Last year’s apparent reversal of the fashion industry towards sustainability reasoned the fact that the average customer has become more demanding and spoiled in their desires.
On the one hand, the emergence of digital platforms such as Instagram influenced the development of the fashion industry. On the other hand, nowadays additional factors are playing a huge role for purchase: history and politics of the brand, its social responsibility. The days when clothing was considered only as dressing are long gone. Now fashion is a multipurpose unit: a way of expression, protest, support, and an essential part of pop culture. Many designers actively use the opportunity to express not only creative but also social and political positions through the prism of their collections.
So, in one of Milan’s fashion week of the past 2019, a manifest was declared with the handbag collection by the Egyptian brand Alicia Arts.
I met Alicia at the fashion show, which has become a premiere for her brand during Milan fashion week. Living in Egypt, the country where the role of women, especially in rural areas, conceived erroneous and limited by the care of the family, Alicia as a famous designer and a public person is committed to the idea of women support and empowerment and its transmission worldwide.
Therefore, the support of women and women’s labour in the fashion industry, in particular, has been a highlight in the designer’s collection: each bag is a handmade work of women with difficult life situation; to each of them Alicia, besides the workplace and a decent wage, provided an education and continuous professional skills development from qualified colleagues.
Many women in the brand team have a very difficult life. Some of them are divorced, others have seriously ill or died parents, husbands or siblings. Anyway, all these women trying to support themselves and their families, not having any professional skills. Moreover, in Egypt, the labour market situation is aggravated by the lack of professional education and the high unemployment rate among the female population.
– I would like to clarify that I’m not recruiting my employees out of the problem factor. One may think that it could be a way to pay them less than the market value. The situation, rather, the contrary. My team consists of professionals and beginners. I consciously teach the beginners with the help of professional staff, thereby increasing their value on the market. Actually, this fact is even disadvantageous for me from the commercial point, because after the training I provide each employee is always free to leave or change the company. I am lucky that my team is still with me, and we are working together to improve the quality of our bags. Each woman puts her soul into the bags she handcrafts. Once, one of my employees saw her bag in the magazine where on the photo it was in the hands of a local celebrity, and she was incredibly happy and proud of it and showed this photo to everyone, saying: “Look, this is the bag I made!” – said the designer.
Alicia Arts bags have a recognizable Middle Eastern style on classic shapes. Geometry and structured design of the majority items in the collection can be traced due to the architectural education of the designer. All decorative elements are hand-made using Swarovski crystals, Czech Besser, glass beads, pure copper and gold plated elements. As the main material for handbags, Alicia uses Italian leather, velvet, and snakeskin.
Alicia Arts brand is very popular in Egypt and some neighboring Arab countries. Since the fashion show in Milan, the brand took part in the fashion show of one of the most famous Egyptian designer Hany El Behairy, then, later in the show of designer Ayman Lahmouny in Beirut; also, was presented at fashion week in San Francisco, and to Abu Dhabi forum for entrepreneurs organized by the Council of the Arab women entrepreneurs under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikh Fatima Bint Mubarak; and recently Alicia Arts participated the Wedding Expo Fashion Show 2020.
Her bags can be seen in the hands of celebrities at the Cairo film festival. The designer herself is often invited to various TV shows giving lots of interviews. According to the brand Instagram, European countries’ customers have also appreciated the design and the unique history of the brand. There are not so many designers who can be proud of the fact that every bag is, not only a handcraft and soul of the team but also the contribution to social protection and participation in the empowerment of women in Egypt.
I strongly believe that designers like Alicia are doomed to succeed. First of all because with their success they charge all the people around demonstrating to the whole industry and the world what advantages and positive effects may fashion have.
As for me, I noticed, that since the moment the bag from Alicia Arts is in my wardrobe, whenever I feel fatigued, I pick it unintentionally. In these moments it feels like a supportive hand touch of one of those women who created it and who do not give up under the pressure of life’s difficulties. I believe in the best for them. And it helps me to believe in myself too.