For Moroccan designer Karim Adduchi, fashion isn’t just about the sartorial collections he crafts every season, but about inspiring hope, giving voice to the voiceless, and weaving the stories that express a community’s heritage into each piece.
Drawing inspiration from the storytelling tradition of Berber women, including his own mother and grandmothers, Adduchi’s newest collection, She Knows Why the Caged Bird Sings, strives to translate the symbolism of the often forgotten past of this strong minority community and further collective understanding without perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes.
“My mission was recovering Morocco’s silent stories,” said Adduchi. “I consider that it is relevant to show the hidden beauty of Moroccan culture and to eradicate misconceptions of the Arab diasporas. As a fashion designer and artist, I feel a certain responsibility to document our society through a design lens and to create a sense of community.”
Many of Adduchi’s designs reflect the traditional materials and techniques from his home country of Morocco while artfully incorporating the unique artisanry of refugee tailors, embroiderers, and woodcarvers from Syria to create garments that belong on display.
“The materials were not necessarily meant to make garments with—one of the dresses, for example, is partly made of reed‐like material used to make floor mats,” explained Adduchi. “The gown design is then complemented by a much finer fabric. In every material, I tried to show its duality, showing its fragility and strength at the same time.”
“I love that because it’s a different way of showcasing the fashion garment and paying attention to the story behind it. In the end, clothing is clothing; what makes it art or fashion is the story that comes with it.”
Most recently, Adduchi’s designs starred on Vogue Arabia’s January 2020 cover with Moroccan model Meryem Tilila Oulhaj donning the designer’s carpet-inspired creation near Marrakech in a symbolic tribute to the region’s vibrant history and rising sartorial culture. While it was an experience he couldn’t even begin to fathom throughout the design process, it proved to him that “dreams can come true and perseverance pays off”.
“When you are in the creative bubble, you never expect where the garments will end up. You are just focused on being fair to the process and doing your best,” remarked Adduchi. “Being on the Vogue Arabia cover was something unimaginable when I was selecting the materials and making them in my small village of Imzouren, with my grandfather choosing the colors and patterns with me.”
As a nomad who has bounced around the world from Morocco to Barcelona and Amsterdam, Adduchi often felt disconnected from his personal identity and the surrounding society he lived in at that moment in time. However, instead of letting those feelings demotivate him from pursuing his lifelong dream, he used them as an avenue of empowerment.
“I always felt I didn’t belong anywhere. That’s why I used fashion and arts to connect with the world. It was my need to find that connection to my identity. The challenges of being a designer in a land that is not yours have been big, but there is no way I’m giving up on my dream. That just makes me want to work more, not just because I love making clothing, but also because I consider it my duty as a designer to create diversity, to break misconceptions, and to inspire others with the messages. I want to use the power of fashion, which has a loud voice, to spread a message of hope and community.”
Adding: “I remember visiting Paris when I was 15 years old and when I went back home, my urge to dream was so deep that I had to write down a contract to myself where I stated that if by 30 years old, I didn’t show in a museum in Paris or have a fashion show with Paris Fashion Week, I would give up my dream. That agreement to myself was signed and I didn’t give up to achieve it, no matter the circumstances.”
Nowadays, Adduchi continues to support migrant and refugee artisans through the World Makers Foundation, a platform connecting these talented communities with the outside world in the hopes of building them a network of opportunities to showcase their work, in addition to an upcoming show in June based off modernizing the hidden treasures he often finds in the basement of museums through ancient techniques. After all, “It’s about looking back to the past to find the future.”