Award-winning men’s brand Casablanca is blowing up
"I could never find the kind of clothes I wanted to wear. I kept looking and thinking that at some point I would come across them, but I never did,” explains Charaf Tajer, “So, I created them.”
As far as origin stories go, the one of the clothing brand Casablanca is a pretty simple one: identify what you want; if it isn’t available, create it. More often than not, the most compelling origin stories are just that: simple.
Launched less than two years ago, the brand’s clever aesthetic of combining old-school luxury and contemporary streetwear has not only won itself an impressive client list— including ex-Esquire cover star DJ Khaled and Lil Nas X —but also caught the eye of the LVMH Prize judging panel. (Casablanca’s founder and designer Tajer had made it to the final eight of this year’s acclaimed fashion prize before the impact of Covid-19 meant that the prize was shared).
“I was really surprised at how well people reacted to Casablanca,” says Tajer. “I think it’s the fusion that makes Casablanca interesting for the people. Classic prints and t-shirts, and then a jersey next to tailoring. It’s very much modern and with the time, but there’s a past and a future.”
The rapid rise of Casablanca—named after the city in which Tajer’s parents first met—gives a clear insight into the person its founder is. While many designers hone their craft and learn industry etiquette in the hallowed halls of the fashion world’s feeder design schools; others take the more entrepreneurial route by forging their own path, tooling up along the way with transferable skills; a useful contact list; and a working understanding of what the consumer actually wants. Tajer is unmistakably part of the latter.
The self-taught creative director was born and raised in Paris, but was surrounded by creatives growing up with both of his Moroccan parents working in the fashion industry. His grandfather was also a mosaic artist, who counted the King of Morocco as a client. Despite choosing to study architecture, it is no surprise that he was drawn towards the fashion world early on in his career.
“The prints I create are always heavily inspired by the nature and architecture around us,” he says. “The message behind Casablanca is to open your eyes and see how the world we are living in is magic and beautiful. Sometimes that is something we tend to forget.”
Despite the brand being called Casablanca, Arab culture is not a main driver in Tajer’s creativity.
“I speak Arabic and have Moroccan heritage, by my clothes are not solely inspired by the Arab world,” he explains. “We have done collections inspired by Brazil, and by Lake Garda in northern Italy. I don’t like to categorise by origin, I don’t feel like that it’s relevant. We should all be united and not divide things into Arabs, or black people, or white people.”
There’s no doubt that Tajer’s success so far has come from a reliance on his gut feeling of what the market is interested in, and solid understanding of the cross-cultural appeal, but in a time when people’s commercial weariness is at its most acute, perhaps the most important element is his honesty.
“What I’ve learnt from the fashion industry is you need to be sincere and do exactly what you love. I think that’s when it pays off.” Y’see, simple.
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