With climate change and the pollution of the environment threatening our Earth, there are many ways people can do their part to mitigate the danger to the planet. While most people are unaware of the amount of waste generated by the fashion industry, May Kassem and Ali El Nawawy, co-founders of Scarabaeus Sacer, are not among them. The duo had a dream of creating an ethical and sustainable clothing brand where fashion and ethics did not clash and they eventually realised their dream in 2018. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey touched base with Kassem to learn more about their brand and how, together with her partner, she planned to change the world of fashion in Egypt.
May Kassem is passionate, to say the least. Right off the bat, it was clear that her business meant a great deal to her. Most importantly, her main goal has been and always will be the same, namely changing mindsets in Egypt. Kassem didn’t talk about herself as much as she did about her business partner, Ali El Nawawy. The idea of establishing a local fashion brand, Scarabaeus Sacer, came to her and El Nawawy, then still a medical student, back in 2005 when Egyptian fashion brands were so few they could be counted on one hand. Although the ethical part of Scarabaeus Sacer wasn’t a part of their idea in 2005, when it finally became a reality thirteen years later, ethics and sustainability were central to their concept.
“The only way forward for fashion is for it to be sustainable,” explains Kassem. “A lot of international brands are moving in that direction, even the big name brands and the high end luxury brands. They are even doing sustainable collections because they want to be eco-friendly and to take care of the planet. What a lot of people don’t know is that the fashion industry is one of the top five polluters in the world, so the amount of waste it creates is just tremendous,” she continues.
To Kassem and El Nawawy, fashion is a form of self-expression that can help society move forward in more ways than one. “Being a certified psychologist myself and Ali being a medical doctor then a United Nations official, we both have a personal development side and a social impact side. We wanted to create something that was eco-friendly, but which also tackled important social issues like mental health and the stigma around it. That was the focus of our first collection, Mind, Body & Soul,” says Kassem.
The fashion duo believes that spreading sustainable fashion depends not only on rising awareness by brands, but on raising awareness of the consumer, as well. Kassem and El Nawawy are very tactical about educating consumers to convince them that sustainability is the way to go. “We use our social media platforms and do awareness campaigns. When we use media, whether it’s traditional media or social media, this leads to people coming out and talking about the issues of sustainability. We talk to people about what sustainability actually means and how clothes are manufactured. That’s very important to us,” exclaims Kassem.
With just under 15 years since the conceptualisation of their fashion brand, Kassem and El Nawawy have more tricks up their sleeves and are not slowing down anytime soon. Scarabaeus Sacer’s new collection, which they called Clandestino, is set to launch in a few weeks and it’s not straying away from the discussion of social issues. “Clandestino is a person that is sort of on the out with society. We chose that name for the collection because we’re trying to raise awareness about such people. We’re talking about issues of social justice, discrimination and the inclusion of all people that are sort of rejected by society.”