Fashion is a women's industry in Egypt, but Islam Ahmed is determined to put menswear on the radar. We talk to the founder of Vichi - a platform dedicated to men's fashion - about his unique project.
Men’s fashion in Egypt is an almost nonexistent commodity. There are one hundred and one stylists, websites and agencies here dedicated to women’s wear but nothing that shines a light on the fact that sometimes, guys like to dress up too. While around the world, you’ll find a copy of GQ or Esquire on most dudes’ bedside tables, as well as cupboards full of the latest trends for the modern metrosexual, here the only fashion magazine you’ll find in a guy’s room is more than likely used as ma-rall at most. Everyone is wearing the same thing because their options are the same three high-street franchises and there’s no exposure to what could be possible with their own style. Very few take risks away from the standard skinny jeans, v-neck and Converse combo and the ones that do are looked on with irritatingly judgmental eyes. Islam Ahmed is on a mission to change all of this with his fashion agency Vichi, giving Egyptian men a passion for fashion and providing brands with some much needed trendy testosterone. We speak to the budding stylist and recent Fashion Studio graduate about the company which is set to change the way men dress in Egypt…
What made you decide to start Vichi?
The fashion scene in Cairo is mainly directed to woman, while men are seldom given their time to shine. For example, almost all stylists and designers on the scene are doing women’s wear. That’s why I thought about starting Vichi, in order to work on creating a new concept for menswear in Cairo by introducing new styles and ideas. Vichi is mainly for men with a personal style that reveals a higher sensibility than the ordinary. It’s an inspirational channel which adds elegance and sophistication by keeping men updated about new trends in fashion, style, advices and creating menswear photo shoots.
What experience do you have in fashion?
It all started as a hobby. I always had passion for matching clothes and adding some modifications to my own outfits. Then I studied fashion styling at The Fashion Studio. I was inspired by my instructor Bosaina’s vision. She motivated me to pursue it as she always told me “you are unique.” I have been a part of various fashion shoots like an Alice in Wonderland-themed one which was a great opportunity as I worked with talented stylists Farah El Sayed, Noura Fouad and Pacinthe Badran, and photographer Batool El Daawi. That was followed by my first own shoot which was inspired by an amalgamation of Bourgeois culture and Bohemian-chic style. I wanted to introduce it to the fashion audience in Cairo as it is a vintage and elegant style. With my latest shoot, entitled Paparazzi, I managed to create a stylish and chic outlook on menswear, collaborating with local bespoke shirt brand El Sastre.
What services does Vichi provide?There are some fashion projects which all go under Vichi. First, we aim to do styling for photo shoots for menswear brands. Other than this, we do fashion blogging which is mainly about spotting well-dressed guys in the streets, clubs or bars of Cairo and we post their pictures on our Facebook page, as well as featuring local designers and stylists.
Why do you think there is a lack of a men's fashion industry in Egypt?
Unfortunately, we only stereotype others’ style and there is no creativity. Many men should improve their standard of dressing. I believe clothes complete a man. Conversely, if you’re a jackass, but dress well, you’re still just another jackass in bespoke! Egyptian society usually goes for international brands and doesn’t give local designers a chance. Regarding the lack of stores, I believe it’s just a matter of time and some international brands will open up when Egypt is stable.
Will you be sticking exclusively to menswear or will you delve into women’s wear as well at some point?
What a lovely question you’ve posed! Actually, I’ve always had a passion for menswear way more than womenswear which makes me unique in the scene. It was intuitive; menswear is what I wanted to do and where I felt I could best express my aesthetic taste and imagination. That’s why I will stick to menswear.
What's it like being a man in a female dominated industry? What do most people think?
Good question! To be honest, it’s difficult but that’s an effective motive. I‘ve always liked challenges. I’ll say that I have to work harder to prove myself. During my styling course, I was the only male in the class. First it was uncomfortable, then I got used to it. Men are no longer in the shadows of their girlfriends, they are stealing the limelight! Actually a lot of people think the fashion industry isn’t female dominated anymore like before. Men have taken a noticeable role in fashion over the past years. It seems men are embracing fashion and the unconventional more than ever before. Men are learning. They experiment with colour and texture and take an interest in top designers such as Calvin Klein and Tom Ford and they’re looking sharp!
How would you describe your own personal style?
My own personal style is classy, simple, elegant and chic. I am very much inspired by vintage; I like grandpa sweaters with suede elbow patches and I have a weakness for smart blazers. Normally, I pay particular attention to accessories like shoes, belts, watches and bowties. It also depends on my mood, the weather and the occasion. Often, my inspiration comes from Italian street style.
What are five things every guy should have in his closet?
I’ll give you 6:
1. Shirt or pullover shirt
2. Bow tie
3. Overcoat or a jacket
4. A pair of loafers or sneakers
5. A bag/backpack for all the necessary essentials
6. A fitted trouser.