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Morocco Fashion Week highlights the talents of the Arab world

By Julia Garel


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Image: Designer Lamia Lakhsassi and her models | Credit: Paul Tomasini

While being a field of inspiration for many French designers, Morocco is now also setting up its own Fashion Week. The second edition took place on March 10 and 11, 2023, in Marrakech. The cosmopolitan event offered visibility to 17 designers, with the intention to make the Arab creations shine beyond the borders of their country.

The event started in the M Avenue, a newly built promenade lined with fashion boutiques, located outside the Medina, which is conveniently in close proximity to a slew of prestigious hotels. Its brand new cultural building, the Meydene, hosted the ready-to-wear shows on Friday March 10. The scouting of new locations for the Morocco Fashion Week are in full swing and are organised by the Oriental Fashion Show.

The Paris-based association is known to French industry professionals as it has already planned the shows several times in the capital before. With 18 years of experience, the Oriental Fashion Show is now the official organiser of the Morocco Fashion Week. Its president, Hind Joudar, confirmed to FashionUnited that the name "Morocco Fashion Week" has been registered at the INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle).

Image: Design by Marine El Himer | Credit : Paul Tomasini

Modest fashion amid diverse designers

Many designers showcased modest fashion pieces, which are garments that are meant to cover up the majority of the body. Some of the outfits were accessorised with hijabs and aimed at Muslim women, an important target audience since the global Muslim population is now estimated at 2 billion people. This demographic group is quite young: 70 percent of its population is under 40 years old, while generations Z and Y represent 50 percent, according to figures from the Mastercard-Crescentrating Global Muslim Travel Index 2022 report.

The range of offered caftans and abayas was as varied as the origin of its designers. Part of the creators were not only Moroccan but also Palestinian, French, Lebanese and Kazakhstani. To be found on the catwalk: established designers like Bernard Jabbour (Lebanon) as well as young graduates who came to participate in a competition for young talents. The announced winner was Donia Shehadeh, who created satin evening dresses with voluminous needle work and sensual cuts. She will have the opportunity to present her collection in France, during the Paris Fashion Week, and in the Oriental Fashion Show.

Image: On the right, designer and winner of the contest: Donia Shehadeh | Credit: Paul Tomasini

Donia Shehadeh studied fashion at the Accademia Di Moda, located in Nazareth, which was founded by Saher Okal, the winner of Project Runway Middle East, season two. He says: "I was in Italy to study fashion and it was very difficult for me. I received a scholarship from someone to study fashion in Italy and the moment I started learning, I thought 'I have to help all the new talents in my country'. That's why I decided to open a fashion academy in Palestine. Not everyone can afford to travel somewhere else to study fashion, so I thought I should help people in my country to learn about design on the spot, at home, in my country."

On March 11, Omri Elayan, another Palestinian designer, took the runway under the lavish chandeliers of the Royal Mansour, a historic luxury hotel in Marrakech. The fashion designer from the Shfaram region in the Galilee is, according to a press release, considered the "first designer of men's clothing in Palestine". His collection revolved around dark suits, embellished with sequined embroidery, feathers and transparent materials and included a line of items for both men and women.

Image: Collection by Omri Elayan | Credit: Paul Tomasini

Another name to remember is that of Zineb Hazim. The designer of Moroccan origin and Italian nationality seduced the public of Meydene with the creativity of his modest fashion. Her collection named "Abaya Street Couture" was composed of non-revealing outfits, dotted with golden or bright blue sequins. The play of materials and the imposing volumes exposed a stomach or a leg from time to time, demonstrating that modest fashion could address all women.

Image: Designer Zineb Hazim and her models | Credit: Paul Tomasini

The project of an Arab Fashion Week consortium

The biannual event that now represents the Morocco Fashion Week seems set to last in the future. Hind Joudar additionally announced a major upcoming project, the introduction of a consortium of Arab Fashion Week.

"With Morocco Fashion Week, Kazakhstan Fashion Week, Azerbaijan Fashion Week and Tajikistan Fashion Week, we are building a project called Fashion Industry. In collaboration with all the talents of these different regions, we are in the process of making a designer exchange partnership," says Hind Joudar.

The president says: "We have been working for 18 years in the organisation, the label Oriental Fashion Show, and thanks to it we were able to support the development of Azerbaijan Fashion Week and Kazakhstan Fashion Week. We have always been by their side."

The Fashion Industry project will be "kind of like a fashion Erasmus" explains Hind. The Morocco Fashion Week will send its Moroccan designers to other capitals of the Arab world as Kuwait and will continue to cast foreign designers. She adds: "It is a synergy between young talents. There is a new generation that sees fashion differently, we are no longer in large institutional houses as before. Now, young people want to be free, but we must support them. This Fashion Week will be a platform of visibility for them.”

Image: Collection by d'Omri Elyan | Credit: Paul Tomasini

Julia Garel was invited by the Oriental Fashion Show and travelled to Marrakech.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Cenia Zitter.

Modest Fashion
Morocco Fashion Week