'Okhtien'. Recently described among the hot talents in the Egyptian market, they are certainly under the fashion spot. Insight caught up with the young sisters to get the lowdown on their career.

What can you tell us about yourselves?

We are designers and visual artists from Cairo; both of us are extremely passionate about design and fashion. Searching for inspiration, we're usually on the go trying to find new places to visit and different activities to be part of.

What drew you to handbag designs?

We believe a handbag can add a lot to any outfit, you're always carrying it around, so why not make it a statement piece? Both of us love unique looking handbags and that was the main reason we decided to design our own.

What inspires you as a designer?

Aya: For me inspiration is endless. Culture and people usually inspire me. I love knowing the history of everything and I always have a visual representation of the things I read about.

In your opinion what one bag every woman should own?

The classic Chanel bag, the 2.55 and the Chole Drew Bag.

What challenges did you face as designers in Egypt?

The manufacturing is probably the hardest thing about being a designer in Egypt. It's easy to design a good bag in Egypt but very hard to produce one.

What one piece that you created is the closest to your heart, and why?

Aya: 'The Mini Weave' is the closest piece to my heart. I simply love it because it's basically a reflection of my style.

How can you evaluate the industry in Egypt today?

The industry has so much potential. There are many other great handbag designers who are simply reflecting the potential of our country's craftsmanship. The market is growing and it's promising to see that. More people are inspired and willing to take the risk, which is usually the hardest step of starting a personal business.

Are you pleased with what you've reached?

We are beyond pleased with what we've reached in a year. We still have a lot of goals to reach and we're working on them slowly but surely.

How do you prepare for a new collection?

We usually take months of brainstorming and trials to prepare for a new collection. First, we need to get really inspired. Second, we start sketching out the ideas we came up with and linking them with trending colors. Most of the time we like to create original artworks ourselves and print them on leather. Once the sketching is done we start bringing them to life, using trial and error until the design is settled and the finishing is perfected. After that we brainstorm how to advertise the new collection and it's usually one of the most fun steps in the process.

What fashion advice can you give fashionistas this summer?

Be yourself and stay unique.

What are your upcoming projects?

We are currently brainstorming our AW '16 collection, and we're super excited to show you what we have in store.

By Rania Ihab