Egyptian designer Dalia Laz brings charity and design together

Dina Ezzat , Thursday 30 Jul 2020

Dalia Laz spoke to Ahram Online about the ongoing Design To Go Initiative, borne from the coronavirus lockdown and now moving into charity work

Egyptian designer Dalia Laz
Egyptian designer Dalia Laz

“When there is a fire in someone’s home we are often overwhelmed by the injuries inflicted on people. It is usually horrifying enough to consume our attention as we try to reach out to the victims. But we often forget that the fire also destroys their homes — sometimes partially, sometimes fully. Our initiative is to help those whose homes were destroyed by fire; to have them beautifully restored.”

This is how designer Dalia Laz summarised the idea of the second phase of the Design To Go Initiative of Esorus Interior and Material Sourcing.

Founder and director of Esorus, Laz launched the first phase of Design to Go in April, when the country was forced into partial lockdown to reduce the level of infections with Covid-19. The idea was to help people overcome their "lockdown unease" by getting them to make use of the time on their hands to redo parts of their homes, to make them prettier and better geared for longer home stays.

Designers would volunteer time to go online and provide easy to apply advice for people who sent in questions — mostly about remaking parts of their living areas or bedrooms into cozy and functional working spaces.

The second phase of the initiative, that started in the first week of July, is taking the effort a step further. “We think we have established the possibility of getting online interior design consultation and of helping clients meet possible designers and suppliers, as we have since we established our company, to help designers and suppliers meet one another. So we thought that we would incorporate a charity element in our work,” Laz said.

Having followed some stories about people with limited financial resources whose houses were badly damaged by a fire, Laz proposed a cooperation between Esorus and Ahl Masr Foundation that has been for the past two years helping victims of fires to find prompt treatment, hence maximising the chances of an eventual return to normal life.

Laz also incorporated association with a leading development company, Tatweer Masr. The idea, she explained, is to attract as many clients as possible to come in and seek the professional advice of interior designers.

With phase one of the initiative, online consultancy was for free. “It was alright for a possible client to decide to recruit the services of a designer through the initiative, but if it was just the online advice, it was for free. This time we decided we wanted to generate money that we would give to Ahl Masr to help the victims of fires redo their houses,” she explained.

The consultancy at its first phase remains online. It is offered through three packages with limited fees ranging from LE600 to LE7,500, depending on the input that a designer would provide.

“Obviously it varies. If a designer is just going to provide ideas and a possible list of places for someone to go for decorative items, this is different from a situation where the designer would actually execute a 3D model or plan,” she said.

Ultimately, Laz said, the fees that a client would pay are “significantly less" than if someone would independently solicit a designer’s advice. "We are essentially doing this to help a good cause,” she added.

While the advice is offered privately by a group of young and older designers to respective clients, the Design to Go Initiative, in its second phase, is also offering a free online space for a wider audience to follow via social media and to ask questions and get answers for free. Moreover, social media influencers appear with designers who are giving them ideas on how to redo parts of their homes or offices.

“Those figures and influencers agreed to go online as designers provide them with decoration advice to help a wider audience get design ideas,” Laz said. These have included turning part of a garden into a working space, or redoing a bedroom to allow for a reading corner, or simply furnishing a whole home for a newly wedded couple.

“One of the things we have been working on since the first phase of this initiative was to encourage people to see the benefits of having professional design advice, and to say that you don’t have to have such a big house and a big budget to benefit from a designer’s advice. On the contrary, you could actually have a really small house and a really limited budget and can benefit from design advice, to optimise the use and aesthetics of this house,” Laz argued.

Laz is planning to keep the second phase of the initiative rolling for the next three months. “We are starting slowly, but I am sure we will pick up and we will be able to raise funds for the cause we are catering to,” she said.

Cause-oriented campaigns, Laz said, will be a permanent fixture moving forward. “Our online services will not be strictly catered for crisis moments or charity purposes, although these for us is something that we are committed to. Like many other businesses that have grown to maximise online communication, we are planning to expand this virtual exchange of experiences and designer-to-supplier contacts, as our prime objective remains related to the expansion of the interior design market,” she added. 

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