Proving that a mother’s love is eternal, we sat down with the new brains behind Design Emporium, Karim Molyneux-Berry, inside his luxurious showroom at The Baehler Mansions in Zamalek. Almost the whole time, MB recounted heartwarming stories about his mom, the founder, Aziza El Tanani. Although El Tanani has departed our world earlier this year, her presence was very much apparent through the legacy she left behind.
Upon arrival, the surroundings set the mood for what’s to come next; an unfiltered conversation with MB on the balcony overlooking the buzzing streets of Zamalek right next to his office, which was decorated with dreamlike mountain designs. It made it feel like we had ventured to the Alps or wandered into a forest far away from the noise of the city. The only sound accompanying MB’s eloquent storytelling were singing birds and occasional car honks that stood in sharp contrast with the warmth of the tales he shared.
What started with trimmings and ribbons had soon transformed into an artistic hub for international brands to share their designs with the residents of Egypt, all under the careful direction of El Tanani, may her soul rest in peace. Now, with a repertoire that includes the likes of Ralph Lauren, Nina Campbell, and Christian Lacroix, Design Emporium firmly cements itself as one of the leading fabric and wallpaper houses in the country.
“We started working with Osborne and Little, and Designers Guild. In my opinion, these are the two best design houses in the United Kingdom, if not the world”, shared MB, who was born and raised in England. “Nina Campbell is a personal friend of mama and I. She opened our showroom in Dokki and she came here [in Zamalek] many times to give presentations, and as soon as COVID ends, she’ll be back here. She’s a great supporter of us.”
El Tanani did not stop at creating an empire; she elevated the industry’s ethical code. Back in the 90s, she fought tirelessly to maintain standards by forcing textile companies to produce under licence by charging them royalties for the designs that they had copied. “I can look back at her and know that she was a good person”, added MB, who was inspired by her bold actions and followed in her footsteps.
What does the future hold for Design Emporium? MB set his aims high and plans to take on complete projects and provide fabric and wallpaper that can furnish, say, an entire floor at an upscale hotel. “With the amazing foundation that she’s set up, if I was starting from zero now, it would be impossible, but I’m starting in a Lamborghini going 120 KM/H already.”