Sofia El Arabi, the Moroccan founder of Bakchic clothings is Vogue Arabia’s March It Girl. Here, she reveals how she stays connected to her heritage through her sartorial style.
To Sofia El Arabi, the founder and designer of Moroccan label Bakchic, mixing eclectic pieces comes naturally. Although white shirts and Levi’s are her uniform, she takes her look to the next level with reworked caftans plucked from her grandmother, mother, and aunt’s closets. “I revive old caftans they wore to weddings and special occasions by opening them in the front, shortening the sleeves, and adding some structure to the collar,” she says. “It’s important to add something poetic to your outfit. The caftans flow with the wind when I’m walking and the colors add magic and fantasy.” Her family, however, aren’t too fond of her repurposing their pieces. “They consider it murdering the caftans, because of the history and stories around them,” she admits, while wearing a jade green overlay with gold embroidery and intricate embellishments down the sleeves. “But it’s just a symbolic way to shake tradition. I tell them, we are not going to be buried with all our clothes, I might as well make them live again.”
“I would love to be the Arab version of Carrie Bradshaw. My style changes with trends and where I live,” states the designer, who went to business school in Paris. “In France, I dressed more classically. The weather didn’t make it easy for me to wear fancy dresses and special outfits. I always ended up throwing a coat over everything. When I moved back to Morocco, I had the luxury to wear what I wanted in terms of dresses and traditional pieces.” A quick look in her closet reveals white buttondowns from & Other Stories, Fruit of the Loom, and Maché. “I have around 20 white shirts – and I’m still looking for the perfect one.” She also usually adds a Moroccan touch to her outfits – “I try to add a little hint of something special.”
PICK OF THE GLITTER
“During my trips to Marrakech, I always spend half a day visiting the little shops in the Medina to buy Berber jewelry,” she shares. “Most of the time it’s easier to find genuine pieces south of the city, because that’s where they are produced. There’s a lot of fake silver jewelry, so you have to go to the right person.” El Arabi adorns her neck with chunky collar necklaces, stacked cuffs, and glimmering rings accented with colorful stones. “It’s raw and authentic,” she describes of her accessory style. Layering with a heavy hand, El Arabi keeps her outfit simple before piling on the silver. “My aim is to bring a special look and a contemporary way of styling to Berber jewelry. They are stored in large wooden boxes and you have to look for the ones you love in an ocean of jewels. Since they are so accessible to people in this region, sometimes they aren’t viewed as something precious. People are sitting on treasures and they just don’t know it.”
“I don’t wear Berber jewels every day because they are very heavy,” El Arabi continues. However, when the Casablanca-based designer does, she has a penchant for piling on her arm candy with brazen nonchalance. She decks out her arms with quirky pairings, in a harmonious mashup of crystal-encrusted Shourouk designs and colorful chevron woven styles reminiscent of friendship bracelets. When she wants to add a hint of mysticism, she ventures below the knee with unexpected embellishments. “I’ve always loved foot jewelry. Anklets are subtle and a symbol of Arab culture. They are discreet and sensual and indirectly express femininity and seduction.”
IN HER SHOES
When it comes to footwear, El Arabi switches gears from her traditional aesthetic, gravitating towards designer silhouettes from Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, and Aquazzura. “One of my favorites is a red sandal with laces that go high up the ankle,” she says of an Aquazzura pair. When she’s looking for something comfortable, her Chanel espadrilles, ballerinas, and sneakers cover more ground. “It’s more my style. I don’t really wear heels all the time, and my flats are enough for me to tie my outfits together.” Speaking about her latest addition – a pointed-toe slingback – she shares, “I recently discovered Ganni and fell in love with the Danish brand, so it’s something new in my wardrobe.”
ONE BAG TO RULE THEM ALL
El Arabi has an obsession with Chanel bags. “They’re eternal,” she says. “I’m always on the lookout for special pieces or vintage ones.” Her collection includes a classic 2.55 in black and a quilted denim flap bag. However, she longs for a red shoulder bag bearing the interlocking Cs and a gold chain strap. “My sister is coming from Paris and she’s bringing the bag with her. I’m more excited for the bag to arrive than my sister!” she adds with a cheeky laugh.