They silently and swiftly rose to notoriety as two muses putting Egyptian fashion on the global map. As they launch their bombshell brainchild, Maison Pyramide, María Sanchez and Giovanina Atieh talk building bridges, setting standards, and stepping up the entrepreneurial game.
They are the epitome of synergy; the explosive fusion of two whirlwind forces whose paths met and, much like kindred spirits, recognised each other. María Sanchez and Giovanina Atieh are two muses, two wives, two expats living in an absurdly dramatic city that is gradually drowning in clutter and trash. They are two power-women that, however, manage to craft jewels out the raucous desert dust.
“We met at a fashion event and clicked from the beginning,” says Atieh, tracing back the swift 18 months that lapsed between the second they were introduced and the moment their company, Maison Pyramide, saw the light. “I had just moved to Cairo and I was beginning to lose hope when I met her. We instantly clicked, both personality-wise and in our aspirations, the way we think, and how we envision life.”
Atieh, an established fashion buyer in the luxury retail industry, met Sanchez just as she was riding the wave of her own fashion startup, Slickr. Driven, independent and work-oriented, the influential duo found in their common strengths a natural catalyst to the inception of their new concept business; a versatile house - as their name suggests - where all things chic and bold can happen.
“We also have a similar family life, values, and social life. We’ve both been living abroad all of our lives, we travel, and are both interested in cultures and many things that are not limited to fashion at all. Together, we speak six different languages,” Sanchez says. “You find a middle ground that is very, very strong between us; this is when we decided to start a business together.”
In the first five months since its inception, Maison Pyramide has reaped the attention of both local designers and international brands – even before they launched. Their client repertoire includes some of Egypt’s most promising designer brands, such as Okhtein, Dina Shaker, Laila Wahba, and Jude Benhalim. “We are doing PR abroad, which is very important for us in order to put Egypt on the fashion map. And the way it has been growing, organically and really rapidly, encourages us to push even harder,” says Sanchez.
From consulting in collection development, to pricing, to company structure, branding, and content creation, sales and promotion, the company offers 360 degrees services related to fashion, upping standards in a nascent Egyptian fashion scene. “That’s our edge; we are very good in the region, because it is still open to emerging talent. We set up the launching pad for brands abroad, but also work the other way around,” explains Atieh, as she mentions French-based teen brand Jennyfer, who approached the duo to market them in Egypt.
"Between Maria’s network in Egypt and my network abroad, it all merged,” says Atieh. “Now we are prepping the playground, readying all the players for what we want to see coming," she continues, although she doesn't want to reveal the final mission.
And owning a pyramid can be pretty hectic, as the two power women say. “The truth is that we are not ready yet to be up to global standards, but this is what we are here for. We don’t take clients that don’t match our standards,” says Sanchez, crystallising their ever-growing vision. “The advantage is that there are very few players in Egypt, and this is why we developed as fast as we did; no one was doing what we are doing. All of our clients actually came to us, which is far more than we expected.”
There are few certainties and a stream of restless thoughts for these bold entrepreneurs, whose versatility is ingrained in the core of their brand, encapsulated in a French name that could perhaps pose more than a challenge for local brands. “It sounds strange, but this is what we are; we want to disrupt and do things differently, and the message is clear from the name," Atieh explains. "It actually took us four months to create our brand identity. We were planning for something that is versatile and can adapt and expand, just the way we are,” she elaborates, honing in on the reason they are taking their time to publicly launch their own brand. “We’re trying to take things slow so that we do it right. Maison Pyramide has the potential to become anything; the sky is literally the limit for us. We are not limiting this to an agency that represents brands, it is much bigger than that,” Sanchez adds.
Far from pitching events and mentoring sessions, the entrepreneurs started off their own way, silently building campaigns and working from one of the co-founders' homes – a testament to their hard work. “We decided to grow organically, and I think it was a smart decision because this business has a huge potential, so it would be a big mistake to bring in external capital when you really believe in the business growing fast and monetizing fast,” says Sanchez.
In the process, the journey is leading them through unexpected terrain, where accounting and legal issues are only some of the things to be learned. “Because as a small company, you might tend to end up doing everything yourself, but that is not what we want. We want each one of us to be specialised so that we don't work individually on everything, but rather like a chain. And that delivers,” Atieh says, as she recalls the French consultant they hired in order to learn how to delegate. “What we are creating is a very solid base that we can build on, because at the end of the day if you build on sand, it falls,” Sanchez concludes.
Photography and production by @MO4Network’s #MO4Fashion, and #MO4Productions
Fashion Director: Omar Fadda
Photography: Lobna Derbala
Stylist: Ahmed Nabil
MUA: Mai Ayman Abdelhamid
Location: Intercontinental Citystars