Casablanca designer Charaf Tajer and Syrian activist Yusra Mardini on trend’s unifying potential

Forward of their joint Paris Trend Week debut, the pair met with Doc to talk to the origins of the perception-shifting label

Charaf Tajer is a world drive. Paris-born with Moroccan heritage, his model Casablanca blends influences from each areas to create a brand new imaginative and prescient for luxurious. As a finalist for the LVMH prize in 2020, and having accomplished a collaboration with Bulgari final 12 months, Tajer’s profile continues to rise.

As a lot as he champions trend, the designer is an equal believer in using his platform to name consideration to points of world consequence. Enter Casablanca’s Fall/Winter 2023 Paris Males’s Week present. In a large, starkly embellished conference middle, Tajer started his presentation with a speech spotlighting the continued battle in Syria, and particularly the ability and fantastic thing about the youth who battle to expertise pleasure and sweetness amongst a battle that a lot of the world has turned its again on.

Making her runway debut quickly after was Syrian activist Yusra Mardini, who first rose to prominence as a member of the Refugee Olympic Workforce through the Rio video games in 2016. Past her intensive athletic background, Mardini is an individual of unbelievable power and conviction, serving to to save lots of passengers on a sinking migrant ship whereas departing from Syria in 2015, after a near-disaster off the coast of Greece.

Doc sat down with Tajer and Mardini shortly earlier than Casablanca’s present to discover the broader message of unity and peace embedded within the assortment’s daring and hopeful colours—highlighting not solely the presence of battle, but in addition the better resilience and fantastic thing about the Arab world.

Colin Boyle: Thanks for locating the time to take a seat down—particularly as a result of the present is in only a few minutes. I believe a pure place to begin could be to speak about the place you discovered inspiration for the gathering.

Charaf Tajer: Just a few months in the past, my buddy Maya, [who] is from Syria, advised me this story. I used to be like, How is the youth in Syria? I’m somebody who’s all the time very [interested in] youth tradition. I consider in the concept that the youth is the longer term, in bodily type. She begins telling me about this group of people that social gathering through the battle. I used to be so touched by it. It was below the hazard of bombs and all that. I discovered it to be essentially the most lovely factor on the earth—as a result of who has the braveness to do issues like this? I made a decision to dedicate this assortment to them as a method to shine gentle on the story. I imply, if I used to be a singer, I in all probability would do a track. However I’m a designer.

I went to Damascus, and I went to these events. I met folks from each totally different class, however all of them have been [doing] the identical factor. It gave me much more confidence that it was the best factor to do. They’ve extra gratitude than us in Europe. They’ve very exhausting circumstances of life, however they nonetheless have lots of positivity.

Colin: And Yusra shall be within the present, and there’s nice artistic power between you two. How did you join for the primary time?

Yusra Mardini: On Instagram. [His team] defined to me that this assortment is for peace. And I’ve been advocating for that idea since, you understand, 2015 or 2016, since I left dwelling. The gathering is so particular; it brings this gentle of colour. Whenever you discuss in regards to the Arabic world, it’s all the time like this: areas the place there’s grey, and [things are] destroyed. And I really feel like [Charaf] stated, the youth—the Arabic youth—is making an attempt to alter that notion.

[We’re] making an attempt to say, Okay, sure, we went by way of loads. However right here we’re—we’re nonetheless making an attempt, we wish to be artistic. I like trend. I’m right here as a result of I’m a refugee myself, and in addition from a artistic facet—that is my first present. So I’m very excited. And I believe it was excellent that I’m doing it with Charaf, as a result of he has an Arabic background and there’s a which means behind the present.

Colin: Yusra, you talked about this grayness, and colour is one thing that you simply tackle loads in your work, Charaf. How does it issue into your perspective on trend?

Charaf: My intuition all the time goes to paint. The colours that surrounded me have been a giant a part of the manifestation of Casablanca. I felt like trend was lacking tales, colours, and prints. That is what I needed to see, and the story I needed to create.

Trend, generally—for the final 15 years or extra—had a perspective that every thing ought to be sort of monochromatic. We at Casablanca got here with lots of colours, so folks thought we didn’t know the right way to discuss in regards to the codes of trend.

