Walking through the grey streets of Cairo’s most precious neighbourhood is, to say the least, enchanting. Downtown Cairo is a historical area that harbours some of the country’s most iconic buildings that have been the centre of significant events throughout history. However, behind each monumental building and architectural ornament looms the desperate shade of pollution and neglect.
In celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, Al-Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment joined forces with one the city’s most colourful accessories labels, Up-Fuse. The developmental tycoon invited the environment-savvy designers to the famous Kodak passage, in an attempt to bring back joy and colour to the festive season.
Up-Fuse is an accessory label that focuses on “up-cycling” plastic waste into contemporary bags and purses. As part of Downtown’s green initiative, the ladies behind Up-Fuse decorated the 32-metre passage in Adly Street with 30 lines of colourful, up-cycled plastic that is normally used for the brand’s accessories.
The attractive installation not only created a cheerful atmosphere around the neighbourhood, but it also saved the environment from 3,240 plastic bags—this amount of waste is equivalent to what an average person consumes over a two-year period.
Daily News Egypt sat down with Up-Fuse’s design manager, Yara Yassin, to discuss the various aspects of this artistic and environmental initiative that has effortlessly managed to highlight the resounding impact of green fashion.
How did the concept come to life and what encouraged you to collaborate with Al-Ismaelia?
Al-Ismaelia’s marketing department was already thinking of decorating the passage. The head of the department, Moshira, is always looking for new and engaging concepts. She was thinking of something that has a significant message and could add beauty to Downtown, but not just the usual bunting (festive decorations) that we see above shops and buildings ahead of the festivities.
The collaboration came by pure coincidence. Our dear friend Nahla Boshra, co-founder of ABn’G boutique in Zamalek, was already working with Al-Ismaelia on a separate project. When she heard about the initiative and the main concept behind it, she introduced us to them.
What encouraged us to work with them is the fact that they are a very respectful company. Their vision of renovating and giving life to Downtown attracted us the most. I love my city and I want to see it as clean and sophisticated as any other capital in the world.
I believe that I was incredibly lucky to meet the creators and give back to my community by beautifying the streets of Downtown. Our country is facing hard times and I believe that we need to think about ways to build and sustain our community rather than solely ourselves.
Colourful bunting in the streets is a simple expression of what Up-Fuse can give back to the society. We are always open and happy to help in being part of building our community, even if we just contribute by making people smile.
Who are the key individuals and organisations involved in this project?
Along with Up-Fuse’s team—managing director Rania Rafie, production coordinator Mounir Morad, and myself—we collaborated with nine students from Roh El-Shabab in Manshiat Nasr, who helped in the up-cycling process of the plastic bags.
A printing house in Cairo printed the posters that you can currently find on the windows in the passage. Also, a team of local carpenters and a few seamstresses helped with various steps in the production process. Mahmoud and Mahmoud helped put up all the bunting in just a few hours and, of course, I must mention Al-Ismaelia’s marketing team, Moshira and Nelly.
How long did the process take?
Producing and designing the bunting took almost three weeks. Meanwhile, the set-up process alone took 14 hours. Multiple obstacles surfaced during that time; one of the main problems was the fact that we could not park in front of the passage because of the synagogue’s location. Accordingly, we had to park our cars at the garage then walk back—it took us almost an hour to reach the passage again.
Tell us more about the developmental aspect of this project?
The direct beneficiaries are the key partners behind the project. Each individual, artisan and worker, mentioned earlier has earned money working on the project.
Furthermore, the passersby are also indirect beneficiaries. They have witnessed a new and colourful aspect of Downtown Cairo. They have also learned new facts about sustainable art. The last and most important beneficiary is the environment—we have helped up-cycle more than 3000 plastic bags.
How did you help nine students continue their education through this initiative?
As part of our business vision, we work with communities that are in need of financial support. Students enrolled in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Roh El-Shabab (based in Manshiat Nasr) work in their spare time to up-cycle the plastic bags that we use for our products. In return, we financially support each student with fair wages.
We also support the NGO itself with a monthly income so it can sustain its educational curriculum.
This project presents a new type of art; how did passersby react to the colourful decorations?
We, at Up-Fuse, were so lucky to be personally thanked by neighbours as well as passersby when they saw us putting up the bunting decorations. We have received lovely comments on our social media posts too.
I guess we need to implement similar initiatives. These initiatives do not only give local citizens hope, but could also colour the muted grey shades that currently overwhelm the capital.
How long will this installation stay up for?
Initially, we intended to keep it for two weeks, but following the fantastic feedback we received, we are considering keeping the bunting up for a bit longer.