Zahi Hawass has a celebrity streak about him. He towers over the Pyramids themselves in a poster for the documentary-cum-reality TV show, "Chasing Mummies", in which cameras followed the Egyptologist, minister and bon vivant in his quest for treasure. So it's no surprise that the celeb archaeologist has launched an eponymous clothing line. After all, if Jessica Simpson and Stella McCartney can do it, why not Hawass?
Described as a clothing line for "the man who values self-discovery, historicism and adventure," in reality it is a clichéd impression of what desert adventurers should be wearing. It lacks only the fedora that is simultaneously synonymous with both Hawass and Indiana Jones, a shared fame much to Hawass' chagrin. There is no subtlety here, no vague attempts to hide the fact that thousands of years of history are blatantly being used to sell fashion. The pharaohs' legacy has been reduced to a tool used to sell the faded idea of adventure, tidily sewn up into a pair of khaki pants.
The story first came to light when Egyptian newspaper Al-Dostour ran a piece about a clandestine photo shoot which took place after hours, in what was believed to be the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo. Egyptians were infuriated at the thought of the crew getting their hands on the ancient artifacts, having their way with Egypt's most precious of treasures in the dead of night. Digging a little deeper, it was discovered that the photo shoot in fact took place in New York at the King Tut exhibit, and that any artifacts that the crew came in contact with were replicas.
Lora Flaugh, Founder and CEO of Art Zulu, the agency responsible for developing the clothing line, told Al-Masry Al-Youm, that the only genuine artifacts used in the photo shoot were used as a backdrop, and that for the duration of the shoot, they were constantly accompanied by the exhibit’s head of security.
We can sleep easy with the knowledge that none of the artifacts in New York were manhandled in any way, unlike a significant portion of relics right here in Cairo at the height of the protests, while Hawass continuously reassured the Egyptian public, by spending his evenings calling in to late night TV shows, telling them that the museum was secure and not under any real threat.
Flaugh explained that when approached about the idea, "Zahi Hawass accepted but stipulated that any of the profits would have to go to charity, just like the profits from the sale of his hats goes to charity. He designated the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Cairo as the beneficiary. Dr. Hawass is not receiving any money or personally benefiting from his association with this clothing line."
The charitable contribution was reiterated in both an official press release from Hawass’ office, and a seemingly personal update to his blog, the former stating, “A letter to Dr. Sherif Abul Naga, director of the hospital, was sent to him by Dr. Hawass clarifying these arrangements.” According to a New York Times report, however, Abul Naga was only contacted by Hawass this past month.
Explaining the reason for the delay amid assertions that the charitable donation was planned since the inception of the idea in January 2009, Flaugh told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the hospital wasn’t notified immediately because there was no way to know how long the planning stages would take. “There were no profits yet,” she added, “so we didn’t want to rush in.”
Conveniently timed charitable contributions aside, Hawass has had a tough week, defending his panache for the world of fashion, while simultaneously appealing a one-year prison sentence over a lawsuit filed against him in his previous post as secretary general of the Supreme Council Antiquities.
Amid the uproar and continuous rumours, the Zahi Hawass clothing line is moving full speed ahead and is already available at Harrod’s and will appear in a Neiman Marcus department store near you by the end of April. Hawass and the world of high fashion are clearly well suited for each other – constantly endeavoring to spend more time in the limelight.