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Daar Dahlia Is The Rising Egyptian Brand Challenging Fast Fashion

How one designer is creating a space for self-expression and cultural narrative in fashion

In addition to being a longstanding source of inspiration to a number of renowned fashion designers, Egypt is also home to an impressive pool of established and up-and-coming creatives. Among them stands Dahlia Meshrif, a 28-year-old designer who has channeled her diverse talents and rich heritage into Daar Dahlia, an eponymous ready-to-wear brand that champions slow fashion and celebrates individuality. 

With a background in graphic design and a passion for editorial and commercial styling, Dahlia’s journey was inspired by the high-quality surplus of Egyptian cotton and driven by a desire to counter the fast fashion epidemic. Below, we caught up with the rising designer to learn more about the story behind Daar Dahlia, her design ethos, and the challenges of building a brand from the ground up. 

Who is Dahlia, and what led you into the world of fashion design?

“Who am I?” was a big question in my early twenties. All my life, I’ve been searching for that one thing that I could identify with, but I couldn’t pin it down. Now, at 28, I’ve finally understood that it’s okay to be and do everything at once. So, I identify myself as a creative person. I graduated from Applied Sciences and Arts, majoring in graphic design. I’m also an editorial and commercial stylist, I’ve worked on award-winning short films, and I’m the founder and creative director of Daar Dahlia, a place where I can merge all my different identities and talents. I’m passionate about colors and embrace my femininity as a form of resistance. I was raised by two strong, supportive women—my mother and grandmother—who made me fall in love with fashion. I owe all my success to them.

 

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A post shared by Daar Dahlia (@daardahlia)

Can you share the story of Daar Dahlia from its inception to its current success? What inspired you to start this brand, and how has it evolved since then?

When the pandemic hit, along with the subsequent inflation, I found myself engulfed by a surge of creativity and a need to revisit my old hobbies. Despite all the horrors, COVID-19 was a much-needed pause that redirected us to connect with ourselves and focus on what’s important. Fast fashion offers the promise of affordability, but the products are often low quality. Recently, prices have increased due to unprecedented worldwide inflation. I questioned why I should pay those ever-increasing prices for such low-quality clothing when there’s a treasure of high-quality Egyptian cotton surplus material I could use to create fashion-forward, affordable pieces. I then started connecting with like-minded individuals to create a small community of people who are aware of the fast fashion scam and are focused on wearing timeless, expressive fashion.

What is the core idea or philosophy behind Daar Dahlia? What message or feeling do you hope to convey through your designs? 

The core idea behind Daar Dahlia is expressing different feelings through fabric, using high-quality surplus material. Living in big, chaotic Cairo, with its diverse cultures and mentalities, it’s easy to lose yourself and forget your identity. Sometimes, you might find yourself wearing things that aren’t you just to blend in. We often put on a jacket over a tiny tee until we reach a safe space away from prying eyes, then take it off. Daar Dahlia aims to make a statement and change how we judge each other for being different. We strive to create limited, unique pieces that are expressive, sexy, and innocent. Our goal is to celebrate being different and unique, making you stop and ask yourself how you want to express yourself through style.

 

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In what ways does Daar Dahlia distinguish itself from other Egyptian and international fashion brands?

I believe it’s the new silhouettes, shapes, and lots of fun. While these may not be new to the international fashion scene, they are definitely new to ours. I try to challenge the market. One of my lovely clients sent me a heartwarming message saying, “The designs are so bold, especially the long shorts and the skirt. I was unsure if I could pull them off because they are so bold and divisive (feedback from friends and family was split). But I decided to keep them, and I feel so bold and brave to experiment with my style and outfits, which I’ve really been enjoying.” That’s what keeps me going!

Who are some of your key fashion references or influences? How have they shaped your design aesthetic and approach to fashion?

I’m influenced by designers who are very different from each other, and it shows in my designs. I can’t stick to one kind of silhouette, at least not at the moment. I want to try everything without limiting my creative flow because whenever I do, I get stuck. My top favorite designers are Yohji Yamamoto, Gianni Versace (archived designs), Alexander McQueen, and Off-White. Although these designers are different, their stories, designs, and the messages behind them inspire me to have a bold aesthetic and not shy away from experimenting with timeless modern colors and cuts.

 

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A post shared by Daar Dahlia (@daardahlia)

Can you describe your design process? How do you go from a concept or inspiration to a finished piece?

I usually get inspired by my everyday life and situations as an Egyptian woman who wants to express her femininity in a country where it can be challenging to do so. My ultimate goal and dream are to dress however I want without worrying about what people think. This is a shared dream in our community. After sketching various ideas within the theme of the collection, we start looking for the right fabric. Choosing the right fabric is a crucial step because it plays a significant role in our collections. We work with factories that produce biodegradable fabrics like cotton, wool, and linen for big-name companies in the international fashion industry. Sometimes they overproduce or create perfect fabric with minor defects. We use this surplus material to create our unique pieces. This method only works for slow fashion because the fabric comes in limited quantities, making our stock unique for a small group of people.

What challenges have you faced in building your brand, and how have you overcome them?

One of our challenges is transforming a design we love into a different one based on the availability of dead stock material. Often, the material itself inspires the design. Initially, it was a catch-22: material first or design first? Over time, we learned to orchestrate the process by being more flexible. We made the fabric a main character in our story, giving it a voice and a say in the matter.

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