5 websites that put Arab designers on the international map

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Arab designers got talent, and now it’s time for the whole world to know.

A few entrepreneurs have taken it upon themselves to bring to light Arab contemporary designs, and, more importantly to enable people from all around the world to buy curated art, clothing, furniture, and accessories from independent Arab designers.

Here are five websites you shouldn’t miss.

MySouk is a simple but slick website selling Lebanese clothing, jewelry, art, furniture, accessories, and decorations. Orders have doubled since its launch in the summer of 2013, says cofounder Ghassan Mabsout. Even though their marketing efforts were solely aimed at Lebanon, 45% of the orders are from the rest of the MENA region, and 15% outside the region, mainly in the U.S., Canada, France, UK, Spain, and Singapore. International clients seem to be mostly Lebanese expats.

The company plans to expand its marketing efforts to the MENA region when the time is right.

Kahenas is a website with a small but finely curated selection of affordable art, fashion, and home decor. The founders reached out on social media in March 2013 and launched an e-shop six months later. They started shipping worldwide in September 2014.

They currently feature 25 Moroccan artists & brands, and add three new brands every month. In the long run, they hope to welcome brands and artists from across the MENA region and Africa.

Even though the company is targeting a worldwide audience, most clients have strong ties to Morocco. About 65% of the company’s orders come from outside the MENA region.

The company’s main struggle is to “stabilize and convert our supporters into customers,” shared founder Charaf El Mansouri to Wamda. To get their community more involved, reach out to new clients, and raise funds, the company is crowdfunding pop-up shops. After a successful experiences in Marrakesh, Bouznika and Paris, they’re now crowdfunding their way to New York. You can back the project on IndieGogo.

Style Treasure has been around for more than five years now. They started with 8 designers, and now sell affordable clothing, accessories, and home items of more than 200 designers, mostly from Egypt and the Middle East.

“We wanted to show the world that Egypt and the Arab world have very special brands that can compete internationally, if presented properly,” explains cofounder Mona Afifi. Fifteen percent of their orders are placed in the U.K. and the U.S. 

AlHoush is a website launched in April 2012 that sells works of art from the Middle East and North Africa to a worldwide audience. The website currently features more than 4,000 pieces. Sixty percent of their orders are placed in the US, Germany, and the UK. According to its cofounder Ehab Shanti, their revenues are in the six figures, and profitability will be reached within two to three years.

Still, Shanti hints at more. “We will be announcing major changes to this model this year,” he said.

Mooda was created in December 2012 by Diwanee, the company behind Arabic magazines Yasmina.com, and 3a2ilati. The creation of a media company, Mooda offers a selection of women’s fashion from Middle East designers, as well as fashion tips and articles. 

Following the success of their mother company, they claim to be the leading online retailer for talented designers from the region, with a focus on upscale women’s  fashion. “We started with 20 designers and until now, up to 60 designers have joined our family,” explained Diwanee’s Souad Trad. “In addition, Mooda's audience today is more than 2.5 million views, with more than 100,000 followers on its social media platforms.” 

Their target audience lives in GCC countries but 30% of their orders come from outside of the Arab world, mostly France, Germany and the US. “We didn’t make anything in particular [to attract this international audience], but people are strongly attracted by Arab designers and their unique styles,” Trad told Wamda.

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