Founded by Egyptian designer Ahmed El Sayed and Emirati businessman Saleh Al Banna, House of Nomad is a Dubai-based fashion brand that has been making waves on the sartorial scene in the region since its creation. We sit down with the dynamic design mind behind the brand to find out more...
Created in 2014, House Of Nomad is a fashion forward brand that has been making waves across the regional fashion world for almost two years now. It was founded by Egyptian designer Ahmed El Sayed and Emirati businessman Saleh Al Banna in Dubai. The former is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design, and the latter has years of business expertise under his belt and runs a multinational family business; together they decided to start their own fashion house. Having been an avid follower of Ahmed El Sayed’s fashion blog and then his brand, I could not help but interview the man behind all the designs to find out a little more...
Tell me about yourself.
I’m originally Egyptian, however, I was born and raised in Doha. I studied in GUC (German University in Cairo) for two years, however, I didn’t like living in Egypt therefore I moved back to Doha and pursued Fashion Design at the Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduating, I started my own T-shirt design label, which I worked on for a few months. I later decided to move to Dubai and pursue a career there.
How was it being a male fashion designer and wanting to pursue fashion as a man in the Middle East? Were your parents supportive?
I don’t know really… Well my dad’s an engineer. I have a brother and sister in Germany and one of them is an engineer and my other brother is also an engineer. So my dad was like 'you’re the youngest one, do whatever you want.'
Tell me about your first fashion-related job.
It was an online fashion store (Ecommerce) Namshi.com and I was part of the content department; I did it for two and a half years.
How did you and Saleh meet and how did you guys come up with House Of Nomad?
We’ve been friends for years; we became friends ever since I moved to Dubai. Initially part of my job was to always look out for trends within the region and then in my free time I used to always sketch. Saleh runs his family business and he suggested since I have the designing expertise and background and he has great management skills, then maybe we should start the label so I could sketch and design and he would take care of managing it, so we pretty much merged.
Did you keep working at Namshi.com after you founded House Of Nomad?
At first that was the case, I was balancing both and then for a while it got a bit stressful so just decided to quit my full time job and kick-start the brand. I quit during the production of the first collection which was really good cause I was fully focused on the brand.
What’s your vision for House Of Nomad and how do you want people to perceive your brand?
Saleh is the only one I consult when it comes to taking a new direction with designs. For me, I like to differentiate one collection from the other, in the sense that it’s kind of like a journey of what we're going through depending on what we’re experiencing in our personal lives - and maybe we find inspiration that sticks with us. But for us, it’s always the modern woman and the concept of modernity. Initially, we started with sportswear that was young and vibrant and trend oriented. As we continued with designing the second collection and the third collection I decided that with my background of studying fashion, I didn’t want to be known as this designer who just releases crop tops and bombers or sweaters. There was a point where we had to say “okay let's start working on developing a full-fledged collection that offers sportswear basics (ready to wear).
The duo behind House of Nomad; Saleh Al Banna (left) and Ahmed El Sayed (right).
You started designing gowns recently…
Part of the transition of the brand was that we decided to tone down on the funkiness and Arabic calligraphy, so we decided to look at it from a ready-to-wear brand perspective. We started designing day wear and then a few pieces here and there for evening wear. So this was the turning point where we decided we have to cater to a younger market and a mature one as well.
Did you face any obstacles when you started House Of Nomad?
Every designer faces obstacles especially in the Middle East. When I read your article about the Egyptian designers going to London Fashion Week's International Fashion Showcase, I was really happy to know that people in Egypt are trying to overcome the obstacles and get international exposure. I believe that the more regional designers start coming up and the stronger their collections are, the more international exposure they’re going to get.
Are you fond of Alexander Wang? I feel like a lot of your designs are inspired by him.
I really like Alexander Wang but that’s not the case. At first we started with everything body con and fitted but I really like the boxy cut for women and it really works to our benefit around this region because of how society functions and cultural restraints, and the fact that not all women want to show a lot of skin.
Which designer inspires you the most?
I would say Lanvin. There’s something about the way they carry the brand, it can either be very hip and young or classy and beautiful. Also, I am a big, big fan of Victoria Beckham designs.
What do you think of the fashion environment here in Egypt?
I know for a fact that in terms of fashion production in Egypt, it’s not that great. The industry is flourishing but the market is not well taken care of; it’s neglected and designers face a lot of obstacles.
Do you follow any upcoming Egyptian designers? What do you think of their work?
I follow Kojak Designs by Mohanad Kojak. I like the last collection he released, Behind The Veil. I think he is unique; you can tell the difference between what he does and what other upcoming designers are executing is that he has an understanding of what he is working with. It’s not a matter of just getting the dress done; he has a clear vision for what he wants to design.
Where do you see House Of Nomad in five years?
More than just apparel - venturing out into leather goods and shoes. Ultimately, I want the brand to be luxurious basic wardrobe.
What’s your favourite time of the year in terms of fashion?
Autumn/Winter, because as a designer it is challenging to create outfits that are fully layered.
Do you think House Of Nomad will expand to Egypt anytime soon?
Slowly, but surely. We were happy that CairoScene wanted to interview us so people would know that there is an Egyptian behind the brand and that it’s possible to achieve good things in the Middle East.
You can follow them on Instagram @house_of_nomad.