Bassant Maximus is an influential fashion designer who manages a Cairo-based fashion brand called BelTafseel. She’s also the amazing woman behind The Washed Out Label, where people can shop for recycled and hand-picked upcycled thrift items that are made by Bassant Maximus herself! Alongside teaching online fashion design courses, Bassant Maximus has a large social media community who love and follow her for her fashion videos and outgoing personality! Bassant Maximus, the 28-year-old professional fashion designer loves arts and crafts, her cat, and advocating for sustainable and affordable thrifting in Cairo!
We sat down with Bassant Maximus to know more about her story!
How did your love for fashion design start?
This is probably a cliche story, but it started when I was young, and I played with scraps of fabrics that my mom used to ask the tailor for. I would make dresses for my dolls. Then, my uncle taught me how to hand stitch. I juggled between other crafts, like accessories, when I was a teenager. I learned to use the sewing machine probably at 14 years old, though I didn’t learn design until college.
How do you bring your vision to life when it comes to your designs?
When I work for a client, I prioritize their comfort first. Then, I think about how to make that comfort aesthetically pleasing, modern, and timeless. However, when I design something that’s in my direction, my top priority is to make something sustainable design-wise. It’s not just a fading trend or something you’d get bored of by the end of the season.
“I want my pieces to stay in the family for generations, yet look cool and hip.”
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
I think inspiration is everywhere. I’ve been inspired by weird things, like the intersections in a cucumber once! I find beauty in graphic shapes, traditional crafts, and other style aesthetics.
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“If I recycle a piece that’s giving me a 70s vibe, then I make sure it’s screaming 70s when it’s finished!”
How do you want women to feel when they wear your designs?
I just want them to feel like themselves. In the world we live in, I believe it’s important to stop telling women how to feel. I feel best when I’m free to express myself through style. That’s why I adjust my designs to make women more comfortable in their skin, because people will probably forget how the bride looked like but she’ll never forget how she felt wearing it.
Tell us about the Washed Out Label and your reason behind it
I started flipping when I was young. It was back when there were a lot of myths around it, like that they were “stolen clothes” and that that’s why they’re so cheap. But, I just fell in love with it the more I got better at it! As a fashion enthusiast, it’s a euphoric moment when you get to see pure silk for the first time or find a very rare Agora top. My senses got used to way better quality materials than the shops I used to shop at. I wouldn’t have been able to afford a silk dress even if there were any!
When I started my Youtube channel, I would make sewing videos but very few people were watching. So I had the idea of doing thrift haul videos and my channel blew up! Later, I introduced the upcycling videos and in 2021, I started doing piece by piece items through The Washed Out Label.
“I want people to literally take fashion slow.”
I want to build an emotional connection to the clothing item; if you buy a jacket that was handpicked by someone and flipped into a more unique design, that piece has a story. Someone put their love into it, making it a one-of-a-kind piece that is definitely not something you can just replace next season.
What are some of the challenges you faced throughout your fashion design journey? And how did you overcome them?
Fashion design is a luxury service. Unless you grew up in a community that uses that service, it’s most likely that you won’t get support if you become a fashion designer. My biggest challenge was finding clients that can and are willing to pay to get your design service. It also makes the fashion industry a very niche one, with very few spots for people who can manage to find the right connections and overcome the financial struggle.
It wasn’t easy at first but I marketed myself through every opportunity. I existed massively on social media, and I got the help of very talented people to help me shoot my work professionally. Slowly, I gained people’s trust and I’ll never forget the complete strangers that gave me a chance by being my first ever paying clients.
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I also worked on fulfilling a very empty spot on the market: simple and light wedding dresses. Designers usually refused to make them because they’re not “bridal enough”. Now I am very content with gaining my client base and I look forward to expanding!
Being outspoken must be challenging for any woman. What do you face in regards to that and how do you overcome it?
People love successful women as long as they’re pretty and silent. But once you have an opinion there will always be backlash just for speaking up. It probably affects my business, and even my mental health sometimes.
But thinking of my ability to show young women love and solidarity by telling them I understand is rewarding enough.
The messages I receive from young girls saying I gave them hope are more than enough. The fact that I, a fashion designer, am getting asked in an interview about my opinions and challenges instead of what color women should wear this season or how to look pretty is rewarding enough. It is proof that we can change how society sees women.
What’s your favorite piece or collection you’ve created so far?
From the wedding collections, in my legacy collection, I designed the fabric of this butterfly dress with a very talented graphic designer. I love how simple the design was and how graceful the fabric looked. From my upcycled stuff, my favorite is probably the cropped red leather jacket; it was one of my first pieces and it’s a really memorable one.
What are your future goals?
I want to grow The Washed Out Label locally and globally. I would also like to see editorial shoots in magazines featuring the pieces, in an attempt to try more environmentally-friendly fashion statements. And who knows? Maybe a shop where people can get to choose the pieces and the design they want them to be turned into. For my bridal line, I would like to work on a more accessible, ready-to-wear bridal line.