A business school graduate and fashion lover at heart, today Sara Onsi is one of Egypt’s most prominent couture and bridal designers. Having dressed celebrities like Amina Khalil, Sawsan Badr and Nelly Karim, she has also made a name for herself as a top red carpet couture designer. eniGma’s Hager Alazab spoke with Onsi to get the inside scoop on her unlikely start and her journey to success.
Onsi started her journey in the fashion industry in an unorthodox way. Ten years ago, when she was making what is arguably every bride’s most important decision, namely, picking her wedding dress, there weren’t as many accomplished bridal designers in Egypt as there are today. Basically, Onsi’s only option was ready to wear wedding dresses that were difficult to alter. “I didn’t like my options, so I designed my own dress and had it tailored abroad,” she recalls, adding, “It was such a hit that a couple of my friends asked me to design their wedding dresses for them; eventually that led me to start my own bridal wear brand, Guzel Bridal.” She also quit her day job and enrolled in several fashion courses. Four years later, in 2015, Onsi went a step further and launched her international luxury couture brand, Sara Onsi.
Dreaming big, in 2015 Onsi also submitted a collection of her designs to New York Fashion Week. To her delight, her submission was accepted and she was featured in their fashion show, “While I always had the talent for drawing and painting, as a young girl, I didn’t aspire to be a fashion designer. I guess I was inspired along the way,” says Onsi, who found particular inspiration from Chanel’s amazing success story.
Onsi has been an important part of the blossoming of Egypt’s fashion industry over the past few years. The emergence of several important film festivals with their glamorous red carpets has led to increased demand for top fashion designers by Egyptian movie stars and celebrities. Onsi’s creative designs, which rival those of international fashion houses, have been front and centre at every award season. Recalling her first red carpet design, Onsi says, “The very first celebrity I ever dressed was Amina Khalil in 2016 for the Cairo Film Festival. To this day, it is one of my favourite collaborations.” It all started when Onsi sent Khalil a message on Instagram asking to dress her up for the festival. To her delight, Khalil replied in agreement – and the rest, as they say, is history! Since then, year after year, Onsi’s gowns have become a must on every red carpet. With every award season, the young designer offers a variety of sketches to celebrities she seeks to dress. Discussions flow from there and invariably several stars arrive on the red carpet glamorously dressed in Sara Onsi designs.
involved in the creation of any one couture gown make her job very time-consuming, Onsi has mastered the art of meeting deadlines. The designer likes to recount how she once had to design a dress for actress Nelly Karim in the span of just one night! “I got a call from Orange saying they wanted me to create a red carpet orange draped dress for a photo shoot with her the next morning,” she recalls. She laughs, adding that this incident was behind her reputation as the “one-day” dressmaker.
With her amazing success in red carpet fashion, it is easy to forget that Onsi is a pioneer in bridal couture and she remains a major player in the field. Ranging from finely embroidered poofy gowns to beaded silhouette dresses in geometrical shapes, her bridal couture designs are distinctive and hard to miss. “I like bold looks and I am not a fan of floral patterns in bridal fashion,” she explains. She does, however, have a penchant for traditional gowns. Her ideal wedding dress includes an emphasised waist, geometrical patterns and a statement poofy skirt. “I am pro ball gowns for weddings,” she adds.
Onsi loves the fact that the options are endless when it comes to bridal fashion, noting that this provides just the right challenge to keep designers on their toes. She finds that bridal couture is constantly evolving with fashion trends and has taken a non-traditional swerve in the past couple of years; with celebrities and public figures tying the knot in jumpsuits, baby pink dresses and even big bold black gowns. In her opinion, this is a positive change and she is happy to see the variety of options available to brides nowadays. “If you want a simple dress for an open-air wedding, you can have it. If you want a wedding jumpsuit, you can have it. Even if you want to stray away from traditional white and go for a nude bridal look, you will be able to find it,” says Onsi of the endless possibilities for today’s brides.
With big hopes for expanding her brand, Onsi is currently planning the launch of her first ready-to-wear collection next fall, after having started a casual wear line in 2019. With designs and quality no less perfect than those of her couture gowns, Onsi is highlighting the importance of modesty in this upcoming ready-to-wear collection. “I really want to create fashion that suits everyone. It is important to me that this collection is accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they choose to dress modestly or not,” says Onsi, who wears a hijab herself. She recalls the time when shopping for herself wasn’t very easy, citing her wedding dress dilemma for starters. Creating a collection that suits all types of women, regardless of how they choose to dress, is Onsi’s end goal with her upcoming ready-to-wear collection.
Looking to the future, Sara Onsi is clearly an Egyptian success story and her fashion brand is ready for expansion. Noting the rise of more Egyptian designers in recent years, she believes that Egypt can become a major contender in the international fashion market. She points to the expanding opportunities for training young people in the field, as she concludes, “Today, we have the facilities and the right educational opportunities in fashion. Educating more young adults interested in the fashion industry will allow Egypt to grow into the fashion capital that I believe it can be.”