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Nevin Altmann: Traditional Yet Right on Trend

We speak to the mother-daughter dup behind the bag brand that never fails to turn heads, mixing traditional Egyptian handicrafts with premium leather and modern styles...

It’s not that often, especially in Egypt where we don’t really have a culture of vintage stores, that you get to wear something that’s actually vintage or infused with elements of our culture and traditions but is also modern and totally stylish. Unless you’ve taken to raiding your grandma’s closet (we do love ourselves some granny chic style) or have the uncanny ability to raid through marketplaces in Egypt, odds are most of the pieces in your wardrobe have been bought from powerhouse international brands. And that’s where Nevin Altmann comes in. The brand blends Egyptian authenticity with current trends, creating bags, wallets and pouches, that have inserts of handmade traditional embroidery. The sections of colourful fabric have all been embroidered by local women from areas like Siwa and Sinai, where there’s a rich history of handicrafts.

The eponymous brand came about when Nevin Altmann would drive up to Siwa with her daughter Tamara, who is now a co-owner of the business, and stay there for months at a time, living with the locals. “The Siwi women showed her the hand embroidery their mothers used to make and told her that they were embroidering less and less,” Tamara explains, elaborating that Nevin then encouraged them to continue to create the delicate embroidery with the promise that she would buy their work. The sections of fabric that she bought from these women were then used to create unique, modern pieces, injected with elements of Egyptian heritage. “She’s very creative,” Tamara says proudly of her mother, “I think she’s really gifted – she colours everything she can! When I was young we even used to paint on the walls at home.”

Nevin’s network of women soon expanded, as she made trips to Upper Egypt, Sinai, and various other areas of Egypt, where she started collecting fabric from the local Bedouin women who sewed it. “My mum has been collecting it for over 20 years now,” Tamara explains, “So she take little pieces and uses them in the items we create.” Today, the pieces available carry a mixture of current fabrics they get from local women around the country, and vintage fabrics that Nevin Altmann has amassed over the years. Essentially, many of the pieces the brand makes carry within them a slice of authentic Egyptian heritage, which is a rarity in today’s fast fashion world. Despite that, the pieces still reflect modern fashion, giving you a perfect mix of the old world and the new. The brand also makes pillows, shawls and dolls, all infused with the same traditional fabric.

Personally, we’ve got our eye on a tan leather backpack (below, left ) with an inserted section of colourful embroidered fabric, and a cool oversized handbag with a large chunk of coloured fabric, and cute tassels on either end (below, right). “The fabric on that handbag is actually truly vintage,” Tamara explains. “It’s pure silk thread, dyed in only in five colours – they represent the Siwa seasons. No one works with silk thread anymore. There’s a lot of history in that bag.” We love the idea of carrying around a slice of history.

You can check out their Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram @nevinaltmann 


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 Richard R. / Shiha @ Cairo Jazz Club
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