Most Egyptians don’t like to think of themselves as ‘African’, states Elshandaweely. She claims that the rich colours, vibrant prints and tribal motifs often associated with the continent as a whole are often rejected in Egypt as vulgar or unaspirational. Egyptian fashion, she says, tends to be shaped by two major forces, a desire to imitate the West and simultaneously hold on to conservative Islamic values.
“I remember, when I was little,” said Elshandaweely said in her speech at Design Indaba, “my mother took me to buy clothes for our feast – which is like Christmas is in the West. Nothing I saw in the stores seemed to excite me. I would look at all the advertising and magazines and no one in there looked like me. So I asked my mum if we could go buy some fabric and take it to the tailor to make clothes that I wanted to wear. I’ve been making my own clothes ever since.”