CairoScene sat down with the Youssef Edward, founder of Phrase, a bold new furniture and design brand that seamlessly blends minimalism with personalised warmth.
As Ikea opened in Egypt, a thousand upper-middle class Egyptians rushed to the far ends of Cairo to swarm around the industrial furniture compound in search for knick knacks made in China, branded as Swedish, and sold as the only option. China continues on its path to super-powerdom, the Swedes' economic stability strengthens, and we're sat on the floor with no money after our plastic DIY chair from Ikea has fallen apart.
Now we're not trying to promote some skewed Argentinian socialism to curb national inflation here, but when there's design brands like Phrase about, we're not sure why you should be looking further than home-made, for-home accessories. This isn't one of your run-of-the-mill entrepreneurial ventures where a Facebook page is started and a nagar over in Damietta sends over a few Roche Bobois copies to sell at ten times the cost price.
Founder of Phrase, Youssef Edward is a design man through and through, graduating from the German University in Cairo after studying product design, and with a family embedded in the furniture industry. His brand Phrase creates beautifully slick modern home interiors and accessories, from lamps, clocks and bookshelves to trays, coat stands and cupboards, all with a genuine minimalist and natural feel and very reasonable prices. They're the sort of items you'd expect to find scattered around the homes you find on "Most beautiful bachelor pads in the world" blogs, or on the pages of GQ.
Having stumbled upon Phrase's website that hosts a variety of intense design quotes on its homepage, we had a chat with Edward about his design ethos and the story of Phrase...
When and how did Phrase come about?
I launched Phrase in January 2014. After I graduated from the German University in Cairo, studying product design, I wanted to add more to my family furniture business through the creation of a new brand that offers unique and exquisite products that have a fine sense of simplicity and artistic functionality ranging from furniture to industrial designs. I chose to involve myself in the design scene in Egypt because I want to expand the Egyptian design market with new and original perspectives.
Do you build the products yourself or do you have a workshop?
I have a workshop and I build the products myself, because in my opinion no one visualizes the final product like its designer. He/she has to have the knowledge in design production, from material choice and assembly techniques to painting the product. On the other side, I see that Egyptian craftsmen are constantly growing every day: from gaining knowledge in design production to learning different elements in the design industry. Working one on one with my products allows me to create a closer relationship with my consumer base.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Well, I would describe my design aesthetic to combine a natural feel with a bold and crisp look. In my first collection the main theme for any design was using wood and one solid color, as I wanted to have a warm emotional aspect related to the product where my target market can feel connected and comfortable with the piece that they’ve purchased.
What sets Phrase apart from other niche home accessory brands in Egypt?
What sets Phrase apart from other brands is that Phrase offers ingenuity and designs that haven’t been brought to the table by any other brands. It’s a designed item that has its own distinctive style. It’s a brand name product that you will want to have regardless of the objects that already reside in the space. Phrase is more than an item or a structure that occupies space, it’s a design you will cherish.
Where do you see the future of Phrase?
First of all I have to accumulate a loyal consumer base, because nowadays consumers would prefer to invest in a product from an outside retailer rather than thrive through the community. I also hope to improve the scene by creating a more diverse fan base outside of Egypt. After that opening a small showroom would be the next step.
Where does Phrase retail?
You can find Phrase at Blend Furniture store Located in Nasr-City and soon in other retail stores in Cairo and El-Gouna.