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Moroccan talent incubator aims to highlight young designers with event

By Florence Julienne


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Fashion |In Pictures

Audace fashion show 2023. Lune de Jour brand. Credits: Initiative Audace. Lazaar Studio

From November 10 to November 12 2023, Youness Bouchida, founder and CEO of Moroccan talent incubator Audace, brought together the Moroccan creative scene - fashion, cosmetics and decoration - with national partners and international guests. The event took place in Rabat, the administrative capital of Morocco. Fashionunited was present.

Initiative Audace is an incubator for Moroccan talent, supporting start-ups and established designers in their local and international development. The two-day events was a one-off event that featured an Audace fashion show and a multi-brand B2B showroom, as well as a gala evening at which four Audace Awards were presented.

"I look after financial development and partnerships," explains Youness Bouchida, speaking to Fashionunited. "My role as founder consists of going to see the ministries, the Kingdom's promotional agencies and private partners so that Morocco, as well as having an industrial fabric, is also recognised for its creativity."

Before getting involved in getting to know his country (again), Youness Bouchida worked for the Accor group and BNP Paribas. He also developed the presence of Moroccan designers at the Who's Next/Premiere Classe trade shows. There, I noticed that some of them didn't have the right tools at their disposal (trends, sourcing, etc.)," he says. There was a real need to prepare them. In Paris, I run a public affairs agency that has worked to bring investors and contractors to Morocco. Initiative Audace is my passion project.

Youness Bouchida and Lydia Harroch Credits: Initiative Audace. Lazaar Studio

The fashion mood at Initiative Audace 2023 is denim and earthquake victims

On Friday November 10, the fashion show was held at the Fairmont La Marina, a post-modern hotel building overlooking the sea. It featured an international line-up, including a number of key figures from the French fashion industry: Natalie Dufour (Andam, also a partner of Audace), Jean-Pierre Blanc (Hyères Festival), Sylvie Pourrat (Premiere Classe), and Maryline Bellieud-Vigouroux (Fonds de Dotation Maison Mode Méditerranée).

In addition to: Géraldine Florin (Maisons du Monde) and Florence Calvet (LuxaBee), accompanied by Kelley Carter, artistic director of home and interior design at Bloomingdales (300 outlets in the United States). An significant addition, as Youness Bouchida points out that "the American market is very receptive to Moroccan designers".

The two prize-winning designers at the first Audace event in 2022, Meriem Nour for the Hanout brand and Mina Binebine, each presented several looks from their spring/summer 2024 collection. What do they have in common? Both have worked with denim. It's worth remembering that while Morocco has a solid and responsive manufacturing industry, the country produces very little fabric overall.

Audace 2023 showroom. Meriem Nour for the Hanout brand. Credits: Florence Julienne
Hanout Credits: Audace. Lazaar Studio
Mina Binebine Credits: Audace. Photo : Lazaar Studio
Mina Binebine Crédits: F. Julienne

The third catwalk show presented one model from each fashion finalist. The models were chosen freely, and do not necessarily reflect the Spring Summer 2024 collection. This choice has been taken on board by Initiative Audace, in this case by Lydia Harroch, an expert in brand development (formerly a speaker at Who's Next), who is now at the helm of the incubator.

The Audace fashion show was a space for freedom of expression, which we respected," Lydia Harroch tells Fashionunited. For example, I worked on the commercial coherence of the Bleu Sahara collection by the designers of the Lune de Jour brand. For the show, they told me "We listen to you all year round. When it comes to presenting a single silhouette, we do whatever we want! We want to have fun.

The result? An outfit named after Zaynab Nefzaouia, founder and queen of Marrakech. Made from hand-carved copper, the dress has an LED light to illuminate it. The silk bodice features the motif of the gateway to the Medina of Marrakesh. It is hand-embroidered using the taassab technique (silk threads that artisans wind by hand), in the style of zellij (ornamental mosaics). The message? To shine a spotlight on the workers behind the scenes and symbolise the reconstruction of Marrakech after the earthquake.

Incubation, networking and building a solid network to shine on the international fashion scene

On Saturday November 11, at the Tour Hassan hotel, a showroom brought together eleven ready-to-wear labels, six fashion accessory brands, four decorative object brands and three beauty brands. Each of the labels had the opportunity to present its collection to professionals. Ghalia Iraqi for Cousu reveals her admiration for Faycal Amor, and her pieces in top quality lambskin (another material that can be sourced in Morocco) reflect the suppleness of Plein Sud in its heyday.

Another nice discovery is Kenza Wahabi for Rue des tilleuls. Wahabi looks like Christy Turlington, and is represented in Morocco by the Marrakchi concept store 33 Rue Majorelle, and is preparing to open a showroom flat in Guéliz. However, those who took centre stage at the gala ceremony were :

  • Marounane Haial for Contre Allée, a brand of raffia shoes, receives the Grand Prix Audace 2023. This success was immediately hailed by the Chaloub Group, the largest retail operator in the Middle East, keen to represent the brand.
  • Meriem Khaldi for Belle & Bowie wins the Young Designers Award. The young woman made a name for herself with a collection featuring faded blue jeans and, in particular, jackets with eighties-style armholes.
  • The Sustainability prize went to Rhita Créations, designer of non-rhodium-plated 925 silver jewellery inspired by Fez embroidery patterns, retailing from 68 euros (rings) to 185 euros (earrings, necklaces, etc.).
  • Finally, the Heritage prize went to Myroc for its ceramic vases.

Contre Allée Credits: Initiative Audace. Lazaar Studio
Belle and Bowie Credits: Initiative Audace. Lazaar Studio
Audace 2023. Meriem Khaldi for Belle & Bowie Credits: Florence Calvet
Rhita Créations Credits: Initiative Audace. Lazaar Studio

The winners received a plane ticket from Air France, a partner of this year's event, to attend the Hyères Festival and the Andam 2024 ceremony. Muriel Piaser spontaneously invited Rhita Créations to exhibit at Precious Room from January 24 to January 25, 2024.

"For the moment, we are a private company, but we are in the process of creating an organisation that will support Moroccan fashion, beauty and design," concludes Youness Bouchida. Through this initiative, we hope to bring together other players in the fashion industry. The idea is to appeal as a single voice to the government for a creative Morocco, backed up by an action plan. What's more, I'd love to set up the incubator in a physical location that is part of Rabat's heritage.

FashionUnited editor Florence Julienne travelled to Morocco and was invited by Initiative Audace.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit from French into English by Veerle Versteeg.

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