DEDI Green Gate participants meet once more in Cairo to explore traditional crafts, community engagement and upscaling social enterprises.
By Rowan El Shimi
By Rowan El Shimi
Twenty-three Egyptian and Danish, mostly women, walk through the Khayameyya market in Old Cairo. They are headed to visit the workshop of Hani Fattah, a third-generation craftsman who works with the traditional tentmaking stitching technique, that dates back to Pharaonic times.
“It was so nice to see that craft that close and see how happy he was about doing it, showing it and his pride in it. It was really something,” says Copenhagen-based textile designer Josefine Enevold who often works with Nordic discarded handwoven fabrics that end up in flea markets. “This tentmaking technique is a super good way of reusing small pieces of fabric. Just to combine the reuse with the traditional technique then you can really tell a story.”
Josefine Enevold and the rest of the group are on the second international workshop of the third round of DEDI Green Gate project, which brings together designers, entrepreneurs, students, and professionals working in the sustainable fashion industry to explore the field in each respective country, learn from each other as well as from industry experts. The first international workshop took place in Denmark in August.
The participants had earlier in the day visited the Egyptian Clothing Bank’s Almah Project, that creates new pieces from some of the donated clothes and fabrics that cannot be redistributed directly. Fellow participant and Almah’s Creative Director, Youssre Abdelqader, had taken the participants on a tour of Almah and then they had sat and tried to create their own Khayameyya pieces. The mixture of trying the technique for themselves then experiencing its history within its context gave them a deeper understanding of its potential.
An important aspect of DEDI Green Gate is for the participants to have ample time for dialogue and networking – as peer-to-peer learning is a valuable pillar in the design of the program.
“DEDI Green Gate is like a bridge, and someone told you we can use this bridge to connect you with people just like you in some aspects on the other side,” says Bassant Maximus, a Cairo-based designer and content maker focused on thrifting and sustainable fashion.
For designer Sally Bjerre Gaarde, staying in contact with the network she created from DEDI Green Gate is very important. “Taking the time just to sit and speak with each other about our challenges and successes in our own practice is super encouraging and inspiring. It’s also about creating a community that we can work with in the future,” she says.
The participants spent the rest of the workshop visiting workshops such as Button Up, social enterprise who work with underprivileged women and youth to produce products for the general market but also working business-to-business, where they got to also sit on the machines and try out their techniques.
A very special visit during the workshop was to Green Fashion in Menoufia governate in Egypt’s Delta. Founded by one of the DEDI Green Gate participants Hadeer Shalaby, the enterprise has provided 200 jobs for women in a rural village to create unique pieces using waste materials from nearby factories.
After a tour through their workshop, and a fun photoshoot where each participant got to try on their favourite piece from the showroom, the participants got to make their own pouches using the same techniques Green Fashion use day-to-day. The day ended with a local lunch at Hadeer’s family farmhouse where participants got a chance to not only try to delicious countryside food, but also get a glimpse of life in Egyptian villages.
“The workshop in Egypt was much more hands on – all the workshop places, everywhere we went, people work with their hands,” Josefine Envold says. “But in Denmark it was more about technology, and you need both aspects in design. But for me it was so special to see that people in Egypt still have connection with the material while back in Denmark a lot of people are just outsourcing.”
For Bassant Maximus, the visits inspired her to consider scaling up her own business. “When you see all of these very successful young people initiating social enterprises, working B2B, is just so mesmerizing that when you have a group of people working on the same goal they actually want to achieve, with time and hard work, it eventually happens,” she says. “It’s really nice to see these examples with people who share the same values I have where it’s not just about creating a huge business, but you have the society and the environment in mind.”
And with that, DEDI Green Gate 2023, came to a close, with the participants taking home their inspiration from how the different enterprises visited in Egypt put local communities at the heart of what they do and how slow fashion and hand-made pieces can have not just an environmental, but economic and social impact as well.
This project was managed by Sustainability Program Manager Rana Khamis, Project Officer Yousra Fouda and consultant Sonja Katharina Zipelius.