A Scoop Empire Exclusive Look Inside Okhtein’s Collab with Balmain for PFW2022

The homegrown luxury handbag label Okhtein has once again made its mark in the world of high fashion with a collaboration with the Parisian fashion powerhouse Balmain for its upcoming 2023 collection being unveiled at Paris Fashion Week. Founded and creatively led by two sisters, Aya and Mounaz Abdel Raouf, Okhtein has since its founding in 2014 aimed ‘to redefine the modern Arab women, challenge global stereotypes, and celebrate the empowerment and heritage of Arab women’, according to their mission statement. Okhtein, in spite of the handbag brand’s youth, has been spotted being worn by celebrities like Beyonce, Kourtney Kardashian, Cardi B, and has become an established and desired handbag label for trendsetters and fashionistas the world over. In addition to this, this barely eight-year-old handbag brand is now sold at the world’s top luxury department stores all the way from New York to Dubai. Likewise, Okhtein has received critical acclaim and awards recognising the brand as an original and boundary pushing addition to the world of high fashion, arguably helping better position the Egyptian capital and many of its pioneering and young fashion creatives into the focus of the region’s emerging contemporary fashion scene. However, the brand’s new collaboration with Parisian fashion powerhouse Balmain, now led by creative director Olivier Rousteing, may mark a new chapter in their story as they start to ruffle feathers not just from the outside as an up-and-coming Cairene handbag designer, but from the centre of the world capital of fashion—Paris.

On September 28th at Balmain’s runway show unveiling its SS23 collection at the Stade Jean Bouin, Okhtein revealed a striking bustier, clearly referencing Egyptian alabaster stone and its unique semi-translucent qualities that have been made iconic through ancient Egyptian vases and sculptures that line museums across the globe. Building on Bolmain’s SS23 collection that seeks to rediscover and reinvent motifs and ideas from the Renaissance, and reframe in a a more modern lens, Aya and Mounaz, the sister duo behind Okhtein, pushed the focus towards North Africa and to the rich aesthetic and intellectual legacy left by ancient Egyptian civilisation. The sisters reflected on their collaboration with Bolmain, by describing how “Coming from Egypt, a country of rich heritage and history, the story combining both our vision and Olivier’s has been a truly wonderful experience.”

Building on earlier motifs developed by Okhtein, they also reintroduced their iconic brass snake bangle as a necklace to compliment the bustier. Being simultaneously both contemporary and ancient in its design, the striking necklace according to Okhtein’s press release comments on the “contrast of old and modern, to portray rebirth”. This one-off haute couture collaboration, and especially in regards to the difficult process of creating the alabaster-esque bustier, “was the most challenging project for both of us, however we found it as an opportunity to push ourselves as designers and product developers”, according to the Okhtein sisters. Aya and Mounaz further elaborated on the fully Egyptian-made and designed products by thanking the factories, craftspeople and their team for making their collaboration with Balmain possible, by stressing that “We are grateful for our team and for the factories we work with, for bringing this piece to life”. Similarly, the Okhtein sisters also exclusively discussed working with Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing with Scoop Empire, and described how “Working with Olivier was amazing because he was flexible with our ideas and it gave us a lot of artistic expression and freedom to show our aesthetic as well”.

Excitingly commenting on the collaboration with fashion powerhouse Balmain, Aya and Mounaz told Scoop Empire that, “We are both thrilled and excited to be collaborating with Olivier Rousteing and Balmain for their SS23 collection. Our first encounter with Olivier was back in 2019, when he was one of the judges at the Fashion Trust Arabia. We look up to him on so many levels and truly love his genuineness and passion for what he does. We are excited to be showing a little piece of our brand and its story”. Reflecting on this big step taken by Okhtein and the ways it may potentially open up doors for more exciting collaborations in the future, the two sisters also described to us here at Scoop Empire how, “This is a new chapter for us because we get to show the world that our brand aesthetic and identity can fit beautifully with other brands when collaborating. It also shows potential of representing our history and heritage with different parts of the world”.

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