By Carly Cannavina
Fashion is at the core of Eva Ghobrial’s being. As a young woman in Egypt, it put her at risk. In the United States, it is helping her get ahead.
Ghobrial’s American dream is Elegance By Eva, a consignment shop on Ebay. With it, she breathes new life into mint-condition high-end clothes, creating “looks that are beautiful and elegant.
“Elegance by Eva is going to be big… It’s going to happen,” says the Madison resident. “I feel like I’m climbing a mountain. But it feels right, like I’m going to reach the top. It’s in my soul, it’s in my muscles.”
When will Ghobrial know she has reached the top? When her brand is known. When she brings elegance to the masses. When she affords an apartment overlooking the historic Morristown Green.
As a female in her small Egyptian village, Ghobrial was subjected to second-class treatment — doubly so because she was Coptic Christian.
Those who dressed less conservatively than Muslims were persecuted by extremists. Women had acid thrown in their faces; her neighbors had their houses burned down. Ghobrial, who possessed a bold fashion sense and idolized the likes of Sophia Loren and Coco Chanel, feared for her life but knew she could not change who she was.
And so, in 1986 at age 19, she immigrated to the U.S. She remembers herself as a “delicate, simple girl,” unprepared for the challenges she was about to face— among them culture shock, isolation, and a 15-year struggle to obtain a Green Card.
For the first three years, Ghobrial says, her visa would not allow her to work outside her sister’s home in Dover. “It was like prison,” she says over coffee in a Morristown cafe.
When she finally began working outside the house, Ghobrial struggled to adjust socially. In Egypt, she had never seen gay couples or even women with earrings. All she really knew of the U.S. was what she had seen on I Love Lucy re-runs. Her English was spotty. Cultural barriers made friendships difficult. She tried to cheer herself with Charlie Chaplin silent comedies.
There were financial challenges. She remembers her $1,000 car breaking down in the middle of a highway.
Yet Ghobrial never has regretted coming here.
“I know I struggle,” she says. “But there is nothing worse than persecution. It is death.”
‘IT’S MY TURN’
When she received her Green Card, Ghobrial “felt like a newborn.”
She’s been chasing her dream ever since, working at a Morristown restaurant by day and attending classes at night. She earned a liberal arts associate’s degree at the County College of Morris, and is working towards a bachelor’s degree in fashion at Montclair State University, all while running her own business.
Since deciding to sell clothing a few years ago, Ghobrial has taught herself the ins and outs of eBay marketing; photography and Photoshop; consignment contracts, and advertising on Instagram and Facebook.
“This is my best friend,” she says, firing up her MacBook Air.
Ghobrial’s e-store operates on a customer-first policy. All clothes are dry-cleaned before shipment and packaged meticulously. Refunds, if needed, come with few questions asked. When she is interested in buying or consigning an article, Ghobrial says, she often travels to personally inspect it.
“I don’t just want to take your money,” she says, insisting profit never has been paramount. She always has felt an inner richness, “not necessarily with money.”
This sense of self-worth was nurtured by her father, who made a point of taking her on a shopping spree in Egypt, despite the dangers.
Now, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, Ghobrial is focused on bringing her vision of beauty to the world.
Grateful for these opportunities, she is passionately pro-immigration. “It’s what makes the USA the USA, the variety we have. It makes the fashion industry, and it makes a successful country.”
She knows first-hand how immigrants, especially Hispanic individuals, carry the restaurant business. President Trump’s policies separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border are “criminal,” she contends. The government must find solutions that bring less harm to immigrants, especially to children, she says.
The America that Ghobrial loves is a sanctuary from persecution, a land of opportunity…and a hub of fashion.
“Here, I am an independent woman,” she says. “It’s my turn.”