The modern Egyptian woman might find herself facing a fashion challenge occasionally; how does she wear something trendy and modern yet stay true to her Egyptian roots?
That was the question on fashion designer Heba El-Shimi’s mind before she launched Rommanah.
“Rommanah to me represents a dream of having an oriental brand that is at the forefront of global fashion,” she said.
Having spent 15 years in the corporate world, 6 years of which she spent in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, it struck Heba how there was a gap in the Egyptian fashion market.
“During my time in Paris, I always admired how French women dressed elegantly every day, whether going to work or to a casual outing; their style is always chic and simple,” Heba said, “After coming back to Egypt, I noticed the gap in fashion between what people are looking for and what is on offer. I realized that there is a great opportunity there.”
So, the preparation for Rommanah commenced.
“In a sense, Rommanah was in the making for several years before it was actually launched.”
After deciding to take the plunge into the fashion world, Heba spent a year studying fashion design, patternmaking, draping and couture before Rommanah was ready to be launched in 2019.
With trendy and grounded fashion being her goal, the inspiration for the brand was clear.
“A pomegranate, or Rommanah, is the symbol of Granada in Andalusia, South of Spain. This symbol dates back to the time when Arabs ruled Andalusia; a time when the orient was pioneering the world in sciences, philosophy, and arts,” Heba explained, “In this sense, the dream of Rommanah is to lead in the global fashion industry just like our ancestors did.”
Driven by a need to reassert Egyptian-made and Egyptian-inspired products on the market, it was important for Heba to keep the Egyptian identity of the outfits.
“Rommanah is oriental, down to earth and very modern. She is the woman that is exposed to the world yet is in touch with her roots and the reality of living in an Arab country. She is not isolated from either,” she said.
“The attack of Chinese products in the global market always made me jealous,” Heba said, “Why aren't we stronger players in this industry, both locally and globally? We have a strong heritage in textiles. This industry could have a great impact on the Egyptian economy.”
Naturally, it was important for every piece and detail to reflect that inspiration.
“This idea is reflected in simple designs that can be worn every day; a mix of modest outfits suitable for Egyptian streets with more funky revealing outfits for special occasions,” she said.
They combined this aesthetic with a signature material (silk) and a signature color (red) that is used in a few items across every collection in order to channel the brand identity.
“The way [the silk] falls and feels on the skin and its durable luster make it a perfect pair to any outfit. It has been used in all oriental civilizations as a luxury fabric, so it fits in with the brand inspiration.”
“We also focus on the use of warm colors because our woman is warm and friendly. Red is essential for every collection we make. It represents passion, courage and femininity; all qualities of the woman we represent.”
Part of making clothes for the Egyptian women though means catering to the oriental shape, which comes with its own rewards and challenges.
“For the kaftans [for example], we show off the waistline and use flare sleeves to make the woman look like an Arabian princess,” she said.
“One of the challenges we faced was to get the pants to properly fit the Egyptian woman's figure,” she said of one of the challenges the brand faces, “We wanted to launch pants that fit well and look good, which is generally a challenge for any brand.”
“Many women complain of ill-fitting pants, waist being too low, ratio of hip to waist not working, etc. After taking measurements of tens girls and making several rounds of adjustment, we launched two pants designs; wide-leg gabardine, and loose-fit straight-leg crepe pants.”
Having just launched their Fall/Winter 2020 collection, Heba said Rommanah “strives to become sharper and sharper on our cuts, clearer on the inspiration, and always fresh and new.”
The brand is currently planning the launch of their own e-commerce website as well as preparing to show in London’s’ biggest fashion trade show. All while planning the Summer/Spring collection to be launched in April.