Cairo-based jeweler Azza Fahmy is planning an upscaling and international expansion drive — including an eventual push into the U.S. — following an investment from Bidayat, a subsidiary of the Alsara Investment Group founded by Mayhoola for Investments chief executive officer Rachid Mohamed Rachid.
Sold in about 24 boutiques and shops-in-shop across the Middle East and in London, Azza Fahmy plans to open two flagships in the first half of 2023, amid a brighter spotlight on all things Egyptian.
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“We are excited to be able to show off our culture,” said Fatma Ghaly, CEO of the firm, which was founded by her mother Azza Fahmy, a pioneer who broke into the male-dominated Egyptian jewelry sector in the late ’60s and brought storytelling and cultural depth to her métier. She often researched and collaborated with historians and academics for years before completing certain collections.
The Grand Egyptian Museum is slated to open in Giza in 2023, capping off centenary celebrations in 2022 for the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and the hit “Hieroglyphs” exhibition running at the British Museum until Feb. 19. More imminently, the pyramids of Giza will be in the fashion spotlight on Dec. 3 when Kim Jones and Dior decamp to Egypt to parade the men’s pre-fall collection.
In a Zoom interview, Ghaly said the female-led family firm has been approached by potential investors over the years but they listened intently to Bidayat’s proposal given Rachid’s extensive experience in the fashion and luxury sectors and the digital, distribution and brand-building expertise that comes along with its new business partner.
As CEO of Mayhoola for Investment, Rachid has a bird’s-eye view of its main luxury holdings, Valentino and Balmain, at which he holds the title of chairman, plus the Turkish retailer Beymen. An active investor in luxury companies, Rachid is chairman and founder of Bidayat and Alsara International Investment Group, whose holdings include the Okhtein, Adorisa, Akoni and KhrisJoy brands. Earlier in his career he served as Egypt’s minister of trade, industry and investment, and an executive at Unilever.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Ghaly described a capital increase in the company via the issuance of new shares, giving Bidayat a significant minority stake.
She declined to share revenue figures, but said the firm counts about 300 employees. Azza Fahmy also operates a fast-growing contemporary jewelry design school in Cairo and a foundation dedicated to handicraft preservation and vocational training.
Retail prices on its e-store start at about 210 euros for a sterling silver hoop earrings and run up to 22,550 euros for its cabochon Snake necklace made with a variety of precious stones.
In an interview, Rachid told WWD the plan is to upgrade the brand’s positioning and pricing in order to participate more in the “booming” fine jewelry sector, which has a global resonance.
He said the plan is to add about five to six new locations a year, focusing initially on the Middle East and southern European countries including France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey. He described “serious potential” to unlock in these regions before it turns to America, the rest of Europe and later, China.
Rachid described the founding designer as a “true artist” whose knowledge of Egypt’s history, Islamic culture and European influences brings depth to the company’s jewelry. Fahmy’s title is creative director, while her other daughter Amina Ghali serves as head designer.
“Egypt has a lot to offer in terms of culture, art and history. When we are talking about creativity, these are elements that have a lot of impact,” Rachid said.
He lauded the company’s design and production capabilities, which will be reinforced as the brand is marched upscale, but the lion’s share of investments will go to retail development, as well as communications and marketing activities.
Bidayat, which has offices in Milan, has assembled a clutch of experts in e-commerce, merchandising, supply chain and communications to help the brands it invests go global, Rachid noted.
According to Bidayat’s website, it invests anywhere from $500,000 to $10 million in early-stage and growth companies across fashion, accessories, jewelry, beauty and wellness.
Scarabs, feathers, stars and architectural motifs feature in Azza Fahmy jewelry, which women prize for the cultural references, meaning and symbolism, according to Ghaly.
Among famous women to have worn Azza Fahmy jewelry are Julia Roberts, Rihanna, Amy Adams and Naomi Campbell, according to the brand.
Sold throughout Egypt, as well as in Dubai, Qatar and Jordan, Azza Fahmy jewelry opened a London boutique in 2018 and a five-month pop-up at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, California, in 2019.
Ghaly noted that 30 percent of its online sales are generated in the U.S.