Fustany's secret Egyptian fashion sauce

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The power of a female-led community is highly under-estimated, says Fustany founder Amira Azzouz.

“Women have a power of conviction to recommend, sell and back any topic to the best of their abilities,”Azzouz told Wamda.

It’s on the back of that authority and trust which she has built Fustany, an online fashion news site that launched in 2009.

We started as a directory for fashion designers and boutiques, but then switched the concept to be more tailored towards modern women’s needs to what Fustany is today … [evolving] into a community-based section called ‘ask Fustany’ that allows users to post questions to receive answers from fellow women,” Azzouz said.

We aim to empower women to give themselves the needed time and attention, through the little things, and when doing so it starts one by one reflecting positively on them and hence everything they do.”

Tapping the ‘woman’ market

According to Payfort, Middle Eastern women are powering the online shopping sector in this region.

About 60 percent of Fustany’s 2.5 million monthly users on Fustany (which means ‘my dress’ in Arabic) are between 25-35 years, and split between an English site and the rapidly growing Arabic version.

Amira Azzouz. (Image via Fustany)

Azzouz attributes that to two factors: there’s a lack of original women-targeted Arabic content online, and a supportive community that provides original and practical advice - as opposed to the seemingly aloof fashion focused magazines.

“It is not about the words but more about the spirit behind the words,” Azzouz said. “The number of women receiving all sorts of advice from other women on matters like birth control, skin care and even career choices make the fashion related section and suggestions a walk in the park for them.”

Online forums - including those run by and for women - can be notorious for harassment, nastiness and spam. Fustany has a team of community managers who enforce the company’s posting rules.

Egyptian women are becoming more self-aware, confident and interestingly, more daring to explore more fashion options. Azzouz said women were trying out trends that would have been risqué ten years ago.

Getting down to business

The business was bootstrapped until 2012, when Fustany gained its first investor, and is profitable thanks to revenues from online advertising, ad-based shopping suggestions, and a new (and still under wraps) project with a different revenue model. It’s from this position that Azzouz is beginning her search this year for new investors.

“I started it on my own and wanted to continue developing it on my own until I see it through,” Azzouz said, explaining why she’d waited for the business to turn a profit before seeking new investment - a position we’ve often seen women entrepreneurs in the region take.

“We are about to add another twist to the business offerings by the end of 2017 so now is the perfect time to lock down investment.”

With a team of 11 women and one man, Azzouz focuses on getting the right content, the right ad suggestion platform and the right publicity and marketing in before introducing her latest product which she insists to keep it on a “hush-hush” level until its release in Q4 of 2017.

Azzouz is adamant about protecting and building on the company’s secret sauce: the fact that Arab women are becoming more and more reliant on the internet as their go-to source forfashion, instead of endless fruitless shopping sprees at the mall.

“When a woman gets advice from someone who has been in her shoes, literally and figuratively, it is a quality seal like no other.”

Feature image via Wikimedia Commons.

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