Hassan Hajjaj hardly needs an introduction. The Moroccan artist, who has exhibited his work in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, has cemented himself as a master portraitist and designer not just in the Arab World, but globally. With his installations that include recycled North African objects, such as upturned Coca Cola crates as tables and vibrant portraits of his friends and family, Hajjaj earned the nickname of “Andy Warhol of Morocco.” Born in Larache in 1961, Hajjaj moved to London in his teen years and it was there that he picked up photography and design. Heavily influenced by the club and hip-hop scene of London in the ‘90s, Hajjaj decided to launch his own streetwear label, dubbed R.A.P (Real Artistic People,) which hasn’t been commercially available for the past two decades. This week, Hajjaj, with the support of Cadillac and SOLE DXB, is set to relaunch R.A.P in Dubai — and his momentum doesn’t end there.
The Moroccan artist is currently in the process of launching another clothing brand named Andy Wahloo (he designed a bar-restaurant of the same name in Paris in 2003.) Hajjaj reveals that the name was a fun pun that came up one evening in a gathering with Rachid Taha (renowned Algerian singer, Ya Rayah) and Mourad Mazouz (he of the popular UAE eatery, Almaz by Momo) amongst others. “I had just been called the “Andy Warhol of Marrakesh,” and Rachid Taha, so good with words, joked “Andy Wahloo,” which translates to ‘I have nothing’ in darija.” The cleverly named capsule collection, which is still in the works, is an ode to Hajjaj’s home country. “R.A.P is me being in London, and Andy Wahloo is more of an homage to Morocco and the rest of the Arab world,” he says.
No official release date has been set yet, asides from a pair of his and hers sneakers— made in collaboration with footwear label Reebok and Iranian designer Melody Ehsani— that feature a vivid woven pattern traditionally found in African rugs, launching this upcoming Valentine’s Day. “I’m designing a range of T-shirts, sweatshirts and sneakers,” he said, sharing a few of the unfinished sketches with Vogue. “There’s a whole generation of Arabs that grew up with the Internet,” he began, “hip-hop, especially the fashion, is a growing movement among the youth in North Africa— I wanted to present them with something that has the spirit of Maghreb and the Arab world,” he said of the not-yet-launched collection. “There aren’t many labels that I know of out there for our community by our community.” However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t exist. Some of his favorite Arab designers include 2015 DDFC/Vogue Arabia Fashion Prize finalist Amine Bendriouich, as well as Yassine Morabite and Melody Ehsani. “I really love what they are doing,” he said. “Street wear isn’t just a trend— it’s a lifestyle.”
Hajjaj currently splits his time between London and Marrakesh— in a vibrant art gallery-meets-studio-meets-home in the heart of the medina. Ahead, he invites us to explore his Marrakesh sanctuary.