In celebration of the launch of her latest collection Azza Fahmy for Preen, the jewelry guru exhibited yesterday and for the first time her new creations in the elegant la Maison Blanche at the First Mall. Azza Fahmy, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, the creators of Preen, talked to Al-Masry Al-Youm about their new collection and their collaboration together.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How did the idea came about?
Justin Thornton: We started talks with Azza Fahmy in August last year; we all met and we showed her the fabrics. Later we came to Egypt to see the prototypes and visit the factory.
Azza Fahmy: I also visited London last December to show my first sketches…the whole process was exciting and smooth.
Al-Masry: How is the foreign market reacting to the collection?
Thea Bregazzi: The collection was displayed for the first time yesterday at the first mall but it is not in stores yet abroad. We will display the collection in our showrooms in England, New York, Paris, and Tokyo.
Al-Masry: How does Azza Fahmy deal with replication?
Fahmy: My old calligraphy designs were a hit for the last 30 years; 15 years ago, other designers started using the same words but not the same designs. A friend of mine was once buying a present from Khan el-Khalili and she was told by one of the silver shop owners that Azza Fahmy saved the silver industry in Egypt as they still replicated my old designs. However, my new designs are not copied.
Al-Masry: What inspired this new collection?
Fahmy: Lace…I acquired a sample from Justin and Thea and used the same patterns on metal. The irregular carved metal later opened way to a greater flow of ideas.
Al-Masry: And what inspired the Preen new collection?
Thornton: Everything…films, music, art and current affairs; we try not to follow an existing trend and we do what we feel is right. Sometimes small unexpected accidents happen during the design process and they take the design to a totally different level…we appreciate those little accidents.
Bregazzi: We also go through hundreds of samples and sort between many prototypes…it is a backward forward process.
Al-Masry: Is it hard to be partners in life and in business?
Thornton: No, on the contrary it has worked well for us. We travel a lot and we are always together…it is nice.
Bregazzi: And on the business side, we give each other insight and help each other find the most suitable answer. As a woman I know what suits a woman’s body and that is much better than creating a design on a mannequin.
Al-Masry: It is also a family business for Azza Fahmy…was that Fatma and Amina’s choice?
Fahmy: Yes…they have been running around with me since they were little; we visited desserts, oases, workshops and exhibitions together. The business is implanted within them. For instance, Amina wanted to be a jewelry designer since she was in high school although she only had one art class. Fatma preferred the business side of it and thank god for that because this is the part I hate the most.
Al-Masry: What fabrics did you use for this collection?
Thornton: We used silk, textured and embroidered fabrics, Kashmir, French lace, shaved fur and floral silk which may feel summery but we have noticed that young English women use their summer dresses in winter matched with tights and a coat.
Bregazzi: Yes indeed the seasons are mixing up and we try not to do the obvious.
Al-Masry: How do you expect the foreign market to react to the new collection of jewelry?
Thornton: People in the UK and the US are looking for the new and they are familiar with Fahmy’s work. This last collaboration is bringing the attention back again on the brand. We expect the collection to be a success especially in the United States.
Bregazzi: The collection is trendy and any of the pieces could be paired with a little black dress for instance to give it a spark…so I believe it will be well received.
Al-Masry Al-Youm Also met with Fatma Ghaly, managing director of AzzaFahmy.
Al-Masry: What are the pros and cons of collaborating with foreign fashion houses?
Ghaly: There are no cons I believe, but one can be careful and make sure that the process is smooth for both partners.
Al-Masry: What is Azza Fahmy’s marketing strategy?
Ghaly: PR is one of our greatest tools…
Al-Masry: What are the obstacles you face in this business?
Ghaly: Expansion…there is lots of potential out there but the financial capabilities to expand are not always available.
Al-Masry: Some people believe that Azza Fahmy’s products are overpriced; what do you think?
Ghaly: I disagree. Most of our products, except for the limited edition line, is within the middle price range. Azza Fahmy is a brand that grew with the people; but the problem is that some are used to our price range 30 years ago and this is impossible since times have changed and our business is growing. We now have more stores and more employees than before.