More than 120 local startup brands gathered last Friday at the Park Mall in New Cairo with a view to pampering Egyptian consumers with the largest clothes and household-product bazaar to be held in Egypt.
“Finding a perfect outfit that is still modest can be very challenging,” said Lydia Akram, the founder of the bazaar, called LA Market. “The bazaar featured many Egyptian modesty-wear brands and startups. So, in addition to shopping for yourself when you come to the bazaar, you’ll also be supporting local brands,” she added.
Akram said that a main purpose of the bazaar was to revive and empower female entrepreneurs who may be struggling to find a spot in the market by gathering them together in one place and giving them the exposure they deserve.
The bazaar gathered together diverse Egyptian products for ladies, hijabis and non-hijabis alike, in the form of modest clothes, scarves, turbans, abayas, shoes, bags, accessories and skincare products. It also offers menswear, towels, bed sheets, home accessories, kids wear, toys, artistic pieces and a food market.
“To adhere to the safety procedures in place to halt the spread of the Covid-19, everywhere was sanitised before and four times during the bazaar,” Akram said. Everybody’s temperature was also measured, and hand sanitisers were everywhere. Wearing masks was mandatory for exhibitors and visitors, along with maintaining social-distancing.
“We help participating entrepreneurs to meet their clients offline and support them pre-event with marketing, pricing and branding training to present their products to the highest standards and to help them enhance and grow their businesses. Every piece exhibited in the bazaar is unique and well-crafted, in addition to the diversity of products that was hopefully satisfying every taste,” Akram said.
“We all need to explore local brand varieties that are in the market, and in this bazaar we have brought the most elegant and trendy brands under one concept: buy local brands,” she added. “Our future goal is to create a store with high-end startup products hosted in one place. It’s like a modesty concept store.”
Akram also plans to organise a large exhibition in the Gulf with the same Egyptian local brands after the Covid-19 pandemic has ended.
It all started in April 2019, when the founders of a Facebook group invited Akram to share their organisation of a new concept event for hijabi girls and women. Afterwards, she decided to work on a bigger bazaar with a wider spectrum of startups targeting all parts of society.
“With family and friends’ support, the bazaar idea met with great success in reality, and it became the biggest entrepreneurs’ event in Cairo,” Akram recalled. “More than 30 people with different tasks have worked hard to make this happen. We have no full-time employees, just organisers who believe in the idea of helping local Egyptian brands.”
This was the fifth edition of the LA Market and the eighth bazaar organised by Akram.
“People go back home after every bazaar happy with the day and with the stuff they have picked up. I get praise for handpicking a group of high-quality local brands with a wide variety and at affordable prices,” she said. “And this year we welcomed TV presenter Sherine Hamdi and blogger Sarah Al-Zahabi at the bazaar.”
Organisers of LA Market
“I knew about the LA Market through my wife, who is the owner of an Egyptian brand,” said Ahmed Emad, the 32-year-old owner of one of the participating Egyptian brands. “We established our business in October 2019 and produce the trendiest and comfiest women’s footwear at affordable prices,” he added.
“The organisers of the bazaar are very professional and sincere, and they help all the participants to grow and unleash their potential, yet with convenient rules and prices. In order to participate, you just send a reservation request, as long as you are an Egyptian local brand with a good reputation and pay the booking fees,” Emad added.
28-year-old Rania Raafat, another participant with three brands, said that “I’m joining the LA Market this time with three brands for scarves, women’s modest wear and kids wear. This is my second time, and it definitely won’t be the last. It’s the most professional experience I have had at bazaars: you just send to their Instagram account, and they help you with all the details. The price of a place is also much more affordable than at other bazaars.”
“I have been veiled for 19 years. The veil is part of my personality, so when I started to think of establishing my own business, I decided to produce headscarves,” said Yasmeen Okasha, the 31-year-old owner of a scarves brand.
“I make the scarves by choosing the fabrics and trying them out in my own washing machine, ironing and pinning them in order to make sure that they are practical and durable. My designs take their inspiration from different cultures, so that they express the personality of the one who will wear them,” she added.
Okasha knew about the event from mutual friends, and she became very excited to be a part of it. “This is my third time at the LA Market, and I’m very proud of myself and every single Egyptian brand that participates.” Okasha said. “Akram really cares and encourages local products to make sure these brands grow, and her support goes way beyond the bazaar time alone.”
Fatma Al-Tohami and Radwa Hossam are the owners of an online boutique for local, hand-crafted pottery tableware and home accessories. “The LA bazaars have become an essential part of our annual marketing activities. This is our third event with them, and it would have been more had it not been for cancellations due to the coronavirus,” Al-Tohami said.
“It all started when Radwa and I fell in love with the beauty and uniqueness of pottery tableware and decided to start our boutique as a way to showcase this amazing craft and produce products that can compete on an international level,” she added.
“I’ve been to three of the bazaars, and each time I go shopping there it is extraordinary. Since the bazaars change and add more brands each time, I always try something new whenever I go. It’s a lovely atmosphere and my favourite place to go for shopping,” commented Omnia Ashraf, 25 years old and one of the LA Market’s visitors.
Laila Mahmoud, 31 and another visitor, said the bazaar was “great and has a wide range of luxury price points. There is always something new to visit and to shop at. It’s very inspiring to find that we have all these high-quality Egyptian brands available at reasonable prices. The bazaar also has a fun take on fashion. There are beautiful products, and the assortment feels very curated.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly