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Austinites take Egypt: Six local designers debut brands in pop-up abroad

Inside one of the ATX+Egypt entrepreneurs' pop-up shops on 2nd St. last December. (ACC Fashion Incubator)

Six Austin-based fashion designers and entrepreneurs are ‘making it work’ in Cairo, Egypt, where they are showcasing their designs in a pop-up exchange market far away from home.

The designers will return on June 8, completing the final phase of the U.S. Embassy Cairo-funded ATX+Egypt Entrepreneurship Program pilot. The program guided 16 designers—six from Austin and 10 from Egypt—through design education and a professional showcase in each other's home countries to increase global brand awareness.

Austinites Jonathan ‘Chaka’ Mahone of NefrFreshr, Musa Ato of League of Rebels, Christina Fitzgerald of ONLY by Nina Fitzgerald, Margo Dilling of Turtle Cay Island Wear, Cassandra King of CassandraCollections and Randell Jones LNS Crew Productions flew to Cairo to show their collections on May 31 and will stay until June 8.

Director of Austin Community College’s fashion incubator Nina Means told Austonia the Austin-based designers were supposed to open the Cairo pop-up in February, but the event was postponed due to COVID.

Means said the pilot was made possible with a partnership between the city of Austin, the ACC Fashion incubator, Fashion by Texas and Macy’s. Travel fees, rental spaces, needed technology and education on designing for different cultural contexts, management and marketing were all provided free of charge for all 16 participants.

Means said the program has been extremely successful—so much so that representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo reached out to ACC directly to do another round. Means said the project will have another round this year, exchanging more designers with Austin’s sister city of Cairo, but may open the program to other cities abroad in the future.

“The Embassy was really proud and excited about this project, they told the Department of State in Washington how well it went,” Means said. “People were really pleased with it, we brought on some really exciting partners and we're looking forward to doing it again.”

Means said applications for the next round will open sometime this summer.

“The designers here in Austin really deserve to be seen and to scale and grow, and this is a really great way for them to do that,” Means said. “It's an incredible program. They don't pay for anything except for making the product, they get to sell it and keep the money. It really gives Austin brands exposure and opportunity for revenue and spaces that they typically wouldn't have access to.”


‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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