15 Most Interesting Seniors: Heba El Habashy

Wilson Yu

When she’s not in transit between New York and Boston or running from Kirkland to class and back, Heba el Habashy ’10 has her hands full with a business project that she hopes will launch her full-time involvement in the fashion industry.

Her Web-based service—TheCultivate.com—is el Habashy’s most recent brainchild, the outgrowth of an idea that first came to her around May of last year. The service is meant to connect up-and-coming designers with trend-conscious wholesalers and buyers to bolster local fashion markets.

“I think the inspiration for it was that I don’t really like the industry side of [fashion]; I have a much deeper connection with the creative side of it,” says el Habashy, an effortlessly elegant figure in her knee-high boots and gold bangles.

After completing summer internships at Dior and People’s Revolution, a brand marketing and consulting firm, el Habashy had garnered plenty of fashion industry experience, helping editors prepare layouts and push certain brands and trends while learning the ins and outs of the merchandising world.

Her summer and term-time involvements led el Habashy to see what she describes as “the need to foster greater creativity” in the fashion industry.

TheCultivate.com is her response to that need: the service will feature the collections of not-yet-established designers—usually five to seven years out of design school, according to el Habashy—in an online store that will collect demographic information from customers and redistribute that information to wholesalers and buyers for boutiques.

The hope is that smaller boutiques will become better informed about trends popular among their demographic, and younger designers will have access to an otherwise less available market.

El Habashy and her colleagues—two close friends who are also from Harvard—have initially selected designers through word-of-mouth research, professors at design schools, and fashion writers and editors to identify under-the-radar creators who would benefit from participating. In the future, TheCultivate.com team plans to create an application process for designers.

According to el Habashy, the feedback thus far has been excellent.

“They e-mail me every now and then for updates,” she recalls, laughing. “They really feel like ‘this is what we need.’”

El Habashy, a native of Cairo, says that growing up in a family of antique collectors and art enthusiasts nurtured her passion for aesthetic expression. Although her family has mostly been involved in politics, her experiences travelling the globe have fostered an appreciation for fashion in all forms.

For a woman who’s been involved in everything from Eleganza’s on-campus production to the scheduling of India’s fashion week, bringing two ends of the fashion industry into greater dialogue feels like a natural step. After graduation, el Habashy plans to work full time for the Web site, which will launch in late spring or early summer, for at least a year.

“My dream would be to have TheCultivate.com be successful and be able to reach out to those designers who are so talented and who a lot of people would want to wear but who just aren’t known,” she says.

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