“Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.” Rumi….

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Sara El Rashidi and Yasmine El Agati

Trendy, pretty, stylish, ethical, youthful and funky– we cannot say enough to describe this new and upcoming brand that just launched in London and Cairo and is already in high demand in multiple countries in the region and Europe. Two long-time friends, Sara El Rashidi and Yasmine El Agati, who come from diverse professional backgrounds decided to work together and channel their love for fashion, design, humanity and giving back to their community through Abayafunk. An ethical brand that produces beautiful “abayas with a twist”, with fabric that is meticulously selected from shops in Egypt and around the world and embraces the talents of local artisans and refugees to manufacture the unique pieces. Abayafunk aims is to support the sustainable and ethical fashion industry as well as to spread joy and happiness.

1. Tell us about your journey to embrace healthier /sustainable foods, lifestyles and living?

Well to start off Yasmine and myself are both obsessed with buying organic produce and trying to eat as healthy as possible. Yasmine is addicted to the Saturday farmers market in Zamalek. But I must admit from a lifestyle (fashion) perspective, we both did not have the most conventional journey into the ethical fashion world. However, at the outset of launching Abayafunk we were both aligned and excited about making sure this project gives back to the community and makes other people happy. I was always a humanitarian, and wanted to make an impact.

I began my career in the humanitarian sector working for the UN and during the 2011 Egyptian revolution I became a journalist, filmmaker, writer and photographer. Then whilst completing my PhD at Oxford University; I also became a full time carer for my late mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was during the Covid lockdown in April 2021 that I made my first abaya. I asked my lifelong friend Yasmine, a corporate banker, to take me to the fabric shops in Cairo and to a local tailor who makes everything by hand.

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After producing my first abaya, I decided to make another and Yasmine also made her first. We then decided to go into business together with the intention of producing ethical fashion, providing work to local artisans and refugees and supporting benevolent initiatives. Yasmine’s family are leaders in the silver market in Egypt and whilst on maternity she explored her artistic side by designing jewellery, so she was always eager to find an avenue into the design world – she is also an art lover.

Given my multi-cultural background (being half Irish, half Egyptian), we decided that we wanted to go global with this brand from day one and showcase our Middle Eastern culture with a modern, playful twist. The brand launched in February 2022 in London and has since exhibited in Florence, Dubai, Mumbai and Cairo, with plans to expand further.

2. What are your leading products and who are they targeted to?We are designing unisex abayas with a Middle Eastern twist, for all age groups. They are suitable for anyone with a flair for fashion who wishes to express their individuality. Given the youthful essence of the product we are targeting the 20s to 40s age bracket; who have been our primary customers. 

3. What do you see as your main challenges in growing your business and how will you overcome these?

Given that we aim to sell in multiple markets, we are faced by an obvious FX risk and the challenge of having multiple laws and regulations to abide by. On a lighter side, we are facing the same challenges that any start-up would face including funding and finding the right expertise to work with us on running the logistical side of the business so that we are able to indulge in the creative front.

4. How will you measure the success of your business?

We want our clients to feel happy wearing them! We also want this to be a positive reflection of transformation of the Arab world and how a once boring Abaya can be transformed into a hip item. This shift in mindset is so necessary in today’s world, as it opens up possibilities. Our ability to support local artisans, refugees and other worthy initiatives will be further indicative of our success.

5. What is your vision for the next 5 years for your business?

To launch a website and further expand the brand worldwide. We also want to collaborate with artists, musicians and other brands and stores – which we have already started to do.

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We are super excited with our recent collaborations with the renowned Italian sunglasses designer Pampaloni Silver Eyewear, a music festival label, artists and musicians, as well as concept/pop up stores in Dubai, Qatar and Cairo. The right collaborations make you stronger. We are also planning to expand our production facilities supporting local artisans and are exploring opportunities to collaborate with NGO’s that support microfinance initiatives and refugees.

6. What is the one thing you will want people to remember about your brand?

We want people to remember Abayafunk as a Middle Eastern ethical fashion label with a playful modern twist, that gives back to the community. A benevolent fashion label that brings the East to the West

For more information, please see instagram : @abayafunk

We would like to hear from you and to share your story about how you embarked on a path towards a more sustainable, healthy and nutritious lifestyle.

If you are a company we would love to learn about what you have been doing to make your business more carbon neutral, reduce waste or how you changed your production process and redesigned your products.

If you are in individual, we would like to hear about your personal journey to adopt a more sustainable, healthy and nutritious lifestyle.

We believe that we can learn from each other`s successes and  failures and how they overcame the challenges they faced. This is why we would like to profile stories that our audience sends to us.

We would welcome hearing from you, send us your story ( less than 200 words please)  with a picture. Send these to:

[email protected]