Photography courtesy of Fufa Photography courtesy of Fufa

Local Fashion with a Sustainable Focus

Mon, Apr. 15, 2019
Fufa El Ashiry isn’t your typical Egyptian designer who looks for acceptance from international markets by Westernizing all of their collections and photography. Instead she is constantly looking for local inspiration and the meaning behind every pattern, every fabric and every color.

In true 52 weekends tradition, we not only chose to interview Fufa because of her environmental standpoint, but also because of her love for traveling around Egypt and finding inspiration right here at home. “I was always into traveling in Egypt, I felt like I really wanted to promote Egypt. There is so much to see and people don’t know about it. So why don’t I do the collections based on these destinations?” Fufa asks.

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Photography courtesy of Fufa


The designer has also been offering repairs and alterations for the items purchased in order to help her customers create a capsule wardrobe, with quality pieces that will last. In the age of e-commerce full transparency is key. Since Fufa’s collection is created locally, you’ll find that there may be a slight change in colors or patterns that won’t match the image on the website—because you can’t always control craftsmen as well as machines and this also helps give your wardrobe a human element with heritage.

For her upcoming Siwa collection, Fufa used Siwan symbols as inspiration for the print lining of the palm-woven bags, while also creating patterns from architecture in the city. In a joint event with Markaz, Fufa brought the Siwan artisans to exhibit their own products to clientele in Cairo, providing them with a platform where they can showcase their products, from home décor items, jams, soup, fashion and everything in between.
“[When I started], I just wanted to make clothes. I would buy stuff from Al Azhar or Wekala. Everything was Chinese imported, which is crazy.” Considering that Egypt is best known for its cotton farms, Fufa was surprised that fabrics were imported and recalls her journey to finding sustainable environmentally friendly textiles. “There is a lighter trick [I learnt], to see if the fabric is polyester or cotton: If it’s cotton it’ll burn slower and turns to ashes, if it’s polyester it turns hard like plastic and it’s smell like it,” Fufa says, cautioning that we’ve all bought a super soft jumper or t-shirt thinking that it’s cotton, but when we read the fine print we discover it’s nothing but polyester and most probably manufactured in China or Bangladesh. “100 percent polyester can be sold off as cotton, because it’s so soft.” Fufa clarifies. “So far I can say that almost 70 percent of [Fufa’s] production is all natural fibers. There is one material that I am trying to substitute. It’s a mix of cotton and polyester. It’s for the summer collection and people don’t like ironing during summer, so it’ll always have an ironed, fresh look.”

F67A5468 Photography courtesy of Fufa

Fufa learned that in order to find sustainable textiles for her collections, she needed to create them herself. It might have added to her production cost, but the designer says the peace of mind and guilt-free conscious that come with it are priceless. “I started working with factories in Mahalla and Minoufiya, because they have the pure cotton. Yes it’s really expensive but it’s really good quality,” Fufa says, explaining why she made the swap from imported to local materials. “I hate buying imported material, I don’t know who the artist is, I don’t know what the print represents, I don’t know what the colors represent, I don’t know anything about it. So I got into textile printing, that’s when I started drawing my own stuff. . . I started traveling around Egypt. Everywhere has a different craft and a different theme and mood.” Today, the manufacturers that she works with for printing on textiles refuse to work on anything that has polyester in it.

Fayoum was the inspiration and main focal point for Fufa’s spring/summer ’19 collection, offering a fresh and playful color palette for the range. “Fayoum is all bluish tones and turquoise and they draw on a lot of pottery there so I started to sit with artisans, to discover what they draw. A local artisan told me that we just draw everything we see in nature. So the colors are blue, turquoise, green and brown. Because of the trees, the sky and sea.” She highlights that at the end of the day all artisans are the same, they just use a different canvas. “Mine is fabric, theirs is pottery.”

F67A6152 Photography courtesy of Fufa

Color is a main feature in all her collections says Fufua, recalling a trip to Siwa where, “you’d see that most of the colors are yellow, orange, red, green and black. They start with yellow like the transition of the dates, which then turns orange, red and black. It also comes from the palm trees being green. Those are the colors of Siwa.” There they seal everything with ropes so Fufa adapted that and started threading with rope for everyday t-shirts, making them more comfortable than any fast fashion buy.

But being a waste-free business is hard, especially at a time where online-shopping has taken over, meaning that designers need to find a more efficient way to package their products. Fufa has taken advantage of scrap fabric and reinvented it as hangers, tote-shopping bags, headbands, scrunchies and even kids’ collections. “We don’t throw out anything, it all can be reused,” the designer maintains.

F67A9573 Photography courtesy of Fufa

Fufa has adopted a circular business model, where customers who have both previous Fufa collections can drop them in a recycling bin for Fufa to reuse the fabrics in future collections and the customer receives a voucher to purchase the latest designs. “It depends on the kind of fabric we’d get. Because in earlier [collections] we worked with synthetics. If we used it now, it’ll be a little bit against what we do today. For the new collection we can recycle it, Fufa confirms.

The designer is looking to expand into kidswear and accessories, all with a sustainable focus, made from environmentally friendly biodegradable materials.



You can find Fufa at www.fufaeg.com. Instagram/Facebook

@fufa.eg

 
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