Exclusive: Meet The Driving Forces Behind Cairo's Growing Vintage Fashion Scene

BY Samantha Hamilton Rushforth / Jul 31 2017 / 19:10 PM

As the Middle Eastern shopper becomes more selective in their sartorial choices, vintage haven S(old) is fueling a fashion niche

Exclusive: Meet The Driving Forces Behind Cairo's Growing Vintage Fashion Scene

For Yahya Karali, the co-founder one of Egypt's leading vintage pop-up concepts, S(old), the idea for a unique pre-loved fashion haven was first conceptualized when he was studying in the UK and writing a thesis on the juxtaposing vintage scenes in London and Cairo. “I had already written my thesis on the concept of reusable items with focus on consumer behavior whilst I was doing my MSc," he notes, "at the time, which was 2012, used or vintage items were considered a major taboo in Cairo." Fast-forward to November 2016 and this is no longer the case. Along with his sister Aseel, Yahya has created a covetable niche in the growing market for sartorial individualism in the Middle East and is now looking past a simple consumer-led sales model in favour of making a substantial mark on Egypt's ever-evolving fashion landscape.  

Harper's Bazaar Arabia: How did the concept for (S)old come about?

Yahya Karali: "I was talking to a couple friends about the idea for (S)old and asked them if they would help me select a few pieces for the concept, after 10 long hours of selecting what we liked, we started to conceptualize the idea of a vintage store. After creating a merchandise template, social media platforms and wider concept for the idea we then showcased some of the key pieces at a friend’s event and the rest is history. Currently Aseel Karali (my sister) is in charge of the creative direction and the artistic implementation of our vision and I handle the operations and logistic aspects.”

HBA: Where do you source most of your pieces from?

YK: “We mainly source the items from most major ports and port cities in Egypt. Due to the extensive amount research I had to do in order to write my thesis, I became acquainted with key players in this market, who had access to the ships as they dock for maintenance along the Suez Canal. Whenever there is a new ship docked they get in touch with me and we arrange a day where we can go and get to pick the items, they obviously get paid for allowing me to do so and in turn we get to sift through thousands of pieces and chose whichever we believe will be applicable to S(old).”

A vintage jacket on display

HBA: How extensive is the vintage fashion scene in Cairo?

YK: “The vintage scene has always been around in Cairo and Egypt in general. Mostly it took the form of antiques, sunglasses or clothes, but there has never been a one-stop-shop where one could buy such items without having to dig through what was mostly junk. A perfect example of a market like this is Wekalat el Balah which literally translates to the Date market, it’s a bustling avenue that can be daunting for many people.”

HBA: Who are your typical vintage buyers?

YK: “We have noticed that our cliental are mainly fashion conscious, hip and socially aware but we try not to purchase items simply to fit that niche, we want to attract a wide range of consumers who are focused on quality investment pieces.”

HBA: What are your most popular pieces?

YK: “The popularity of the items varies season to season. Last winter, leather jackets and vintage track-tops were a big hit, in the spring time; denim jackets and kimonos sold well and this summer, our beautiful silk shirts have been a big hit.”

HBA: Would you say the vintage scene in Egypt is growing?

YK: “What has been noticeable this past year is how there is no longer a stigma attached to wearing used or recycled clothes anymore, it was previously almost considered offensive to wear used clothes. The lack of diversity in fashion stores played a huge role in this in my opinion, people have turned to vintage shopping to find affordable styles that complement their individuality. Although the vintage scene in Egypt is not as big as the European market, it’s growing and hopefully will continue to do so.” 

One of S(old)'s most popular summer items - the printed silk shirt

HBA: What vintage stores do you shop from internationally?

YK: “When I was living in London, I used to love a store near Camden Market called Episode. They had everything from 90s hip-hop memorabilia to ex-army items. One of my favourite stores in Paris is called bric-à-brac emmaüs, it’s got a great set-up and is not too hard on your wallet. I do prefer flea-markets and car-boot sales to larger stores however, one of my favourite markets is the capital car-boot sale every Sunday in Pimlico, London. My sister Aseel, on the other hand, loves to shop at Retrock Designer in Budapest, Hungary and Mon Père Vintage in Porto, Portugal.”

HBA: How are the fashion tastes of Arab women and men changing in your opinion?

YK: “I’ve been noticing is that there is this drift towards individuality and expressionism rather than collectivism which was norm here in Egypt and the Middle-East, this has had an impact on the fashion scene in a huge way. I believe the vintage scene is helping to direct this diversion as it lends to the ‘one of a kind’ movement.”

Colourful items on display

HBA: Your concept is still in its early days, what are your plans for the future of (S)old?

YK: “One of core values is that we are a collaborative entity, meaning that we are constantly in search of other brands or businesses that share our same values and where we could help each other grow. Our latest venture is with Vntg Sunglasses which is the first and only boutique in Cairo that provides unused vintage sunglasses to their customers on appointment basis, we will be sharing some of our rarest pieces at their store located in Maadi, Cairo, and in turn we will create exposure to both of us. A perfect example of how we are trying to grow and evolve is by constantly changing our logo with the help of local artists. This helps generate awareness for the both of us and fortifies our image in the mindset of our customers.”

HBA: If you could get your hands on any vintage item in the world, what would it be and why?

YK: “I would go for a 1930s monogram Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk, mainly due to its impeccable craftsmanship, the vintage yellow and green stripes, and the history that it comes with.”

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