Workshopers: Cairo’s Courses in Art, Industry & Initiative
Tanya El Kashef
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
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
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.
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.