Dina Naguib is a designer extraordinaire, whose creative mind has brought us brilliant brands such as EHEM and Shibshibi. Through EHEM, Dina creates experimental, conceptual functional art; who can say no to one-of-a-kind artsy furniture pieces? She started out as an Art Director in advertising. Yet here she is now, producing art and inspiring many to follow their dreams. We speak to Dina about her work, women empowerment and much more.
Tell us about how EHEM started.
EHEM officially launched early 2016. I wanted to launch something that reaches out to customers who will know that when buying EHEM, they will have a product that had its time-in-the-making, is truly only theirs, and there is someone out there with a strong bond with it. It’s not mass. It’s personal.
The name ‘Ehem’: meaning ‘Ehem’ a throat clearing sound, often to sarcastically mean something, started off as joke, but quickly stuck around. I wanted a name not limited to a specific genre of design. Something that says: Expect Anything!
Did your family support the idea or did they try to convince you to pursue a more “traditional” goal?
My family was very supportive of the idea. I was free to be who and how I wanted to be.
Creating conceptual art that is also functional as furniture, did you find yourself in a male-dominated arena? If so, how did you deal with that?
By not conforming to a particular standard in order to be taken seriously or treated equally.
How can entrepreneurs such as yourself help impoverished women in Egypt? Are there female artisans who can perform such work?
I think the best way to help is by giving impoverished people demand for equality. And by giving them the opportunity determined by their individual interests and skills – not their gender, or class. It is about giving the female artisans the ability and freedom to choose to do whatever they want to do.
Women in Egypt are many times expected to listen to society’s dictations regarding their lives and work. How do you believe we can collectively combat that?
We breathe society’s misogynistic air. Boys and girls were essentially the same; it was just society that turned us into “boys” and “girls”. We are all fighting the same fight, the fight for equality and respect, and there is no one way to fight it.
It is not a gender issue; it is a humanity issue. We need men and women who are loud and proud feminists. Not all women are feminists by virtue of having ovaries. Both conscious and unconscious gender bias is still within the society. Men and women need to have equal place at home, at work, at life.
Tell us about your journey with EHEM on the international level and the feedback of the countries you showcased in.
I was invited to display in Dubai Design Week a few months after I launched. It was great being part of the exhibition and the feedback was great. I also showcased my pieces in a boutique in Paris.
What are your future plans for EHEM?
Most Egyptian women have had to answer the question “Hanefra7 Biki Emta” before in reference to marriage, despite any accomplishments they may have already made, what would you say in response to that question?
Ehem… howa ana lesa mafarahtekomsh? Oh, distant acquaintance, I’m so glad we’re close enough that you feel like you know what I need in my life. Let me assure you that my relationship status is not even close to the most interesting thing about me. I’ll get married when (and if) I want to. I’m pulling the whole spinster chic really well.