We’re always happy when we find a business that uses the best Egyptian craftsmanship, like Nuniz handbags by designer Nadia Zarkani. Nadia’s showroom in Maadi features her handcrafted bags in a variety of eye-catching colours and styles.
What prompted you to get into designing handbags?
A basic passion for bags! I got my first designer bag at age 15 and I collect bags. Here in Egypt, in the past if you wanted to buy a nice handbag, you couldn’t find any. Knowing we have the leather and the craftsmanship, someone needed to combine these properly to make practical, well-made handbags.
What’s unique about your designs?
You can use them in Egypt, in Europe, you can wear them all year round. They are 100 percent genuine leather and handcrafted – the only thing that isn’t handcrafted is the final stitching. The sky is the limit in terms of craftsmanship here in Egypt, provided you have the patience and persistence to oversee it. I develop the colours myself with the tannery, so you don’t just have traditional brown or black bags. You can get a yellow, red, green, or blue bag and I think that also makes it quite special.
How has the business evolved since you started in 2009?
This year has been our best so far. It’s sort of a work in progress. I don’t have a background in bag making and design. I studied anthropology at AUC. Before I started, I took about two years to research the business. I went around Cairo visiting leather workshops, but I realized that if I wanted to be in control of the quality, I’d have to do it myself. I now have my own workshop and it’s all made in-house. For me it was “learning by doing.”
What are the challenges?
Running a workshop, making sure that the quality is always kept up to standard and making interesting designs that people are attracted to.
Do you have a favourite design from your collection?
The “Key of Life Tote” and the “Key of Life Fold-over Clutch”. The tote is a very practical bag, and it comes in 12 different colours. Sometimes I use cow hair on the pockets or, as a special order, on the whole bag.
What’s been your most surprising design?
We made a bag without a lining. When you open the bag, what you see is the back of the leather. That turned out quite successful.
You custom make bags as well.
About six months after I started Nuniz, actress Hind Sabry was going to a film festival in Abu Dhabi and she asked me to make her a bag. We also did the “Key of Life Tote” for a woman who wanted matching adult and baby versions for herself and her two-year-old daughter. I make leather bags for golfers to put their golf shoes in. I’ve made a bag for a photographer who wanted something special to protect her camera that didn’t look like a camera bag.
Who’s your typical customer?
People who appreciate quality and are very supportive of products that are made in Egypt. They really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into it.
How are you incorporating Egypt into your designs?
The key of life is a favourite of mine. I use it as a charm on bags. And I also use mother of pearl as charms that you can hang off a bag, or as a center on a clutch. The “Revolution Tote” is also quite popular. It’s a canvas bag with leather handles, which has the front cover of TIME magazine printed on it. I also like the “Graffiti Pouch” with artwork by Alaa Awad, a young graffiti artist and Egyptology student from Upper Egypt. His work is a combination of modern art and Pharaonic art. He was inspired by popular depictions on an Upper Egyptian temple of women in a time of war or revolution, and he incorporated that in his artwork.
What does Nuniz mean?
It’s my nickname, what my children call me. They never called me Mommy!
What’s the most enjoyable thing about all of this for you?
Everything! The leather, the accessories, seeing it all come to life. I don’t look at it as work. I love what I’m doing, and when I’m in my workshop, I lose track of time.
And your future plans?
I’d like to develop my line of wallets and belts and maybe go into shoes, but I’m not in a hurry, because I don’t want to jeopardize the quality of the bags that I have.
Nuniz showroom and workshop
Building 18, Road 9
before Mercedes workshop
Tel: 012 2210 5860, 02 2359 4063
Connect with Nuniz on Facebook.