Colin: Whenever you have been fascinated by the extra political implications of the gathering, did you’ve got something particular in thoughts?

Charaf: It’s a hundred p.c targeted on unity and peace. I used to be following the lifetime of Yusra prior to now; I’ve adopted her for a 12 months or two on social media, and he or she impressed me. I believe being an Arab on this world has a connotation—each time you hear somebody talking about Muslims or about Arabs, it all the time comes with negativity after. So for us to embody our identification—it’s more durable for us to reside in Europe or America, nevertheless it’s additionally an excellent pleasure. Candy contradiction.

However to reply your query about politics: I needed to simply concentrate on one factor, peace. That is the place we get misplaced within the dialog: Who’s proper and who’s fallacious? It’s very [much about] ego. I needed, with this assortment, to offer the message that peace is crucial factor. After I was in Syria—and each time I submit one thing about Syria—so many Syrian folks inform me, Thanks for not forgetting us. As a result of they felt like they have been forgotten by the worldwide neighborhood. That is in all probability the worst factor on the earth: to really feel such as you’re not a part of your individual dialog.

Colin: Yusra, how do you are feeling sporting the gathering? Particularly strolling within the present itself.

Yusra: It’s very new. I’m making an attempt to stroll confidently in heels. I believe I’m gonna go along with boots in the long run. I’m somebody who’s actually in love with trend. And my mother, truly—you don’t know this [Charaf]however my mother was a designer. A really small one, however she used to design our garments for Eid.

It brings me a lot pleasure, realizing that folks nonetheless take into consideration Syria and wish to do extra about it—as a result of after 10 years of battle, it’s develop into regular. It’s not a pattern. You need to work in the direction of making the world a peaceable place. Whether or not it’s by way of artwork, whether or not it’s by way of a sport, which I did—it’s a powerful message to me, as a result of it exhibits me that as an athlete, as a refugee, I can do one thing.

Colin: What’s subsequent for you? Coming from athletics, now you’ve got this trend publicity—what are you fascinated by shifting ahead?

Yusra: Actually, I’m doing every thing within the second. As I stated, I might like to work extra exhibits. And I simply launched my very own basis, which focuses on serving to refugees by way of sports activities and training. I’m additionally finding out in LA at USC, movie and TV manufacturing. So possibly I’ll be a producer at some point, or a director—who is aware of!

I’m nonetheless working with refugees, for refugees. I nonetheless work with UNHCR. Typically, I’m doing what I do. Minus the swimming. I nonetheless swim, I went twice to the Olympics, although—what do I need greater than that? I achieved my first huge objective. Since I used to be 9 years outdated, I dreamt of being on the Olympics. And really, the colours for this present, most of them are within the Olympic rings, as properly.

Charaf: That was the place we took them from, precisely. We thought it was fairly cool as a unity image, with out being so direct. Sports activities are a unifier. It doesn’t matter the place you might be, the place you’re from. It sort of pulls all of it collectively.

Colin: And Charaf, what would you say is subsequent for Casablanca? The place are you shifting with this assortment, and sooner or later?

Charaf: I imply, we have now increasingly confidence in who we’re. The extra the time goes on, the extra trend understands who we’re.

Colin: And is there something, after the present, that you simply wish to do for the Syrian trigger?

Charaf: In fact. We’re doing a undertaking with girls from a tribe [in the] north of Syria, who reside sort of secluded. [Yusra] has a basis, so we’re gonna work by way of that

Yusra: We’ve got lots of concepts. I believe the longer term may be very shiny for the model. I actually prefer it. And I’ll all the time be a supporter, to any extent further.

Additionally, bringing consciousness to Paris may be very, crucial. As a result of clearly, there are many refugees coming to France. I’m on the Paris Peace Discussion board, and I wish to attempt to change the angle right here. A model like Casablanca can shift the narrative. We’d have gone by way of loads. However once more, right here we’re, and we’re constructive—we wish to make a change on the earth. We wish to encourage who will get impressed, you understand, whether or not they’re refugees or not. Whether or not they’re Arabic or not. And I believe the present’s gonna do this tonight.

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