FashionLife & Style

Saphir: Elite collection, singular service

Stepping into a clothes shop is usually relatively simple: you glance at the window display, decide it’s worth taking a closer look and enter the shop by pushing the glass door. Not at Saphir in downtown Cairo though. Located on 26 Mahmoud Bassiouny Street, the brightly-lit shop’s window displays a handful of mannequins wearing exquisite gala dresses. But the door is hopelessly locked and a few hesitant knocks remain unanswered.

Refrain from breaking in, though, and instead take Hussein Pasha el-Menar Street on the right, walk past a garage and enter the building no.5. The actual shop is to be found there, and on the various racks that fill the room one can see sumptuous dresses, gorgeous coats and colourful tops.

A marble coffee table surrounded by four rococo chairs gives a boudoir flair to the showroom and invites the customer to immerse themselves in this sea of garments.

Behind a crowded desk close to the entrance, Enas el-Masry, the elegant shop owner, is busy with a costumer. “You need an appointment to come here and try the clothes on,” stresses el-Masry, flattening some pleats on a dress. “I deal with a very high-class clientele; this is why I want to focus on one costumer after the other,” she says, noting that the only two women found in the shop came together.

One of them is Lamia, an ex-banker with a pleasant face. “My grandmother used to come to this shop and I do not shop anywhere else,” says Lamia. “Enas has Cairo’s biggest collection of evening dresses," claims Lamia, elaborating, "She has all kinds of collections, many sizes available and what I appreciate is her honesty: she won’t pretend a piece of clothing fits if it does not.”

All the garments on display in the showroom are imported from Europe, the United States and Turkey, and Enas closely follows the Fashion weeks, on the lookout for interesting pieces. “When I go to the Fashion weeks in Milan, Paris or the States, I look for special garments that can’t be found easily,” she explains, showcasing a flowery dress especially designed for a pregnant woman. The next dress she pulls off the rack is meant for plus-sized women. “Women need to have a choice, and this is what I provide them with,” says Enas with a touch of pride.

Unsurprisingly, the prices are high, with cocktail dresses ranging from LE1,000 to LE3,000, but regular clients are offered special services. “I systematically purchase two sizes of the same dress, one small and one large, when I go abroad,” explains Enas, “if a customer picks a dress for a special occasion, I mark down the exact date of the event and will not sell the second dress for the next two months.” Her customers are prepared to pay for the privilege of that short-lived exclusivity, since the second dress is sold 20% cheaper when the style-embargo is eventually lifted.
Enas’ marketing skills do not stop there. “If one of my regular customers brings four of her friends, then I give her a 50% discount,” explains Enas, who knows that if all of them attend the same event their attire will attract attention and get people talking about her shop.

Enas often slightly modifies the designs she imports from abroad to make sure they satisfy her more traditional Muslim clientele. “I can add long sleeves to a blouse or trousers to what was originally a short cocktail dress so it becomes wearable for veiled women,” she says, adding that she has a wide collection of fashionable veils from Italy to match the garments.

There are no wedding dresses on offer though. This is a deliberate choice from Enas who doesn’t have a platform and confesses that “wedding dresses are high-maintenance, the woman must take a bath and remove all her make-up before trying it on.”

One final special service that Enas provides her customers is to cleverly modify garments that have been worn before on multiple occasions.  “I can add or remove motifs, shorten the clothes, add sleeves, ribbons… a dress can become a blouse, for example,” Enas says, holding a long black and white dress. “Every 20 days I purchase new cocktail dresses,” Enas concludes, carefully wrapping the long silky attire in a plastic and putting it back on the rack.

On the 1 March Enas el-Masry will open a new shop in Zamalek, on Mohamed Mazhar Street.

Saphir – Enas el-Masry
Window display: 26, Mahmud Bassiony St. – Showroom: 5, Hussein Pasha el Menar St.
Tel: 25756675 – 25766815 – 25766217
Mobile: 0109180915

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