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5 Things to Know About Tilila Oulhaj, the Moroccan Model Changing the Face of Fashion

Tilila Oulhaj

Tilila Oulhaj photographed by Laurie Bartley for Vogue Arabia, November 2019.

It may be obvious that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but the sartorial world has only recently started to take notice, diversifying campaigns to be more inclusive of models from all backgrounds. Twenty-two-year-old Moroccan model Tilila Oulhaj is a rising star to be born at the cusp of this transformation, ready to join Ameni Esseibi and former Vogue Arabia cover stars Shahad Salman, Ikram Abdi Omar, and many others in leading the movement towards acceptance and individuality in the Middle Eastern fashion industry. In preparation for Oulhaj’s imminent breakthrough into the international spotlight, here are five things you should know about this emerging model: 

1. She only recently became a full-time model

Growing up in Morocco almost three hours away from Marrakech in the central town of Azilal, Oulhaj first started working as a debate teacher before deciding to pursue modeling full-time. Nevertheless, Oulhaj is already becoming recognized among the top ranks of many other fresh faces in the region in this short time period.  “I’ve always loved fashion, even at a young age,” she previously said in an interview with Vogue. “I remember I was about 11 years old and I used to be so excited to read through the magazines my mother would to keep up with the latest caftan trends. I also believe that being Moroccan, fashion and color runs in our blood. I look back at old photographs of my family and realize that they were trendsetters, too.”

2. She mostly works with local labels

Whether it’s being the face of renowned brands such as Paris Couture Week regular Maison ARTC or modeling for emerging brands like Scandinavian-Moroccan accessories label Bougroug, Oulhaj focuses on supporting talented designers in her home country, which is on its way to becoming a burgeoning fashion hub. “Modeling and fashion are thriving in Morocco right now,” said Oulhaj. “There is unlimited creative potential here and we’re in an environment that’s open to new interpretations of clothing and fashion.”

Tilila Oulhaj3. She doesn’t have just one word to describe her style

Fashion is multi-faceted and for Oulhaj, it’s hard to choose just one genre of style to commit to when it changes based on her environment and the period of life she’s in. The only aspect that remains constant: Her individual take on every ensemble. My personal style shifts a lot between traditional, streetwear, and what one might typify as ‘classy,’ but it depends on the situation I’m in,” explained Oulhaj. “I definitely always add my little twist to whatever I’m wearing.”

4. She’s committed to celebrating self-love and expression in the region

Joining a star-studded (and diverse) team of Arab creatives in luxury e-commerce platform Farfetch’s “Get Together” campaign earlier this year, Oulhaj showcased trendy adaptations of modest fashion from the Middle East to demonstrate the evolving landscape in not only the design realms of local fashion but also in the muses.  

5. She’s pushing the boundaries on traditional fashion

Although Oulhaj may be inspired by longtime industry giants like Vivienne Westwood and Paco Rabanne, she is also compelled towards more modern French labels like Maison Margiela and Courrèges to create a fusion that a new wave of Moroccans is beginning to experiment with. “We’re pushing away from what’s traditional and cliché and moving toward something more authentic and a little bit out there too.”

Tilila Oulhaj photographed by Laurie Bartley for Vogue Arabia, November 2019.

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