Austinites can shop locally — and globally — at a new pop-up store downtown
This holiday season, shopping locally in Austin can also mean shopping globally.
Walking through the ATX+Egypt Pop-Up store on Second Street, just east of Austin City Hall, people will find clothing, jewelry, leather bags and even wedding dresses from designers based in Austin and Egypt.
The store, which is open until Dec. 20, features work from designers who are part of the city’s ATX+Egypt Entrepreneurship Program, which seeks to support emerging brands and help give them international exposure. In February, the designers will head to Egypt to feature their designs in a pop-up store in Cairo (pending the COVID-19 situation).
Abdallah Mahmoud, a program manager in Austin’s Economic Development Department, says the program is a way for brands in Austin and Cairo to get introduced to markets in other countries.
“It can be costly for entrepreneurs to venture out globally and start these partnerships and explore markets,” Mahmoud said. “So, this is where local and federal governments come to help.”
The program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and operated by Austin’s Economic Development Department, Austin Community College’s Fashion Incubator and other partners. The city received the grant in 2020 and asked designers in Austin and Egypt to apply to participate. Six Austin-based and 10 Egypt-based brands were selected.
The first part of the program was education. Because of COVID-19, much of that took place online. Over the last year, the designers took virtual classes, learning everything from fashion management to global marketing.
Then, they took four months to implement what they learned into their businesses. And in December, the participants from Egypt flew to Austin for Austin Fashion Week and to open the pop-up store.
“That travel exchange is allowing 10 brands from Egypt to create an entry point here in the U.S. market through Austin Fashion Week [and] through this pop-up shop,” says Nina Means, director of ACC’s Fashion Incubator. “But we also have our American designers here as well. … We're happy to be able to present them all together in one cohesive experience here on Second Street.”
Means says sustainability was encouraged throughout the education process. For example, participants learned the importance of reducing their carbon footprint by using domestic production partners.
“Focusing on developing small businesses that are truly sustainable or working toward sustainability is a high priority here in Austin,” Means said. “And so we really take that seriously and our brands do the same.”
Maha Elazm is one of the Egyptian clothing designers participating in the program. Her brand, Camicie, features a collection of upcycled clothes.
“These pieces are made out of the leftover fabrics that, instead of throwing them [away], we decided to make them into a patchwork piece that we called a ‘wasteless kimono,’” Elazm said. “It’s all made out of fabrics that otherwise would have been thrown away.”
Elazm started her business around 2013 in Cairo, where she now sells her products at a couple department stores and online. She applied to the ATX+Egypt program in order to get more exposure abroad.
“It’s been really an amazing experience for all of us,” she said. “It’s a good push for all of us as emerging brands.”
The city’s partnership with fashion brands in Egypt isn’t the first of its kind. The city worked with the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan in 2016 to conduct a similar exchange with businesses there.
Mahmoud says the city views programs like ATX+Egypt as pilot programs. Once they end, ideally, the partners they worked with, like ACC, can continue to run them and invite new brands in to participate. That way, the city can focus on piloting programs with more countries.
“That really helps us build our local fashion ecosystem and expose that to the international markets,” Mahmoud said. “We look at this participation in the program as a pilot. We introduce the program. We run a pilot here and then we hope that our partners will take it and run with it for the future, and it becomes really a sustainable program over the years.”
The ATX+Egypt Fashion Pop-Up is located at 225 West Second St. It’s open Dec. 5-20, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.