Refined Ancient Artistry

Minimalism, florals, black, and bold; the trends for Spring spread like a technicolor dream coat over the style spectrum, but there is want for sophistication. Forget the choker or the biker jacket – the finishing touch you need to step up your style is a bag like no other. Like the incomparable bond between sisters, Okhtein is the bond between your perfect outfit and the perfect bag. The two designers behind the brand, Aya and Mounaz Abdelraouf, are the sisters bringing Egyptian craftsmanship to the fashion world through their unique handbag designs. With decadent, metallic details atop luxurious leather purses, Okhtein will have you feeling like Nefertiti, even in your simplest jeans and tee.

“We like to set our own trends, and we definitely like to continue modernizing our Islamic heritage into wearable, carry-able art,” say the sisters, and it is evident that they have achieved that. The ingenious mixing of materials – leather, faux fur, suede, and metal – create a tactile experience unlike any treasure, but the artistry is clearly reminiscent of ancient textiles. The delicate touches that elevate the bags from simple carry-alls to collectible pieces of art are minute, but the devil is in the details, after all.

Take, for example, one of their more subdued pieces – the Mini bags. At first glance, this line features variations of a theme – small handbags with metal handles and straps for a cross-body option. But, upon closer examination, one finds that not a single one of these bags is actually the same, aside from the rich color selection. There is a hunter green option with a suede body and genuine leather upper, gold-plated circular studs on the closure strap, and gold-plated pins at the handle and along the closure. Then, there is another option of the same color, but instead, the body is made of textured leather with a suede flap and black suede closure strap with nickel-plated studs and pins. One of the black variations has a faux-fur upper and nickel-plated hardware, and another has an all black leather and gold-plated hardware.

For an equally intricate piece with more flash, there are the stunning, Paisley Hammered brass and silver bags. These are not meant for the faint of heart or the meek of fashion. These bags, clad entirely in polished metal, will certainly catch light and attention from all angles. As the name suggests, the polished metal ripples with expertly hammered, floral scrolls evocative of the climbing gardens of Babylon. Ironically, these bags, though certainly statement-making, could become the most versatile piece in your closet. Whether you tend towards the rocker-chick look with skinny jeans, vintage tees, and boots, or if you are the more buttoned-up, tapered-waist, power-suit type, these bags will add the perfect accent. With a variety of shapes and sizes, too, the hammered bags can just as easily take you from day to night, and from running errands to running the dance floor.

Statement jewelry, statement shoes, statement handbags… Making a statement with your accessories is nothing new. But, these bags have something different that at first cannot be divined. This intangible essence that sets the entire brand apart from other statement-making accessories is the history of Egyptian artistry. “[The bags] actually come with the history, which Egypt holds,” reveal the sisters. “Our aim, is to bring back the artistry in a much more refined manner. It also helps with sharing our story, as each bag is really made with love.” Even the bags that come in the color of the moment, “Instagram pink,” resist falling into the trend trap with exquisite details that punctuate the sharp shapes.

If carrying a purse that is a piece of Egyptian history isn’t quite enough for you, the bags are available to only an exclusive selection of brick and mortar retailers. They recently expanded to Curve, in the United States, and are only available at select retailers in the UK, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The Abdelraouf sisters say that they are currently most popular in the Middle Eastern-North African markets right now, so each bag you get your hands on is truly out of this (Western) world.

Text by Leah Tassinari