Culture and fashion have always maintained two parallel paths that often entwine. Each major fashion leap was accompanied with a drastic cultural change; therefore, it is quite superficial to observe fashion without noticing the factors shaping it.
Cairo Fashion Festival (CFF) came back this season with a fresh line-up that aims to tie fashion and culture through presenting the best of both worlds. From Indian fiesta to Sufism rituals and oriental precision; the fifth round definitely managed to tour the globe in a few hours. For the first time, the festival was not held in the usual open-air theatre; instead, it was moved to the Marquee theatre only 48 hours before the date; nonetheless, the show proceeded intact.
Local designer Ghada Hashash launched the night with a collection full of impeccable outerwear.
“My line is inspired by ethnics and local culture. This collection is more towards RTW with diverse prints and colours as I was trying to target a younger and more practical audience,” said Hashash.
Her range included several show-stopping jackets and coats; each design had an evident cultural reference. The ‘Ready to Wear’ collection depended on satin and metallics; meanwhile, the garments’ personas varied between British with double breasted buttons, Chinese with intricate floral embroidery and the iconic Audrey Hepburn’s coat from the golden age.
Esmeralda Radwan followed next with a new interpretation of local heritage. Radwan made a memorable impact last round with her oriental masterpieces that embraced coins as main signature; however, this time she chose to focus on another factor.
“My line is very sophisticated and classy; but at the same time, it is very practical. So you can mix and match my pieces and yet remain the centre of attention anywhere you go,” Radwan said. “This time is completely different, it is still authentic and oriental; yet, it has an evident modern twist. This collection is RTW and it could be worn anywhere.”
The designer reinterpreted Kilim, which is an unconventional oriental fabric that is often used for furniture. Meanwhile, she applied it in the most modern methods to maintain a fresh and young style. The collection included several variations, including flair pants, little black dresses, coats and one impeccable cape.
Walking the same line, Sherien Hussein favoured an oriental theme; her fall/winter collection captured the true essence of Sufism in a unique and contemporary method. “There are few iconic themes related to Sufism and dervishes and this collection in particular is inspired by them. I am very interested in the topic and I have read multiple related books by Rumi and Ibn Araby,” said Hussein.
The collection mainly depended on full skirts, which resembled the silhouette of twirling dervishes. Moreover, all embellishments were highly inspired by Islamic architecture. The accessories were also on point as models walked down the runway with colourful rosaries and metallic headpieces that were inspired by the dervishes’ long hats.
Her centrepieces were two couture dresses that were embroidered to perfection; the two shared common factors such as the A-line cut as well as the floor lengths. The first garment had a characteristic green colour with gold embroidery that resembled mosques’ domes; meanwhile, the second was completely white with gold details that portrayed a twirling dervish.
Renowned brand Threads followed next with a unique collection of couture dresses. This round represents the brands come back after a successful show last season. “This is our second time with CFF; however, this time we came back with a couture-only collection,” designer Andro Basmargian said.
“It is called ‘Shades of Elegance’. It is inspired by royalties meanwhile we added very interesting colours and fabric to modernise the theme.”
Samy Designs took the audience towards another aspect of the Arab heritage with his collection that seemed to pop out of the historic “One Thousand and One Nights”.
“I started my brand a year ago and I truly want to market it further. CFF certainly has a good reputation and it reaches a massive audience; therefore, I chose to participate in this round,” said designer Mohamed Samy.
“In this collection, I tried to utilise Egyptian components in couture. I used fabrics that are handmade in Siwa as well as old traditional garments; yet, I kept the designs modern,” said Samy.
His colour pallet was vastly dominated by gold, silver and black. Simultaneously, his silhouettes included harem pants, loose chiffon sleeves and Ottoman headpieces.
The night included a few key segments including honouring rising-star Norine Farah, after her successful show in Tiffany’s fashion week in New York. CFF founder Omar Madkour congratulated the artist on her massive milestone and gave her a symbolic award. Meanwhile, Farah expressed her gratitude stating: “CFF has revolutionised the fashion industry in Egypt; they have created a platform that did not exist before.”
Furthermore, Egypt’s first fashion battle was hosted by Sherien Hamdy on CFF’s stage. The segment featured stylist Layla Youssef and designer Nermine Ammar, who worked on transforming mild black dresses into few diverse looks with the use of accessories and probs.
Additionally, Crystal Asfour held an outstanding activation in the venue’s garden. “Asfour Gone Fashion” showcased four different dresses that were designed using the precious crystals. Designer Alia El-Nahas, Yasmine Said, Norine Farah and Iman Saab contributed in the activation with one dress each.
While El-Nahas’s dress depended on see-through tulle embellished with crystals. Said’s dress elaborated her daring cut-out style, Farah’s dress walked the same line of her upcoming collection and embraced net fabric, and finally Saab favoured a retro style with the use of a single huge feather.
In parallel, Egypt’s first digital fashion platform, Slickr, organised few fashion presentations for the garden’s crowd. The list included the Indian Elephant, Nermine Safwat and Banjaraline among many others. The presentations created a brief glimpse of the show being held inside the theatre in order to duplicate the fun.
“My brand offers contemporary and traditional Indian wear; I am bringing the Indian culture to Egypt,” Mariam Khan from the Indian Elephant said. “My collection is basically and completely Indian with lots of saris and shawls.”
Meanwhile, Banjarlline’s Hala El-Shafai stated: “My brand depends on vintage Indian fabrics and its name means Indian villagers. My style is unique to some extend and this collection has more colours and layers.”
With that being said, the true peak was the finale, which featured the extraordinary Aya Afifi. The local designer passed away couple of months ago; leaving a huge number of heart-broken fans, friends and family members.
Before passing away, Afifi finished designing her last collection. The CFF team, along with her family, worked on turning her sketches into garments for a special tribute.
“Aya Afifi passed away last summer, completely shocking the entire industry; she was a loved person and a talented designer. This collection is very special for everyone and we are honoured to be part of it,” said Madkour.
Her fall/winter collection represented her minimal style as well as her constant strive for timeless elegance. The collection embraced leather details, edgy cuts and cosy pullovers. Each piece is a true fashion investment that is set to be fashionable for seasons to come.