A chat with Aya and Mounaz, the sister duo behind Egyptian label Okhtein

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Okhtein, the brand built by a powerful sister duo, Mounaz and Aya, has transformed the luxury fashion industry with iconic accessory pieces that embody their complementary and inspirational sister bond. Okhtein’s latest Spring-Summer collection, entitled “Re-connect”, reflects the valuable lessons that the series of events caused by the Covid-19 virus have taught us. In this interview, we had the opportunity to get to know Okhtein’s brand story on a deeper level and reveal the beauty, luxury, and inspiration behind their latest “Re-connect“.

By Lynn Awar

Starting your brand as two sisters is really inspiring to many women and reveals the unbreakable sister bond that inspires you both to create exceptional and fierce eye-appealing items. How would you describe this experience of starting and navigating a brand together?

It truly has been a wonderful journey. As you mentioned, it is the bond that we have that keeps us going. A sister is someone you’ve shared your life journey with, someone who knows all your secrets, someone who really understands you and is also your cheerleader. We are lucky to have each other, to keep each other going, to motivate one another, and to be on this journey together. The experience of starting a brand together has truly been amazing. When we started we were really young but always knew that the sky is the limit.

Sharing our hopes and dreams is truly what fueled us to keep going when things would get tough. Although getting to where we are today took a lot of hard work, trial and error, and even making mistakes to learn how to better ourselves, we believe there isn’t anyone else we would have loved to share this journey with. This entire journey has truly been a blessing, and we aspire to keep inspiring one another and women worldwide.

By focusing on earthy tones and shapes, the new Re-connect Spring-Summer collection reminds us to re-develop our relationship with mother nature and our planet. By doing so, these new/re-designed products also feature the importance of re-connecting with ourselves and our human roots. Would you say that the new SS21 collection is your own way of making us re-connect with everyone around us as merely humans, in times where tragedies seem to dominate our world?

Yes, it is truly during dire times that we turn to each other for support. By caring about our surroundings, mother nature, and the planet, we are in the long run caring for each other and future generations to come. By redesigning our products and mimicking the world’s wonders like the mountain of Saint Catherine, Terra which is earth and its healing powers, we were still promoting the idea of recycling, being sustainable, and using our resources in the most reasonable manner possible.
We believe that connecting with earth is something all mankind can connect to regardless of their backgrounds we are connecting with humanity worldwide.

Accessories have always been known as a way to spice up our outfits and reflect one’s personality – bold or minimalistic for example. But your new collection took this concept and transformed accessorizing into a wake-up call and a reflection of certain situations happening in our lives. How would you describe accessorizing based on your brand’s identity?

We agree that accessorizing is a means of highlighting an outfit, but to us, it is also a means of self-expression. My sister and I use our brand, its offerings, and communication messages to voice our inner thoughts, our inspirations, and even social messages that we would like to get across. To us, “OKHTEIN” is a brand with a powerful voice, which we like to use to educate our consumers on important matters. Each piece has a narrative that can be told differently depending on how and when you wear it.

Your shoot with Athiec Chol Malel for your SS21 collection is extremely creative and fits perfectly with the mission of your new collection. Can you give us a glimpse of what comes into play when planning a photoshoot that very clearly states your brand story and message, and really inspires your audience?

When planning a shoot we always make sure it represents our narrative, as we previously mentioned each piece has a story to tell that is normally in line with the other pieces of the collection. Thus, we ensure that the story of our collection is communicated through our photoshoot. The location the photoshoot takes place in is the setting, the make-up also plays an important role in telling who the characters of our story are, the movement direction is help portray our message and then our main characters, which are the pieces of the collection, are showcased and highlighted through the styling of the shoot.

When it comes to sustainable fashion, efforts and talks are usually centered around the clothing and garments industry. In your opinion why is the concern for sustainability within the accessory industry an equally important one?

Sustainability as a whole is an important matter. We believe one can be sustainable in anything, be it through recycling, using harmless chemicals, utilizing resources, or even finding alternative resources. Sustainability in the accessory industry is important since it helps preserve the environment. This can be done by avoiding the use of scarce materials, the use of eco-friendly materials in products or packaging, and anything. We believe even the slightest measures in being eco-friendly or sustainable do make a difference, and we try, when possible, to give back to the environment.

In this collection, you chose to focus on recreating and altering some of your brands’ classics instead of introducing completely new designs. This step that stemmed from the want to re-connect with your own brand could be viewed by some as a tricky path since your audience would’ve been waiting for new designs. What is your take on this? 

Yes, that’s entirely true. For this collection, we did recreate some of our older pieces. However, our approach was very well thought out. We may have altered our older designs to come up with new ones, but this collection is still considered different and full of new designs. You see, our audience perceives our pieces as art that has a narrative. Thus, no two pieces of art, no matter how identical, tell the same narrative.
This collection may have been a recreation of other designs however it tells its own story which is entirely different from all the narratives we’ve previously shared with our audience, and so we believe we did deliver new designs through offering a new narrative.
For this collection, we also studied our best sellers and changed up their colour range to suit the season since after all everything we do is consumer-centric and we try to offer our consumers everything they need and desire. OKHTEIN is a brand that listens to the market yet sticks to its identity, beliefs, and morals to offer the market the best possible end product.

Discover more about OKHTEIN, here!