Algerian fashion has directly and discreetly influenced a number of international designers and fashion trends throughout the years. For his Fall 2018 couture show in Paris, Zuhair Murad sent out models wearing hooded, embroidered capes reminiscent of the North African country’s traditional bournous. Seasons before, models at the Suno Fall 2016 catwalk sported strips of head-turning black, velvet fabric wrapped down their lengths, which recalled a grown-up take on the qardoon, a traditional Algerian hairstyling trick. Meanwhile, throughout his outstanding, decades-long career, the iconic late Yves Saint Laurent consistently drew inspiration from the country in which he was born and raised, in tangent with its neighboring Morocco.
Despite this, the lack of recognition that fashion from the Maghreb country receives is what powered Nawel Nedjari to spotlight the Algerian culture by launching the first and only Alger Fashion Week (now in its fourth edition) back in 2011. “The goal is to organize a biannual Fashion Week,” Nedjari explains, speaking to Vogue.me. “Our costumes and traditions have been hidden for years, and I want to promote the various Algerian designs not just in France or in Algeria, but all over the world,” she added.
Nedjari further highlights the diverse designs, which range from traditional Berber attire to the karakou, and kaftan, by having a different theme each year. Last year, the shows revolved around the hayek — a traditional white cloth garment wrapped around the body. In 2016, the organizer wanted to focus on the cultural wedding attire, the Chedda dress, worn by the women of the northwestern city Tlemcen on their wedding day; the dress is registered on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. “This year, maybe we’ll showcase dresses from the Sahara,” she says hinting at the theme for the forthcoming event.
Set to take place on December 1 and 2, 2018, the fourth edition of the annual event will unfold at Paris’s Normandy Hotel, a stone’s throw away from the Louvre. The fashion show will be followed by an Algerian-inspired cocktail party, which will be attended by dignitaries, local singers, and celebrities. While previous designers to showcase their collections in the past editions include Berbere Creations and Sihem Benamer, this year will see under-the-radar brands Biba Couture, Kalisane Creations, and A’ina Couture all showcase their haute couture, prêt-à-porter, and bridal designs.
However, the organizer’s journey on shining a light on her country’s culture and traditions hasn’t always been easy due to her funding the entire platform, without any outside sponsorship or investment. But she’s adamant about her mission. “I’m completely motivated to promote Algerian culture for years to come,” admits Nedjari. “Because it’s beautiful and worthy.”