The design industry in Egypt is slowly emerging and even though we still suffer from “3o2det el khawaga”, there are many design studios that produce high quality products and exceptional designs locally.
What’s extraordinary about these specific young designers is their commitment to creating designs through some kind of social good, be it encouraging local craftspeople to produce high quality products or even creating new material from what would otherwise be considered waste.
Not only are they going green, but they are also bringing remarkable designs to the table and improving the quality and perception of design in Egypt.
Reform is an award-winning design studio based in Cairo, Egypt, founded by product designers Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad. With an urgent sense of commitment to the world and believing that doing what you love brings out the most of what you can do, Hazem and Riad were inspired by traditional Egyptian culture and were eager to create a better quality of life through design.
Reform aims to take on sustainable and environmental issues and solve them through research and design. Their first project Plastex extends the life cycle of single-use plastic bags by repurposing them into a new, 100% eco-friendly, handmade fabric. Plastex raises awareness about the endless possibilities of reusing discarded plastic bags.
Reform has won several awards both locally and internationally, including 1st Place Gold Award at Design+ Industry Egypt (2012), Pioneers of Egypt Award(2013), 2nd Prize at Salone Satellite Award in Italy (2013), Silver A’ Award Design in Italy (2014) and Cartier Women’s Initiative Award in Paris, France (2014).
Wanting to make a positive impact on the environment, Rania Rafie and Yara Yassin created an eco-friendly material that is rigid enough yet interesting enough to play with, featuring a range of products like hand luggage and accessories. They’ve also collaborated with Pheel (another design studio) to make notebooks and this extraordinary line of backpacks pictured above.
Hoping never to waste plastic bags again and dreaming of a plastic-bag-free-city, Refuse has come up with one-of-a-kind patterns where layers of unused plastic bags are added together to create the most interesting experimental designs.
Refuse also provides workshops to the public on how to upcycle plastic bags and create a DIY version of their products, with the aim to change people’s habits through design and knowledge.
Studio Meem is an interdisciplinary design studio based in Cairo, with work spanning the fields of architecture, design and art. The studio was established in 2011 by architect and designer Manar Moursi.
Working on sustainable designs and helping the environment, Studio Meem has created their product line out of palm fiber, a renewable material from the seven million palm trees in Egypt.
As part of the annual pruning process, palm fibers are removed and the excess waste is usually burned. Instead, Studio Meem have transformed the material along with their artisans into beautiful pieces of furniture.
Their work has been praised and awarded both locally and internationally for articulating the specificity of the local ecology and the rich cultural heritage of the region through a contemporary voice. The Studio’s inaugural product line, Palmcrate: Off the Gireed, inspired by everyday street objects in Cairo, was awarded a Red Dot Design Award and a 2011 Good Design Award.
Markaz selects the finest creations from Egypt’s artisans and craftspeople to help revive and spotlight work from all over the country and provide handmade crafts that are creative, vibrant and unique.
The handmade products range from fun beach clutches to the most intricate of beading and embroidery applied on cushions, scarves, bedding and much more. With many talents, artisans and techniques not getting the publicity they deserve, Markaz identifies them and adds the aspect of design to the work of the already talented craftspeople to create a selection of handmade products bursting with colours and excitement.
FanSina, Arabic for Art of Sinai, is a Bedouin-run social enterprise in Egypt that aims to provide income for Bedouin women by highlighting their artisan skills and promoting their remarkable handmade crafts.
Taking inspiration from their environment, their products have been adapted to suit contemporary everyday use. FanSina revives the skills, talents and crafts of these Bedouin women who produce the most spectacular handmade products as well as supports their livelihoods.
Dawayer is a design studio with the aim of producing eco-friendly products designed wit the highest quality standards. Founded by designers Habiba Shawkat, Khadija Radwan, Salma Sherif and Neama El Gawady, Dawayer applies design thinking to serving the community, while offering high-quality products.
Using the agricultural waste from the rice harvesting process, Dawayer created a new, unique material to produce exceptional, sustainable and eco-friendly home accessories and furniture, such as lighting units, tables and stools.
This company aims to decrease pollution from burning rice straw and other crops and also offers vocational trainings for underprivileged youth. Dawayer was recognized and awarded as Egyptian Company of the Year by Injaz Egypt and Injaz Middle East.
“Reشcle”, founded by designers Yomna Seoudi and Maram El Shenawy, is an Egyptian brand that reuses waste in various ways to create new home products, combining ethics of use with fresh new ideas to furnish a home. They use old and unused items to recreate new and functional furniture, lighting and home accessories.
Collecting their materials from industrial leftovers and customers’ unnecessary items, their main aim is to provide home products with a youthful and cheerful spirit. This encourages sustainability away from abuse of natural resources, yet still provides function for their ever growing community.
From old CDs being turned into lighting units to unused sheesh being transformed into a bench, Reشcle combines creativity with sustainability to build products that everyone would love.
Menn Baladha is a design studio founded by Alik Mikaelian, Amira El-Shawarby, Caroline Shoshanian and Salma Adel with the aim of designing a return to crafts.
Menn Baladha’s main aim is to revive and promote Egyptian handcrafts by bridging the gap between Egyptian craftsmen and the local market. They design local products that are refined and manufactured locally, shedding light on the talents and skills of craftspeople and products.
Menn Baladha also carried out independent case studies with different craftspeople, developing design solutions to develop the artisan’s process and enhance the quality and precision of the craftsman’s skills.
For their first line of products, they used the skills of the Egyptian craftsmen to bring a simple, yet extraordinary set of Clay Steamers and Clay Bakers to the table. They were inspired by the important role food plays in our culture to bring to life these unique, hand-crafted designs.
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