Business partners and what seem like comfortable old friends, Sandra Abdallah and May Tawakol, had an idea and stemming from that idea came endless possibilities. There is an obvious void in the Egyptian market as a whole, they explained; it lacks in competition, something that undoubtedly pushes local standards up; and the concept to continually learn is almost non-existent though, as Abdallah reminds us, “knowledge is power”. Seeing an opportunity to promote focused, applicable-to-real-life learning, in a short period of time, the duo launched ‘Workshopers’.
Handling the PR and Marketing is Soraya Shawky and her on going challenge would be to convince the ever stubborn and unchanging Egyptian that evolving is healthy; learning something new is always possible and that stepping outside of your comfort zone is usually rewarding. At least this is what the project hopes to suggest.
Spelled with a single ‘P’ on purpose, the choice of spelling signifies actively doing something, in this case a workshop; it is meant to express craftsmanship and not inaccurately associate itself with the word ‘shopper’. The purpose behind these workshops is to take an industry, or a specific profession, and offer participants the chance to be educated on it – and be able to carry it out – in a limited time. The two to three day workshops are hosted by a carefully selected professional from within the field and are comprehensive.
The courses, which are certified, teach using the real world and reference the industry’s actual workings. This means that the content is not simply out of a textbook or study guide, but drawn from direct work experiences and cover what truly matters – the information presented is what the industry actually offers, both the good and the bad.
The first workshop, ‘Starting Your Own Fashion Label’ took place the weekend of the 23rd of February 2012 at the JW Marriot and cost 4500LE; it ran for three days from 9am-5pm. The lecture, or comprehensive course, was available to anyone – no prior education or experience needed – and covered all the basics of starting up your own fashion line; the advantages and disadvantages of being your own boss, business structure and plan, the process of designing and sampling a collection, sourcing fabrics, marketing, promotion and all else the indistry entails. More importantly, however, is the manner in which these basics were conveyed.
The speaker of this workshop was Toby Meadows; author of the bestselling book ‘How to Set Up and Run a Fashion Label’ – expect the second edition out later this year. Meadows, a young Englishman, shabby chic in style, slowly found his passion for fashion consultancy and eventual love for speaking to a room full of people from his years of working at the London College of Fashion.
Having helped establish Belle & Bunty and other small fashion businesses, Meadows seems to have an affiliation for the underdog – detecting potential for growth. His interest in the Middle East as emerging economies is no different; he sees these markets as “starved of local brands” yet globally influential, and are therefore full of opportunity.
Meadows describes his “professional development course” as something malleable and changeable, depending on its students. He acknowledges each attendee’s differences in thought and practicality, it is in those unique instances that his class develops and is directed; as he says “every student brings something" and by engaging his students, the class takes on its form.
An ideal location for these workshops, the JW Marriot is peaceful and well equipped. The class was a cosy size of seven students, each with their own chair and table space complete with a bottle of water, notepad and pen and a plate of sweets. At first glance, seven seemed like a small number, but in fact the intimacy of the class only added to the atmosphere. The all-girls group was eager and interested; and that is the beauty of classes like these – everyone is there because they truly want to be.
The class time flowed nicely with constant discussions going back and forth between everyone in the room; Meadows’ teaching was charming and friendly and his case-studies were enjoyably relatable. Spending three full eight-hour working days in this context, the group seemed to have come out rejuvenated and inspired.
Speaking to a few of the participants afterwards, the feedback was promising with words like ‘amazing’ and ‘perfect’ going around. The general consensus seemed to be that the course highlighted what is fundamentally required in order to succeed in the fashion business and that Toby Meadows was a hit.
After pulling off their first attempt at hosting a workshop, would either of the ‘Workshopers’ creators do anything different? The answer is no. Abdalla described it as “flawless" and on another positive note, Tawakol mentioned how pleasantly surprised she was to find that there are still Egyptians out there who are interested in acquiring a skill and would take the initiative to do so. This is ultimately what their project is about – facilitating knowledge and as a result, inspiration. It seems in their first attempt, they have succeeded.
The second workshop, ‘Start You Own Restaurant’ with Howard Cannon, starts April 28th 2012 at JW Marriot.
To follow their updates and coming workshops, visit their Facebook page.