If you don’t know Rania Shahin by name, there is a strong chance that someone you know does. Shahin is the fashionable founder of HIP, Egypt’s luxury fashion boutique, who is also a high society, trendy mother and wife. eniGma’s Tanya Jaff sat down with Shahin to hear about how she manages her fashion empire while achieving the right balance between work and family, and what lies ahead for her successful business and beyond.
Inspired by her love for fashion and shopping since she was a young girl, Shahin turned her passion into a business around 12 years ago. Shahin always knew that she wanted to do something related to fashion and that she wanted it to give her the freedom to work at her own pace, so that she could always prioritise her family. Building on her love for fashion with her major in business, she decided to set up her own fashion house, called HIP, providing fashionistas with luxury pieces for any occasion.
Recounting HIP’s early years, Shahin notes how every business takes time to achieve its potential. “The first two years were difficult because I was taking care of every small detail myself and I was shocked to face a lot of things I didn’t expect. But with struggle, comes success. I focused on my strengths and formed a great team, some of whom still work with me” she explains. After the initial years, Shahin’s persistence paid off. Through trial and error, she managed to source the chicest collections annually and gained a strong regular clientele, making for her success to this day. Shahin is also her own buyer for HIP. “I buy outside the box, and I always know there’s somebody who will like it and wear it. Through the years, everything gets easier with experience. You start to understand which pieces fit best and which ones are timeless,” she explains.
Hardly a day goes by when Shahin isn’t researching trends, in order to come up with potential purchases for the next season. Her goal is to invest in an assortment of individual designer pieces that would create a positive impression on her loyal consumers. Although her personal style naturally influences what she buys for HIP, she also curates her collections based on certain muses, both famous and not so famous, that she can envision wearing the pieces which catch her eye. Picking which designers to showcase, according to Shahin, is not just about a designer’s runway success, but also about the trends that stand out. “Still, every designer has his own touch. I love Peter Pilotto and Christopher Kane; Lanvin is also timeless, and Jonathan Simkhai is easy to wear; while Philosophy is romantic and Balmain is rock-chic,” says Shahin. “Trends are always changing; we are going back to the 70’s this year. Patterns, colours and movements are changing fashion,” she adds.
HIP has made it possible for Cairo fashionistas to purchase a last-minute outfit, whether it’s an evening dress for a wedding or an elegant top for dinner on a Friday night. With two HIP branches in Cairo now, women can shop at the boutique at the Four Seasons First Mall or the newly opened branch in Palm Hills in 6th October. “I am so happy I opened in Palm Hills because it has the right client niche and energy which HIP attracts. It’s been very successful,” says Shahin. While she has no plans to open more new branches in the near future, Shahin’s strategy does include eventually having boutiques all over Cairo.
HIP has also recently partnered with emerging designers, helping them build a customer base. One example is Nafsika Skourti, an emerging Jordanian designer, who proved to be a great addition to the boutique. Together with HIP’s steady business growth, has also come the growth of its social media outlets. Whether it’s Instagram or other platforms, Shahin understands their significance and how technology affects the fashion world today. With over 33,000 followers on its Instagram account, HIP’s platform is important in showcasing the pieces in its stores, allowing clients to find exactly what they need and to acquire them easily.
While balancing time with her family and her demanding work schedule, Shahin has developed a structure that works for her. An early riser, she starts her day with her personal care routine, followed by making sure her family is taken care of, before dealing with her emails. Once she gets to the office, she spends the day focusing on all the intricate details of the business with her team, making sure she gets back home by four PM to take care of her family. “I know how to structure my time and I balance everything very well. In terms of travel, it helps that I have the same annual schedule for all the fashion weeks I attend. This allows me to better coordinate my life,” says Shahin. When she is attending fashion shows around the world, she has a regular routine every day. “I’m on the go for 10 hours on average every day during any fashion week. From nice am to nine pm, I am jumping from show to show and then I go to dinner. I choose to spend my time mostly on the most important shows that require my attention,” she reveals. With her children currently in university in the United States, Shahin tends to gravitate more towards New York Fashion week, in order to be close to her kids.
Shahin finds that there are a lot of rewards to giving young women the opportunity to express themselves through fashion. Seeing someone wearing a HIP product is incredibly rewarding to Shahin. Supporting rising designers is also very satisfying to her. “I am very impressed with emerging Egyptian designers,” she says. She also has strong advice to give them. “Never forget the DNA that makes your brand unique,” she adds. According to Shahin, designers must remain faithful to the creativity that makes their brand special, and they must also be very organised. “The details and quality of a piece have a lot to do with being organised. It’s not only about being talented; you have to be organised with your time and effort. Fashion is all about opportunity and time. If you’re late, you are not contributing to fashion,” she notes.
While Shahin insists that there are no black and white rules on how to be fashionable, she does believe in the motto, ‘Less is better’. Her own personal style involves donning a basic attire and embellishing it with a few investment items that will give an outfit that extra something. To her, a timeless piece is one that is special enough to work in every season, and in every collection. There is nothing that Shahin loves more than a classic piece.
Shahin concludes, “I am not going to give you the usual cliché advice, that a classic blazer or a comfortable pair of shoes is a must in your closet. I would rather have you invest in a piece that stands out, like a funky pair of jeans or an elegant scarf. Even when you don’t have time to make an effort, these fashionable investments will do the job for you.”