IN CONVERSATION WITH
OKHTEIN, founded by sisters Aya and Mounaz Abdelraouf, is a handbag brand in high demand. Since launching in 2013, the Egyptian brand has taken the world by storm whilst seeking to promote Egyptain craftsmanship, set new trends and introduce new designs to the world. We found out more about their innovative designs, heritage, philanthropic approach, and their vision to bring true luxury to the world of accessories..
How did your journey as designers begin?
Our journey as designers began when we first started creating art together. Whether it was paintings, pieces of furniture, or our own accessories and outfits, we made sure to stay within our creative bubble. It made sense later and over the years that we start our own brand with our sense of style and aesthetic.
What are the origins of Okhtein?
We launched Okhtein – meaning, appropriately, “sisters” in Arabic – because of our vision to bring true luxury back to our home country (Egypt), as well as drawing international attention to the inherent refinement of Egyptian artisanship, sensing a gap in the market for true luxury accessories produced in Egypt. We pull many historical references from Old Cairo and ancient architecture found in our country.
What are Okhtein’s core brand values?
We create art for art’s sake, to remain true to our identity and not create for the sake of trends. We believe in timeless pieces that are handcrafted ethically and with care. Each piece tells a story and is linked to helping out a certain part of our local and global communities by sustaining work flow and passing on artisanal heritage.
“We believe in timeless pieces that are handcrafted ethically and with care. Each piece tells a story and is linked to helping out a certain part of our local and global communities by sustaining work flow and passing on artisanal heritage.”
What do your designs celebrate?
Our designs celebrate culture and the arts. They are not always necessarily linked to our Egyptian heritage but rather a wide range of cultural aspects from heritages that inspires us around the world. OKHTEIN also and most importantly celebrates the bond between family and sisterhood.
Can you tell us about your idea to redefine luxury?
We want to show people that luxury does not mean spending an excessive amount on one handbag or being extremely niche and inaccessible. At OKHTEIN, luxury is defined by being handmade and top quality, regardless of the price point. Luxury to us lies within the details and within the story behind each piece we create.
Why is doing philanthropic work and working with NGO’s important to you?
Giving back and making sure that those around us are taken care of is extremely important. Unfortunately, as humans we may lose focus of the world around us and only look at ourselves, when in reality, all parts and people have to come together to form a society. We always try to ensure that our collections are ethically made (by working with local artisans) and we try to donate and be a part of philanthropic causes often. At the end of the day our true worth and value comes from who we are as people, so we believe by helping others this is what will allow us to be the best we can be.
“Luxury to us lies within the details and within the story behind each piece we create.”
We do not shy away from our roots in terms of aesthetic and brand identity, but rather show the world a modern day vision of our culture.”
Who has influenced you as female entrepreneurs and designers?
Our grandmother has been one of our strongest influences to date. Having her be one of our first fashion and style icons in our lives has truly molded the way we see and look at fashion. When she'd invite us to look in her closet, we discovered fabrics from India, couture pieces from France, and her collection embodied elegance and refinement. She was the one who gave us the knowledge that we’ve had with us until today.
How much of your own culture has influenced the designs?
Our culture influenced our designs heavily as it reflects who we are as Egyptians. We do not shy away from our roots in terms of aesthetic and brand identity, but rather show the world a modern day vision of our culture.
Which of your designs is your favourite and why?
It’s hard to pick just one or two. As artists, we love our designs while simultaneously thinking of new ones to remain fresh and innovative. Each piece truly has its own story and background as we never design just for the sake of creating. We make sure everything is thought and planned out and can stand on its own to tell its story.