Contemporary design is alive and well in Morocco, and, in my opinion, too often overlooked in favour of the lure of the traditions and crafts of the souks. Don’t get me wrong – I love the extraordinarily rich design tradition of Moroccan carpets and textiles, and you will always find me in the souks and medina, but what I find even more exciting is how this rich tradition is being interpreted into contemporary design by a new generation. What I have also found interesting and inspiring is the proud relationship between the two, with young designers taking inspiration from the rich history of motifs and pattern of their culture and re-interpreting them into their designs, whether in fashion, ceramics, textiles or furniture.
A wonderful example of this are the rugs being created by STITCH in Casablanca.
STITCH director Radwan Dahhan left Morocco to study abroad and has returned to Casablanca with energy and a fresh approach in a very traditional industry. They work with cutting edge technology to create new and contemporary rug designs. Alongside the use of high tech robotics, Stitch also employs a team of local artisans to hand finish each and every rug, so combining the best of both worlds: a bespoke luxury rug made with the finest raw yarn and finished meticulously by hand.
Until recently they have depended on importing wool from New Zealand for their rugs but excitingly, are currently working with a Moroccan start-up based in the Middle and High Atlas regions to produce wool that can compete with the imported product, and they are hoping to be able to fully replace their wool with locally sourced quality Moroccan wool within the year.
Initiative like this take on even greater significance with the flooding of the market of “moroccan inspired ” carpets and textiles being made and sourced in countries like India and China. And this is indeed one of my soapbox rants . . . I find it really sad the amount of designers and retailers who are happy to source, and in fact in many cases outsource, direct reproductions, which in turn undermines and undervalues an entire design tradition – the Beni Ourain style carpet being a clear case in point!
Stitch has built collaborations with young designers to complement their manufacturing process – as can be seen in this collection developed for Stitch by the artist and designer Bouchra Boudoua. Bouchra’s love for and travels to the Souss Massa Draa region of Morocco is the point of departure for these designs with references to traditional textiles, metalwork, the colours of the earth and the ocean – between them they developed a concept of “neo-berber”, remixing traditionally Berber motifs to form a whole new kind of Moroccan rug.
Over the years we have all become very familiar with traditional Moroccan rugs and textiles in the world of home decor and our pursuit of the “boho-chic” home. You can barely flick through a home and lifestyle magazine without seeing the monochromatic designs of the Beni Ourain, or the bright colours of the Azilal or Boucherouite carpets – but sometimes it is worth taking a step outside of the souks and medina to find out what is happening in the realm of contemporary design in Morocco. Radwan Dahhan is “ferociously proud” of the work he is doing with Stitch in Morocco, and is full of plans for further design collaborations while at the same time pouring energy into re-energising the textile industry in Morocco.
Photographs: Sarah Harnafi Styling: Bouchra Boudoua