Being at the vanguard of the fashion industry in Egypt since 1989, homegrown Marie Louis has been rising steeply ever since she decided to place her feet in this extremely challenging industry. She is a true Egyptian success story –and a magnificent entrepreneur– who brought a new wave of style to the modern Egyptian woman.
Marie Louis is an inspirational role model when it comes to conscious fashion. She has established the ‘Ana El Masry’ Foundation for street children rehabilitation. The aim of the organization is to assist in rehabilitating homeless children through art, sports and vocational training. This program is a way to reintegrate them into society, and enable them to take part in the workplace. Marie Louis works on finding solutions for unemployment, while giving back to the brand.
Given that Marie Louis uses 100% Egyptian cotton, along with UNIDO, the brand works on teaching underprivileged men from Upper Egypt how to plant cotton. This way, she is both helping create more work opportunities and becoming self-sufficient in terms of resources. Marie thinks that developing artisans and underprivileged talents goes hand-in-hand with enriching the fashion industry in Egypt. “Definitely! In 2005, we started workshops in Shandaweel to work closely with women, by developing their design and embroidery skills. At this point they started working Tally on our designs, and in 2008 we launched our first collection, featuring Tally on the catwalks of the Paris Fashion Week. After that, a whole wave of young designers that specialize in Tally has followed,” she tells.
To empower women to fully participate in the economic sector and to improve the quality of life for women within the community, Marie Louis is keen on helping disadvantaged women and easing their journey. To do so, Marie Louis established an on-site nursery at the factory, to enable women to work while having their children with them at work, and to remove any barrier a mother might face.
Not only is the brand conscious about artisans and talents, but they are eco-friendly too. The factory has an on-site state-of-the-art water-treatment plant, to ensure that no hazardous chemicals pass into the city drainage system. Striving to sustain an eco-friendly brand, they recycle and absorb unused, dyed water back into the process.
The brand also offers work opportunities for women in Sohag and Assiut, where they outsource the Tally work. The aim is not only to provide them with work, but also to push them out of their comfort zone. They are provided with different fabrics and designs than what’s typical for Tally work. One of the great lines of Marie Louis that has been a success through the past few years is Marie Louis “Beauty”, a special line that targets bigger women with extra sizes.
“It was a special request from plus size women, and I started this concept right away. I believe that every woman has the right to be beautiful, to wear what she likes and to have a lot of choices,” she tells.
Confidence is what women want to feel at work, at home and walking down the street. Some women think that what she wears triggers confidence. “Inner confidence has nothing to do with what a women is wearing, clothing is just the packaging. Yes, the image is very important but it should be next to your main and inner core; value of your work, the way you talk, walk or even the way you eat,” she comments.
In 2008, the Amal Bishara School was founded and has received and educated over 600 secondary students showing an interest in craftsmanship. With a curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education, and adjusted according to industry needs, successful candidates leave the school with a certified degree, allowing them to become professional technicians. Students at the Amal Bishara School receive an hour of educational classes in addition to six hours of vocational training, specializing in various lines of production at their training center. The school aims to find solutions for unemployment, encourage students to support their families, encourage financial independence, and provide youngsters with an alternate educational system other than the governmental national system. Last but not least, the school also provides the industry with a large number of qualified professionals, ready to work at any company, not necessarily at Marie Louis.
Marie advises young designers to be conscious, awake and aware of the environment and the society they live in.
“My advice to them is to do their best in helping others, because when you provide opportunities it automatically reflects on your growth –and adds to yourself,” she concludes.