LONDON — Accessories label Okhtein has become a star in its Cairo, Egypt home — and beyond: Its sculpted brass clutches and totes, commitment to working with local craftspeople and detachment from saturated market trends has won it a dedicated audience across the Middle East.
Now the label, which is run by sisters Aya and Mounaz Abdelraouf, is broadening its ambitions, with the aim of growing from a handbag label into a lifestyle one by way of a new eyewear category, and a Cairo flagship where the Abdelraouf sisters can showcase their entire offer under one roof.
“The sunglasses seemed like a good transition to play around with, and to display the strength of the brand identity,” the sisters said in an interview.
Brand identity has indeed been a priority for the Abdelraoufs, more so than rapid growth, or going viral on Instagram, ever was.
They repeatedly forewent advice to tone down their aesthetic and its strong ties to their Egyptian heritage. They stuck with their signature sculpted brass details and elaborate leaf patterns inspired by the architecture of old Cairo instead of caving into retailers’ demands to produce more commercial, generic styles.
It’s been working.
Their brass minaudière bags have been gaining more visibility internationally and catching the eye of major celebrities including Beyoncé and Cardi B, while select international retailers such as Browns and Selfridges have picked up the label.
The company’s sunglass launch saw immediate traction, with one style even making an appearance in Balmain’s latest men’s wear campaign featuring the Colombian superstar Maluma.
The Abdelraoufs attribute the success of their latest category to clarity and consistency. They are applying the same design approach as they would to handbags: Bold, and far from understated.
Their debut range features miniature styles embellished with the same brass motifs as their signature bags; square-frame designs featuring the brand’s signature leaf print on the enamel handles, or larger round-frame styles that fuse thick tortoiseshell frames with delicate brass hardware.
Prices range from $235 to $400.
Their aim for this collection was to create a broad enough range with styles to suit every face shape, and to ensure that each piece felt like “a collectible.”
“Timeless pieces are known to be much more classic and plain, but in the case of Okhtein it’s the details and craftsmanship that makes our designs timeless,” said the designers, adding that they wanted each piece to carry the same “deep cultural associations” and links to their Egyptian heritage as the bags.
“Brass work is the core of our brand, so we wanted to maintain the same edge and craftsmanship with the eyewear pieces.”
Coinciding with the eyewear launch, the label has opened the doors to its first physical space in its home of Cairo. The store has been designed to give a better look inside the world of the brand, with abstract pieces of furniture and vibrant art on the walls.
“The store has been designed to amplify the products and what they stand for. We focused on directional lines, abstract interiors and a contemporary, clutter-free setting to shed light on our products,” said the sisters, who worked with the regional firm MZ Architects on the project.
While the store and eyewear launch have been primarily geared toward the brand’s existing community, the designers said they will use the boost from recent celebrity endorsements to enhance their marketing efforts, penetrate new markets and reach a more global audience, in coming seasons.