Egypt’s designer sisters


They’ve finally revealed who they are. The talented and unique duo, Mounaz and Aya Abdel Raouf, are the faces behind Egypt’s freshest luxury handbag line, Okhtein (Two Sisters). Known for their colourful and lavish designs, they talked to eniGma’s Salma Hussein about what inspires them, their upcoming collection, and the ups and downs they’ve faced on the road to success.

When they launched their first collection, which included the Fortress and Dome bags inspired by Islamic architecture, Okhtein received a lot of criticism. But to their, and everyone else’s surprise, a few days after the launch, the Okhtein handbags were all over Cairo. Seeing young women wearing Okhtein handbags wherever they went put a smile on the sisters’ faces and pushed them to work even harder. When asked about their upcoming work, they could barely conceal their excitement. Their answer was: “we are currently working on something big that will be launched very soon in collaboration with a very talented designer.”

The two sisters are young, artistic, and determined. They like to alternate materials when it comes to their designs but they mostly work with leather. Asked about what distinguishes them from other talented Egyptian designers, they are quick to claim that what makes them unique is the “element of surprise.” Besides their success with the unusual Fortress and Dome bags, Okhtein launched a line of colourful, and daring beach bags inspired by collage artworks, which were also a hit. They also surprised everyone with their Okhtein Essentials line of make-up bags which turned out to be exactly what every girl needed. Moving on from casual handbags and make-up bags, Okhtein went on to launch the daring and different, Palmette. Made of brass in gold and silver colours, the sisters are proud of the exquisite craftsmanship that is evident in its design. The Palmette is a handbag that is perfect for a glamorous night out. Their next surprise is the soon to be launched line of backpacks. We can’t wait to see what else  they have in store.

Looking to the future, Okhtein see themselves going global. They have already done so in a small way, with some international fashion bloggers having recognised their work. They were given positive feedback on their designs by Leandra Medine known for her fashion blog: Man Repeller.

We were curious to find out the work dynamic behind these two upbeat and eccentric partners, especially considering the challenge of working with family. Their artistic side is evident in their work, and even in the way they dress. Both have an input in the design process, but Aya claims that she is the more technical sister. Mounaz retorts, “I’m artistic while my sister has an elegant edge.”
They admitted that, at first, they struggled with disagreements on the designs. But we can see that they’ve found a happy common ground, just by looking at their fabulous handbags.