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Lamia Rady, the Egyptian fashion designer sewing masks to help hospital healthcare workers

While Egypt experiences a shortage of protective masks against the coronavirus, much like France, the fashion industry has surprisingly jumped in to address the issue through several initiatives. Among them is young Egyptian designer Lamia Rady’s efforts to sew masks and distribute them to hospital staff.

Lamia Rady always loved fashion. She studied visual arts at the American University in Cairo and right after her graduation, joined the university’s fashion club where she became a stylist for various fashion magazines such as Vitrina. Assistant stylist for Marie Claire Arabia in 2019, she has also participated in Paris and London fashion weeks and launched her own brand: Rigash, a contemporary and conceptual line inspired by the body.

The masks she crafts are entirely made of cotton, fitted with elastic ear loops, and pockets to house disposable filters. Although they do not comply with N95 standards, which guarantee protection from coronavirus for those who wear them, they reduce the risk of contamination, the same way surgical masks do.

How did you break into the world of fashion?

I grew up in an artistic family, with fashion magazines, music and art. My dad is an interior designer and my older sister is a visual artist and fashion photographer. But my interest in fashion began by the age of 13, that’s when I first started sewing. I’m self-taught so I’d go buy fabric and experiment with draping. I was always inspired and encouraged by my parents to pursue this path. I would also sew clothes for friends, take them shopping or even offer them a wardrobe makeover. My interest in styling grew then. Around that time I created my brand ‘Rigash.’

How did you have the idea of sewing masks?

Honestly I was thinking of ways to help out my community with the coronavirus pandemic and I saw other international brands creating them for hospitals in their area. So I grabbed my machine and I started sewing. I’m quarantined at home so I make them myself and I truly believe that it’s my duty to help my community in any way I can.

How many have you been sewing so far and how do you send them to hospitals?

I started sewing on march 22nd and I make around 15 masks per day. I’m planning to make them until the demand is fulfilled. I send them over with an uber as I’m quarantined at home.

What is the role of fashion according to you?

I think fashion is wearable art. It’s the skin you choose to wear every day. You get to express yourself in so many ways as well as getting inspired by other styles, shapes and silhouettes that define your body.

According to you, how could this industry become more ethical and fair in today’s world?

I think fast fashion needs to stop. Fashion businesses need to pay their employees properly and I also think a law of using sustainable materials should be enforced on all brands.