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In a highly design competitive market like Egypt, the success equation is complex: a designer must have a firm grasp of design, color, and concept to stand out. We take a look at the work of designer Sami Amin, who is in many ways a forerunner of the ethnic trend in Egypt.
Long before the ethnic trend hit Egypt, Sami Amin built a name on his passion for handcrafts, art and drawing. Amin’s collections combine taste with authenticity, incorporating Egyptian culture and Pharaonic heritage. Amin’s philosophy is built on reviving Egyptian heritage, and he attempts to showcase its beauty in his designs. His exceptional mix of cultural elements, choice of colors, high quality raw materials, and premium finishing, coupled with his affinity for design, have made his name synonymous with authentic Egyptian handicrafts.
Amin explains that the start of every collection is a journey rather than a process, where new themes can be inspired by a thought, an exalted moment or a detail. He believes that his ability to incorporate Egyptian cultural elements in all his designs is the real catalyst for his success, as it is these elements that make his pieces special and appealing to a wide audience.
“I am totally saturated by our culture and I love our rich Pharaonic heritage. I believe that the reflection of this spirit is the most important feature of my work. Our heritage is significant to the world, so we need to be the first ones to care about it and showcase its beauty in our work,” he says.
Amin graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts with a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1988. His journey in design, however, began when he discovered his passion for handcrafts and drawing long before graduating. “During my undergraduate years, I started designing a few accessories and sold them to friends. People loved my work and asked for more items; Then one day I thought of starting my own brand,” he explains. He used the money that he earned from selling his products to buy books and to travel so he could learn more about design. “There was no Internet when I was growing up, so I had to go through a lot of books and make trips to specialists in order to learn. Finding a relevant book was a treasure in itself,” he says. And while it is now easy to resort to Youtube for craft tutorials, Amin grew up at a time when learning meant going places – a process which enriched his experience and knowledge base.
Amin explains that he learned primarily by teaching himself. In the course of his self-training, he visited places like Haret el Yahood (Jews’ Alley) to see workshops, sellers and experts in action to learn the craft. “I didn’t take any courses; I learned by watching, observing, researching, and then from my own mistakes as I went along,” he explains.
Today, his household name incorporates elements to make his products look Egyptian and trendy, but also to serve a function. One of his most recent collections, “The Word Collection,” is infused with positive words like happiness, joy, peace and blessings. He explains that the collection is inspired by what he sees as a growing trend to be negative. “It is nice to read positive words in the midst of all the surrounding negativity,” Amin says. He believes that when one wears something that carries a positive word, it may affect the overall mood of the people around them, and might even introduce some positivity to the community.
Amin’s favorite materials are genuine leather, brass, iron and wood. His love for raw, unfinished materials is evident, even in the way that products are displayed in his shops, inducing an appreciation of raw materials and reflecting the unique spirit of his brand. Last year, he decided to display this on his own handmade mannequin. “Texture echoes richness, so I tried to give this feel to the mannequin by wrapping it with paper in order to give it the rough and distinctive look of my designs,” he explains.
No matter how many designers replicate Sami Amin, the brand continues to stand out in a market now flooded with ethnic-inspired designs. “Finding other designers replicating my work makes me feel that I am on the right track. For me, it is a sign of success, because people copy distinctive brands. But I would advise these designers to imitate only in order to learn, and then to move on with their own creative ideas; otherwise, they will only be hindering their creative potential,” he adds.
In spite of this, he is delighted that the market has recently seen an influx of up-and-coming designers. “The industry has never been that rich before. Having all these designers competing and trying to build a name is a healthy environment for true talents to stand out. It ignites designers’ passion and fuels their creativity.”
However, Amin wishes to see more work reflecting our culture and capturing Egyptian beauty. “It is rewarding that when a brand goes international it mirrors its origin,” he says.
Inspired by the sky, Sami Amin’s new collection is now available at his galleries around Cairo. The pieces incorporate designs of little things that we see every day but forget to appreciate, including the sun, the moon, the clouds and feathers.
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