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Ramy William, Chief Designer, Architect, Vice Chairman WILLIAMS Omar Mohsen/ET

Breaking with the Khawaga Complex

Ramy William’s signature modern furniture solutions are a true match for international products
By Sara Romany
Photographed by Omar Mohsen

rom food to clothes and all that’s in between, a good chunk of Egyptians have grown up consuming everything imported. Many of us have developed a natural preference for imported goods, and not by design: many of us tend to stay away from local products because of their low quality. This concept is so ingrained we even have an adage for it: oqdet el-khawaga, or the ‘foreigner complex,’ which basically dictates that everything foreign is better.

This khawaga complex can make it very hard for any Egyptian brand to find success in their own market, but in the past few years a refreshing wave of young Egyptian designers have been creating their own successful brands and there are several local companies that have invested heavily to fine-tune products that are not only up to par with, but even better than their imported counterparts. Among them is Ramy William, an uber furniture designer with a unique vision that sets him apart from the crowd.

Ramy William, Chief Designer, Architect, Vice Chairman WILLIAMS Omar Mohsen/ET
At the turn of the millennium, William was just another groom looking to furnish his new apartment. Frustrated with what the Egyptian market had to offer, the young groom refused to buy Italian furniture and took it upon himself to create his own high-quality modern furniture. Falling back on the expertise of his father’s office furniture factory, William started working on some furniture designs of his own. A self-proclaimed minimalist designer, William portrays the epitome of simplicity through his creations, which stand out as unique pieces of art. Inspired by design greats like Antonio Cittero, Patricia Urquiola and Jean Marie Massaud, William found himself coming into his own but remained in the workshop for another couple of years just designing and producing prototypes, tweaking them to perfection with the help of his small army of dedicated workers.

After coming up with some spectacular designs, William decided to take part in the biggest furniture exhibition in Egypt to showcase his prototypes. Back then, the exhibition was usually packed with imported furniture with the exception of a few local manufacturers. Understanding that his main challenge was to convince the Egyptian consumer that local can be better than imported, William stood his ground and it paid off: His designs caused a big buzz at the event and were selling out like hot cakes. Other exhibitors took notice of William and started to stalk his booth to get a peek at his products. And that marked the birth of Williams Home Furniture.

At the Williams showroom in Heliopolis, each design stands out as a unique piece; his offerings are original and not mere copies of what is out there on the market. When I asked about the source of his inspiration, William’s answer was unique yet simple, just like his designs: He finds his inspiration in people. He is touched by a muse in every client; as to meet their desires and wishes, Ramy is challenged to create something unique to suit their personality. But what fuels his artistic senses and keeps him creating is his other great passion of tango dancing. He tells me it’s simply his opiate; it helps him release all his frustration and encourages his creativity and individuality.

Alongside William’s creative designs is their high quality and exquisite finishing. Quality has long been the Achilles heel of Egyptian production, especially furniture. Wlliam so strongly believes in the quality and integrity of his products that he offers a lifetime warranty on each piece, something unheard of in the Egyptian market.

William tells me that if it weren’t for his dedicated team of workers, he would have never been able to produce such high-quality products. “Over the years my madness for perfection has infected them and they themselves have become perfection maniacs.” William’s face lights up in a smile as talk turns to his team, just like a proud father talking about his children. Most of the Williams crew have been in the company for over 20 years and have spent most, if not all, of their adult life in the factory; today they are experts in what they do.

William admits that part of his success lies in the fact that he doesn’t cut corners to make more money. He invests in quality materials, from fabrics to memory foam and mechanisms. He travels the globe looking for the finest raw materials to fit his products and has them shipped into Egypt for his dedicated team to shape into pieces of art.

But William still has a way to go when it comes to completely destroying the nation’s khawaga complex. He does point out, though, that the more we invest in our local brands and less in international ones, the more the local market will benefit. “We will be doing our country and ourselves a favor, especially in the financial crisis we have been facing.”

Williams Home Furniture
9 El-Median El-Munawara St., off Ahmed Mustafa Street, El-Nozha El-Gedida, Heliopolis
Tel: 26207690 / 0100570048
www.f-williams.com/

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