For picky and selective people, modern-day life can be challenging. Between low-quality commercial products and fancy brand names, the only thing that satisfies their fashionable taste is most likely to destroy a savings plan.
And it was this market gap that drove two sisters, Mounaz and Aya AbdelRaouf, to start Okhtein (Arabic for ‘Two Sisters’), a high-end, affordable bags brand.
Coming from an artistic family, both sisters were already leading a life of arts. Between Mounaz’s painting artwork and Aya’s experience with design, Okhtein came to life in July 2014 when the sisters chose their passion for bags to let their artistic tendencies intertwine.
“It was such a shame knowing that all those brand names like Gucci and Channel use genuine leather imported from Egypt, and that we have some of the best craftsmanship, yet our market lacks high-end quality bags that bear unique signature designs,” expressed Mounaz.
Intent on filling this market gap with original designs, the sisters sought inspiration around each corner.
“Inspiration is not restricted to one area,” said Mounaz. “It is greatly affected by our mood, by what trends are prevalent on the scene, and the various things that we see on a daily life basis.”
“We design things from scratch.”
Looking for inspiration in Cairo, the duo wandered their city's streets. Their hearts fell for the architecture of Old Cairo which inspired their first collection, Fatimid Façade.
“Fatimid Façade was inspired mainly by the mosques. That’s why the designs of this collection are quite structured, mimicking the architecture of this era,” she explained.
But as you skim further through Okhtein’s designs, you will find that the following season showcased a totally different style that may appeal to a very different audience.
“Okhtein is a combination between timeless classics and funky designs,” said Mounaz. “You can see the diversity between the genuine leather and snake skin products, and the funky pop-art designs.”
Yet their diversity serves more than different artistic tastes. Out of respect for some people’s preferences not to buy genuine leather, the sisters made their product line “Okhtein Essentials” entirely out of synthetic leather.
Okhtein Essentials is the more innovative line of their brand where they play around to cater after daily life needs. Among the most popular products of this line is the ‘wallaup’, or makeup wallet. Other products include a bigger makeup kit and a laptop sleeve.
The third line of the brand is “Yasmine X Okhtein,” a collaborative project that resulted in their clean-cut fashion line of genuine leather.
It seems as though Okhtein is not only genuine in its use of leather, but most importantly genuine in turning their project into a space that embraces “Egyptian talents who don’t have adequate opportunities.”
Mounaz went on to narrate that walking down the streets of Cairo, and Egypt, is a hunt not only for ideas, but Egyptian craftsmanship that is known to be one of the best in the world. “Right now, we work with a group of women who are deep in debt,” she added. “We also recently started working on next summer’s collection with a group of young artists in Fayyoum.”
And speaking of next summer’s collection, Mounaz burst in giggles when she gave me the heads up that “next summer, we have a surprise.” As she put it, it’s a retake on their signature design, the Dome Bag, but it’ll be “hilarious.”
Okhtein is quite optimistic about their expansion and growth plans.
“We plan to add a men’s line of products, and we certainly hope to open up more stores across the MENA region, and the world,” expressed Mounaz.
Given how celebrated Okhtein is regionally and internationally across the fashion bloggers scene, we highly recommend you feast your eyes on their sometimes simplistic, and other times wacky designs.