A recent edition of Apartment 7B, a regionally renowned pop-up concept promoting emerging luxury brands from the Middle East and North Africa, took place at the legendary Parisian department store, PRINTEMPS Haussmann. A carefully selected collection of emerging and established designers was showcased in the pop-up from July 18th to August 29th, 2023, providing a unique platform for them to showcase their designs.
Through these pop-ups, Apartment 7B wants to enhance brand perception, foster deeper connections with customers, and encourage cultural exchange. KHAMSA got the chance to speak to the founder, Wassila Aziz, and discover more about Apartment 7B’s vision.
١. What inspired you to create Apartment 7B, and how do you wish it would contribute to the global fashion landscape?
Creating Apartment 7B was inspired by my earlier venture, INFLUENTE Women, a social club dedicated to women in our region. Through INFLUENTE Women, my aim was to connect and support women with remarkable stories and businesses. What struck me most was that many of these accomplished women faced a common challenge – limited access to luxury retail, potential clients, and the opportunity to expand their brands globally.
While there are numerous pop-up events in our region, what was missing was a space that truly honored the luxury positioning, design aesthetics, and production quality of each brand. This gap in the market led me to conceptualize Apartment 7B, which initially took the form of an actual apartment. We meticulously designed every room, collaborating with regional brands for decor, including home furniture and “art de la table,” and featuring a stunning walk-in closet filled with exquisite ready-to-wear, perfumes, accessories, and jewelry.
Similar to visiting a friend’s home, guests could enter, explore the space, and make purchases on the spot. Over time, Apartment 7B evolved into a platform supporting designers and entrepreneurs. Our mission is to empower regional talent by providing visibility and direct access to their clients, offering the same luxurious shopping experience that international brands provide. With Apartment 7B, we aspire to showcase these talented individuals in the best possible light, giving them the exposure and recognition they deserve in the global fashion landscape. Our vision is to bridge the gap and provide a platform where regional designers can thrive and shine.
٢. Congratulations on the PRINTEMPS Haussmann x Apartment 7B popup. How did it go? Any key highlights?
Thank you for your kind words! The PRINTEMPS Haussmann x Apartment 7B popup was an incredible success that exceeded our expectations. We were fortunate as initially, the pop-up was planned for just two weeks but ended up being extended for an impressive two months in two different locations.
We were truly happy to witness an overwhelming turnout of fashion enthusiasts and eager shoppers, all drawn to our popup. What made this experience even more fascinating was observing the reactions of our visitors to our brand selection. Many were pleasantly surprised by the richness and diversity of brands originating from our region. It was an eye-opener for them to discover exceptional labels like Abadia, a sustainable and conscious brand from Saudi Arabia, Noon by Noor from Bahrain, Hashé Studio, and Ezzat from the UAE, challenging their preconceived notions about the region’s fashion aesthetics.
We had the pleasure of engaging with clients who were deeply impressed by the social responsibility initiatives of our showcased brands. Brands like Bouguessa, which offers a traceable supply chain and empowers technicians and their families, left a lasting impact on our visitors who want to know that they are making conscientious choices. It was gratifying to see fashion enthusiasts appreciating not only the products but also the ethical and social values upheld by these brands.
One of the standout aspects of this experience was the unwavering support we received from the PRINTEMPS team. Our shared passion for fashion fueled a collaborative spirit, and their constructive feedback was instrumental in helping the brands thrive. It was heartwarming to witness the commitment of every team member, from the buyers to the personnel shopper and the marketing team, all working together to enhance the visibility and recognition of regional savoir-faire.
٣. Pop-up concepts like Apartment 7B are about collaboration and cultural exchange. Do you have any stories of meaningful partnerships or connections that have occurred due to the latest and previous editions?
In the latest edition, my primary goal was to not only represent the region in Paris but to shed light on a region often overlooked in fashion discussions: Palestine. One particularly inspiring partnership emerged with Hind Hilal, a creative force based in Bethlehem. Hind has my utmost admiration for her creativity and the exceptional craftsmanship she brings to her work. Her collection not only keeps her heritage alive but also represents her generation, her region, and her people. Despite her challenges in production, shipping, and brand visibility, Hind is doing remarkable work. Taking Hind Hilal’s creations to Printemps Haussmann Paris held significant meaning, as it was a recognition of the talent and existence of the region. I was truly heartened to see clients genuinely impressed and intrigued by her designs.
In a previous edition of Apartment 7B, I had the privilege of connecting with numerous Emirati brands, given my base in Dubai. What captivated me most was how these brands drew inspiration from their culture and heritage. For instance, Maryam Omaira, one of the designers I encountered, delved into the rich “fashion history” of the region. Her stories about her mother and grandmother discussing dress shapes and exploring fabrics were captivating. Her designs are a true reflection of her love for the region.
Among the brands, one that I feel deeply connected to is the UAE jewelry brand Gafla. Exploring their collection is akin to opening a history book about the region. Pieces like Bahaar, which narrate the story of pearl diving, and SAK, paying homage to UAE values from sustainability to community, reflect every facet of the region.
Last but certainly not least is Sefeefa, a niche brand offering the most stylish baskets crafted by skilled older women who continue the art of palm frond waving. When you purchase one of their bags, you receive a Polaroid picture and a small story about the woman who crafted your bag. I’m truly inspired by how the youth in the region are preserving heritage, giving back to the community, and creating meaningful products that infuse fashion with consciousness and purpose for all of us.
These brands, with their boundless creativity and artistic expressions, play a pivotal role in bringing people together. They actively foster connections between nationalities and cultures. Through their work, they dispel misconceptions and contribute to integrating Arab culture into the global fashion narrative of the future.
٤. How do you select the designers and other partners who team up with you?
Selecting designers and partners to collaborate with Apartment 7B is a kind of natural journey. It involves a combination of personal connections, product evaluations, and a deep appreciation for the stories and values behind each brand. I begin by meeting designers and forming personal relationships with them. This allows me to truly understand their vision and assess the quality of their products.
I actively support them by attending the exhibitions they participate in, which gives me a clear idea of their work and collections. My focus is on curating stories rather than focusing on selecting “good-looking” brands. I love brands that are driven by passion and purpose and carry a meaningful message. Quality is, of course, a key consideration. I believe in offering our community exceptional products and experiences, so evaluating the quality of each brand’s offerings is important.
When it comes to collaboration, I prefer to engage with individuals who hold significant roles within the industry. This includes reaching out to buyers and other key figures who not only understand our platform but also appreciate the community of designers we curate. What truly matters most to me is that we share the same values and that our interactions result in positive and healthy relationships. Building these connections together is at the core of our mission, and it ensures that our collaborations are not only meaningful but also mutually beneficial.
٥. What has been the most rewarding part of organizing Apartment 7B?
The most rewarding aspect of organizing Apartment 7B lies in the profound impact we have witnessed on both the brands we collaborate with and our broader community. Our platform acts as a catalyst, forging meaningful connections and providing a space for these brands to shine on a larger stage.
What truly makes this initiative immensely fulfilling is the knowledge that we contribute to the growth and recognition of these remarkable brands. We understand that we are just one piece of their journey, but it’s a piece that can be instrumental in their success story. Providing a platform for these talented designers to showcase their work and connect with a broader audience is a source of immense pride.
Moreover, the sense of community that Apartment 7B fosters is incredibly rewarding. Witnessing the connections forged between designers, partners, and fashion enthusiasts is heartwarming. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration and cultural exchange in the fashion industry. These connections often extend beyond the pop-up event, turning into lasting relationships and opportunities for growth.
For more information about Apartment 7B, please visit www.apartment 7b.com