Over the last few years, a lot has been changing in Egypt. From the wavering economy and turbulent political state all the way to the rise of social media and the development of newly emerging industries. Amidst the madness, one field in particular has prominently risen from the ashes— The local fashion industry. With the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound and increased import restrictions of luxury and strategic goods in 2016, it was prime time for emerging designers and brands to take matters into their own hands and kick off local production, and local fashion PR and branding agencies followed suit. This is where our star comes in— Ingy Yousri Ismail.
Ingy is the founder and CEO of Flare PR, an International fashion public relations agency based in Cairo that aims to boost international awareness for up-and-coming designers. Ingy delved into the fashion industry headfirst following her graduation from the European School of Economics, with a resume full of brands like Diesel, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Aquazzura. She spent years travelling the world through her job, “living the dream” as they say, and after establishing herself in the European fashion sphere, Ingy took her connections and know-how back to Cairo, Egypt in 2016, and began tapping into the world of fashion in Egypt and Middle East region. She thought, “I have the knowledge, I have the experience, so how can I help this industry flourish in my own country?”
Initially, Cairo was meant to be stepping stone en route to Dubai, the Middle East’s growing fashion and retail capital, but her name and expertise quickly gained traction after acquiring her first client, Jude Benhalim, and the rest is history. Soon enough, Ingy began building her list of Egyptian clients atop her regional ones, and she concluded that she “didn’t want to leave Egypt because (she) saw a lot of potential for this industry’s growth”. Thus began the birth of Ingy’s agency, FLARE, that has since grown to be a notable PR player in the local and regional fashion industry.
Ingy spoke to me about her experiences with local clients, but more specifically about the instance of Ohanna. Ohanna is a recently established brand out of Alexandria, Egypt, that in the span of 5 months caught the attention of fashion-lovers and celebrities alike, including the likes of top models Chanel Iman and Doutzen Kroes and the stylists of Celine Dion and Bella Hadid. If that doesn’t show aptitude and promise, then I don’t know what does!
Well, Ingy shared a few concerns regarding the Egyptian fashion industry and what seems to be hindering it from reaching its fullest potential. “We have the talent, but we’re lacking the education. Knowledge is the missing element.” Combined with the declining economy, very few local and outside investors and the overall disparagement of youths in creative fields, it almost seems like we have a long road ahead of us until we’re able to compete on a regional level, let alone an international one.
So how do we move forward? Fashion is entwined in our culture. Unique textiles and fabrics, a history of Ancient garments adorned in Gold, production of the coveted Egyptian Cotton, not to mention the exceptional levels of innovation and creativity, but where are the institutions for design in Egypt? Where are the local funders and investors who believe in the creative Egyptian youth? Who want to utilize our potential and assets, while simultaneously raising up the next generation to believe in themselves and aid them pursuing whatever career path they desire? Egypt can be a fashion destination, “We have great craftsmanship, great talent, and a plethora of Egyptian celebrities who serve as the best marketing tool on a regional level”, Ingy says, “But as a country, we don’t make it easy for businesses to thrive or establish themselves”
The change must spark from within our society, from the change-makers and business people who have the capital to make investments, create spaces and decent resources for youth to flourish and grow their skills. We need to remove the negative stigma surrounding creative career paths, and take the coming generation’s dreams more seriously. Most of all, we need to congratulate progressives like Ingy Ismail, who actively make the decision to put Egypt first when there is a world full of more lucrative opportunities out there, especially in fashion. With that being said, when I asked Ingy if she had any advice for Egyptian youth that aspire to be a part of the fashion industry themselves or even establish their own agency, she said, “Get a good education, travel abroad, gain some experience, build your network and understand the rules of the game before you play it— navigating the industry haphazardly can only get you so far”
By Nada Sherdy