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Before the 25th of January, motorists usually splashed meaningless slogans across the windshields of their cars and people only donned nationalistic apparel when Egyptian sports teams played in international tournaments. This is not the case in post-revolution Egypt, where people are reveling in newfound (or renewed) faith and pride in their country. Today, Egyptian flags are found everywhere; on cars, shop windows, sidewalks and even tree trunks. People in the capital, and indeed elsewhere around Egypt, are wearing patriotic paraphernalia on a daily basis to keep the memory of those historic 18 days alive. Aside from inspiring the general populace, the revolution gave those seeking to create and contribute a means to do so; by allowing them to incorporate it into their designs and translate its energy and emotion into clothing, accessories and initiatives.
iloveegyptshop.com has taken the saturated touristy catch phrase made famous by the "I heart NY" franchise and customized it to suit the times and feelings of Egyptians and non-Egyptians alike. Founder Abdalla Sallam has put the phrase "I Love Egypt" on everything from baseball caps and stickers to polo shirts and sweaters, allowing customers to display their affinity for Egypt pretty much any way they like. Mr. Sallam's story about how his brand came to be incorporates aspects of the revolution that weren't quite front page news during Cairo's twenty-day reign of global media. Before the revolution, Mr. Sallam wanted to design a brand of clothing, creating a folder filled with sketches, logos and more; having no background in fashion or retail, Mr. Sallam was missing the vehicle that would take his project from an intangible stack of ideas to a fully developed brand. Enter the revolution. While Cairo was seemingly under siege by vandals and ex-cons, neighborhoods developed their own security systems by organizing patrols and checkpoints; it was here that Mr. Sallam met his neighbor who owns and runs a clothes manufacturing company. Having already uploaded photos of his brand designs, and received orders, Mr. Sallam quickly went to work realizing the contents of the "I Love Egypt" folder.
"The difference between dreams and reality is execution", quoted Mr. Sallam, and indeed what followed was the meteoric rise of a brand that can not but appeal to everyone, with its casual appeal, wearability and extremely high quality finish. When one orders a product off of the website, www.iloveegyptshop.com, a click of the mouse starts the order on a journey that ends with free delivery anywhere inside Egypt. Careful wrapping and attention to presentational detail create the aura of a well-aged, high quality brand, though it is still in its infancy. Plans for expansion are already in the works, as Mr. Sallam seeks to reach out and share the Egypt he knows and loves with the world.
For those with a colorful palette, LeMasr offers up a simple combination of plexiglass and string bracelets incorporating symbols drawn from the events leading up to the revolution . The eagle from the Egyptian flag, the cross and crescent and the old Egyptian flag can be found in bright colours like fuchsia, aquamarine and orange, but there are also colours for those with subtler taste. Zeina Hosni, much like Abdalla Sallam, has no background in fashion or accessory design, but felt the need to develop something distinctly Egyptian but not necessarily limited to Egyptians. LeMasr's story began on January 1st, following the bombing of a church in the northern seaside city of Alexandria, a time when tensions between christians and muslims running at an all-time high. Zeina sketched the symbols of both religions onto a drawing of the Egyptian eagle, or nisr, seeking to create an icon for Egyptian unity. She chose plexiglass, as opposed to silver or gold, because of the availability of vibrant colours and the endless combinations customers could create with equally colorful string, effectively allowing people to be personalize their patriotism. I Love Egypt and LeMasr were both ideas and dreams in their creators' minds, before the revolution burst into their lives and catapulted their sketches and designs into popular projects and brands. Though the revolution is no longer breaking news and Cairo has sunken beneath the rubble of its semi-collapsed infrastructure, Abdalla Sallam and Zeina Hosni are trying to highlight and share the unidentifiable 'it' factor that makes the city they call home one of the greatest cities in the world.