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Thursday, 5 August 2021

My Morning Routine: Dara Hassanein, co-founder of Rebel Cairo — and Egyptian Olympic athelete

Dara Hassanein, co-founder of Rebel Cairo: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Dara Hassanein, co-founder of fashion brand Rebel Cairo.

Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Dara Hassanein. Although I’m now firmly in the world of fashion, in my former life I was a professional synchronized swimmer and participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics. After the Games I decided to take a break from my athletic career and focus on design. Having graduated from graphic design from the German University in Cairo (GUC), I was able to start my own brand, Rebel Cairo, and this now what I spend most of my time working on.

I had a very naive idea of what it meant to run a business when I started Rebel in 2019. At the start I was thinking only of the creative part and assumed that this would be the main foundation upon which the brand evolves. I soon realized though that there are so many other things that go into creating a successful brand. In my case, I was working in fashion and felt that that would mainly be my job. But I soon realized the number of responsibilities I would have to take on.

My checklist determines what my day-to-day activities look like: Between answering emails, replying to texts, engaging with people online, and working on the creative direction of my collection, I am able to sketch out a daily routine. I often have a mn things running through my head so when I wake up I create a checklist of things I need to get done. It sounds primitive I know, but for someone like me, who has to manage multiple tasks at a time and gets easily distracted, a checklist is a life-saver.

I worked with the Alchemy Design Studio and Okhtein and I was really inspired by the people who work there. I was lucky to have been mentored by two young girl bosses who were very inspiring and empowering.

I'm currently collaborating with the Olympics artistic swimming team, which is competing at Tokyo 2020. I designed their sportswear and this is something that I really liked, and I’m also working with them to create a film about their journey and shed light on the many misconceptions athletes face in Egypt, which will be out this week. The swimming team defied so many limitations to make it to the Olympics. I want this to be an integral part of my brand, supporting moves like this that involve the true meaning of Rebel.

I love the art of storytelling — especially when it’s translated on fabrics. If I'm creating a concept for the collection, I would be able to translate this story on the fabric and then to the packaging, photoshoot, and captions.

I would love for my routine to be much healthier. I am not 100% happy with how I manage my work-life balance. It would be very tricky for anyone to start a business and be very passionate about it during these times. You constantly find yourself overworking. Boundaries are very blurred especially when you WFH and it's your own business, and you absolutely love it.

I switch off by exercising, moving my body and walking in open spaces. When I'm moving, I feel that I get rid of any negative energy. As a former athlete, it's something that's become my new normal. I also like going to events or art exhibitions with my friends.

I feel that the fashion industry in Egypt could really up its game: The lack of materials and production in Egypt are some of the limitations that fashion designers experience. For instance, if you're looking for a sustainable kind of fabric, the Egyptian market can be quite limited, especially when you're looking to produce them in big batches.This is a limitation for someone like myself who owns a brand. People want something that is natural, comfortable, and sustainable, and all of this limits your options even more.

I just watched a documentary called Lift Like a Girl (3ash ya Captain) and highly recommend it. I held my tears several times because the message was very inspiring to me. The documentary is an embodiment of how anyone can achieve anything if they put their minds to it. I also follow an author called The Holistic Psychologist on Instagram and just read her book How to do the Work. It’s good at helping you get in touch with your inner self and tuning in to overcome any limitations.

Just keep swimming: That’s the best piece of advice that I always tell myself. My dad used to say it to me when I used to play sports, but I still apply it to everything in my life now. The Samuel Becktt quote “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” is also means a lot to me because it tells you that failure is not the end of the road.

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