“Beyond the ideas of right, beyond the ideas of wrong, there is a field – I will meet you there.”
This quote by Rumi inspired Amir Fayo in his creation of the concept of Maison 69. He wanted to create a lifestyle store, a home, where everyone is welcomed. People are invited in to be inspired and to be creative beyond the rigid black and white structure of right and wrong. People are invited to learn and think, to become explorers and travelers. “It is a space where you can be anything you want to be,” Fayo told us. “No right, no wrong, no reference for what it should be.”
‘Maison,’ which means house in French, is the newest embodiment of what was once a women’s clothing store known simply as ’69.’ In honor of the store’s 20th anniversary, however, Fayo decided to do something totally different; he turned the store into a home. His vision, inspired by Rumi, has truly come alive in his re-visioning of the store.
Maison 69 has the layout of a house. It makes people visiting the store feel like home. Entering the store through the ‘garden’ of the house, you encounter the flower shop – Joie De Vivre. It is a brand created by the Maison 69 team because they saw that the market lacked a contemporary flower brand. Joie De Vivre is vibrant and feels completely new. The brand aims to inspire clients to bring back the art of spreading joy by giving flowers throughout the year. The unique cones and boxes that the flowers are sold in are becoming emblematic of the brand. Spotting flowers in a striped box anywhere in Cairo, makes you think of Joie De Vivre.
On your first visit to Maison 69, you will receive the same tour of the truly unique store that we did. Part of the shop’s goal is to show its visitors (particularly newbies) something they’ve never seen before. The concept matters to them, and they want you to know why.
From the ‘garden’ our tour guide, Ekram Aabed (also the store’s on-site stylist), took us through a door into the ‘living room,’ which is filled entirely with Egyptian-made products. From furniture designed in-house and produced locally, to works by INCA in collaboration with renowned photographer Karim El Hayawan, and interior lighting designed by Salsabeel Amin, the ‘living room’ has an exceptional collection of items made in Egypt. What is singular about Maison 69 is that rather than hide the producers of the pieces displayed in the ‘living room’, they have chosen to put a spotlight on the artisans instead. They have pictures of the people who worked on the collection on the wall and have described them and their process. Maison 69 chooses to elevate and encourage the Egyptian artisan. This concept of collaboration and transparency is unique in Egypt to Maison 69.
Art from SOMA Art School and Gallery is displayed on two walls in the living room. SOMA has the opportunity to show off different artists and works each month. One wall hosts work by the school’s students, usually children, and the other shows the work of established artists represented by the gallery. In every aspect of the ‘living room’ Maison 69 continues in its mission to give equal access and opportunity to Egyptians- buyers and artists alike. People have more accessible art, which is somewhat daunting to buy for young collectors. And artists have the opportunity to reach a different type of buyer than one who frequents a gallery.
After the ‘living room’, an enormous, industrial-looking door opens onto the main showroom – here, in front of us, is a massive set of steps covered in mannequins. Usually the display shows a total of 69 mannequins, but things have been rearranged a bit to allow for the store’s current theme, Beautiful Chaos.
Once in the main showroom – the main part of the house – we wander through the ‘sections’ of the home: ‘the kitchen’, ‘the tool room’, ‘the dining room’, ‘the dressing room’, ‘the bathroom’, and ‘the bedroom’. Each ‘room’ of the house has its own particular style to represent that section of an actual home – like mattresses in ‘the bedroom’, amber apothecary jars in ‘the bathroom’ and china in ‘the dining room’. In each section, clothes are strategically displayed: casual along the outside walls, evening wear in the center and special displays at the front.
The women’s clothing section is specifically curated to fulfill the mission of Maison 69: accessible luxury. It carries some of the world’s top international brands. In addition, it carries a selection of Egyptian designers such as Dina Shaker, Siko, and Cult.
Dividing women’s fashion and menswear is a wall of books. The ‘library’ is a wall covered entirely in vintage books – An incredible design installation by installation and display artist, Sarah T. Shannon, that involves 4,998 books that took months to complete (we’ve never seen anything quite like it). A glass staircase leads you past the books to the mezzanine; the men’s corner. It is inspired by the character of the gentleman of today. He travels, thus there are travel books on display and a feeling of movement evoked by the display units. He is athletic, thus they use lockers in the display and have an athleisure wear collection. He is experimental, thus there is a mix of styles and the collection and the layout are diverse. The menswear section is darker than the downstairs area, like a ‘man cave’ it evokes feelings of comfort to continue the theme of home. “We didn’t want it to be like the typical store that every man goes to where everything is neat,” Aabed told us. “We want it relaxed, we want it chill… so that’s the other feel we have in the store.” Zamalek’s Maison 69 is the first branch of the shop to carry men’s clothing, and all of the items are Italian designs.
The store opened in mid-December, and plans to have a new ‘theme’ every 4-6 weeks, like the Beautiful Chaos theme they’ve had going since the beginning of Ramadan. “It’s not only a store, it’s a gallery. For the holy month, we had a new paper windmills installation along with mannequins that basically changed how people saw Maison 69,” Aabed said.
People love the concept and the store – and we can see why!