Instagram @zakeia.store

At Grazia we’re always looking to spotlight regional designers who embed sustainability into their practice, such as Zakeia. Zakeia is a slow-fashion brand founded by the designer, Sara Saad. Saad’s practice includes upcycling deadstock fabrics sourced from courtiers in Paris to create her garments. Her high quality collections are designed and produced with care at her atelier in Cairo. We sat down with Sara Saad to talk to her more about her Zakeia, her process, and what slow fashion means to her.

Instagram @zakeia.store

For starters, when did you take an interest in slow fashion, and how did you decide it would be the direction you would pursue with Zakeia?

I am an introverted person, and I feel I express myself through my clothes and the way I dress. When I used to shop at fast fashion brands, I would go crazy that everyone would be wearing the exact thing I was wearing.

Hence, whilst starting Zakeia in March 2021 I knew that I wanted to make something the opposite of that. I wanted to create unique limited pieces that you would wear and know that only a few people in the world would be wearing the same item. We make on average three items per piece and have a variety of one-of-a-kind items.

Another factor is waste. I grew up in Egypt, and plastic waste is surrounding you everywhere. The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world, and I did not want to add to that. On the contrary, I wanted to tackle the waste issue with Zakeia, by using luxury and haute couture deadstock fabric. The mix of creating unique limited-edition pieces whilst being environmentally conscious directed Zakeia’s direction into being a slow fashion brand.

You design your womenswear in a polished, feminine style and are skilled at balancing playfulness with refined aesthetics in your collections. Would you mind telling us a bit about the Zakeia style in your own words?

Thank you! Zakeia has a vintage inspiration to it, with a modern, feminine twist. It is easy to wear and timeless in design, however the pieces are designed to make you look twice. I try to create items that you can easily dress up or down to maximize the wear, most importantly, items that you would pass down to your children and would be still in style.

How do you hope to make your customers feel while wearing your designs?

I hope that they can express their unique voice through my clothes. Their point of view and how they want to be perceived. Our clients are all different and have a different sense of style, and we want to celebrate that.

Instagram @zakeia.store

One of the aspects I find most compelling about your work is how you maintain an identifiable style while using discharged fabrics for each collection. How much of your fabric selection is methodological, and how much of it is spontaneous and based on whatever is available?

We can say that it is 90% spontaneous and 10% methodological. It, of course, all depends on what is available, and the selection is limited. However, I know I need to be buying wool and cashmere fabric for Winter, but when I find it is spontaneous. I check with my suppliers regularly, and whenever I see something cool that inspires me, I buy it instantly, and then the design comes at a later stage.

Does the available material ever inspire or inform the designs in your collection? If not, then where does the inspiration for each collection typically come from for Zakeia apparel?

The inspiration always comes from the fabric. If I design first, I most likely won’t find the material fitting the design because of the limitations. I buy the fabric, and based on that, I design. A lot of times we repeat the designs, like our Mika dress last Summer, we made it in about ten different fabric designs, and we made a long sleeve version of it for the Winter.

Instagram @zakeia.store

What do you feel is the biggest misconception, if any, about slow fashion?

Right now, the challenge is raising awareness about slow fashion and explaining what it is. Few people associate slow fashion with higher quality, which is the actual point of slow fashion—taking the time to do the needed iterations, to get the perfect fit and finishing and putting all of the focus on quality.

What do you wish more people understood about slow fashion?

That it is not on-demand, we live in a time where everything is on-demand, you place an order, and the next day it is delivered. Slow fashion takes time. Everything is made to order. We tailor the item based on your size, and we have emails coming in asking if we can shorten a dress, make it longer. Lengthen the sleeves, etc. We encourage our customers to send us their height and measurements, so they do not have to alter the items when they receive them. Even if alterations are needed, we make those alterations free of charge for Cairo customers. All this takes time. We can’t make a next-day delivery, which is the point. This requires some educating from our side, but customers appreciate that.

thoughts?