Ahead of its debut catwalk event on Tuesday, we speak to Jasmin Ramadan, the creative mind behind Jumia's latest fashion line, AGU…
Two years ago (almost) to the day, Jumia took the Egyptian shopping world by storm by coming out as the first comprehensive online shopping site catering to an Egyptian clientele. Taking Egyptians' inherent love for shopping off the loud, crowded streets of Cairo (and elsewhere) and providing delivery right to the comfort of your home, the site revolutionised the way we shop, and is only set to get bigger.
Long gone are those brightly neon-lit corridors of the mall, and the stores' small claustrophobic changing rooms, with mirrors showing us what we definitely don't look like. Why shop, when you can shop online?
And now, for its second year anniversary, Jumia is going even bigger, with a huge event that will launch its newest fashion line, AGU. A brand specifically created for you, catering to your everyday needs and enabling you to be yourself: AGU is not to be missed. We speak to the incredibly talented designer herself, Jasmin Ramadan, to get the inside scoop...
How long have you been in the fashion industry?
Well, I graduated from the London College of Fashion and went straight into working in retail. I wanted to take all the steps within the industry, from the store to the back office, so I could get to know the core of fashion. So I've been in the fashion industry for about five years.
What inspires you?
Life. Of course other designers' work is the starting point, but sometimes if I'm on holiday certain things, such as a beautiful scene or colour, will inspire me. My mood is also a big factor.
Do you have any specific designers that you love or inspire you?
I know this is very cliché, but I adore Coco Chanel. I love her as a woman and what she has done as a female in general. I mean she is the reason we can wear trousers! I also love Alexander McQueen, he's both a mathematician and a designer. As you can see, I'm more into the '50s and '60s era.
How would you describe your fashion aesthetic?
At first I was more involved in couture. However, couture is a big world and without the right tailor and material I couldn't deliver what I wanted. In Egypt the commercial casual industry is untapped, so I got more involved with the casual mainstream style. as it is more appealing and easier to wear.
How did AGU start?
Everyone was surprised by me coming to Egypt, as it's the most complicated market. However, at the end of the day, women in Egypt just want to look good in the right items. 60 percent of the women here are veiled, yet there aren't any styles for them, and equally if your not veiled you have an issue with what you show. Both styles don't contradict each other, they go hand in hand. and so I decided to create a line that is 60 percent basic and 40 percent trendy to cater to both.
However my trendy is more of a London street style, so I want to introduce it bit by bit, take it slow and easy.
What is the best seller so far?
For men, the t-shirts of course. For women...they have been going crazy for kimonos this season and a short basic dress I designed with long sleeves. I showed my designs to the guys in the office and everyone around thought it wasn't going to sell because it was too short, but it's the best seller! It turns out veiled girls wear it with a pair of leggings or trousers, and I wear it without. So this is my design approach; items you can wear in various ways.
What's your favourite item of the collection?
I'm in love with the tie-dye collection. I have been blessed with the talent of forecasting, and so I know what I want and a few months later I find it in stores. This is exactly what happened with the tie-dye concept, and I predict that by next summer everything will be tie-dye here in Egypt.
What is the meaning of AGU?
I wanted the line to have a name that sounded vaguely African, and I was adamant not to include the letters p or b for pronunciation reasons. As the g sound is such a popular one here in Egypt, I was playing around with it, and it eventually lead me to AGU.
Do you source everything yourself?
I'm involved in the whole process, from the logo to the paperwork. I'd like to be this involved for the next few years as the experience is amazing and you learn so much. Especially in Egypt, where you are always delayed. I would love to try the same experience in Europe somewhere and then settle for creating my own line. My timeline is to start it by the time I'm 40.
What is the vision for the line?
We want to expand, and soon there will be accessories and shoes. I really believe in great quality and value for money, so we are taking it step by step. As the whole of Jumia, we are really trying to improve our fashion store immensely, through the blog we just launched and the production in terms of pictures, quality, banners, etc. We want to bring it up to international standards. Everyone is very excited to have the first online fashion store.
Check out the whole collection here.