Follow Vogue Arabia

The Women Behind Osay’s Handmade Tunisian Shoes: Meet Kenza Fourati and Simone Carrica

Step inside the shared, color-led New York space where two like-minded entrepreneurs, Kenza Fourati and Simone Carrica, turn creative dreams into vibrant realities.

Kenza Fourati

Photo: Ellen Hansen

Kenza Fourati and Simone Carrica are co-founders of Osay, an acronym for Our Stories Are Yours, which aims to put artisans at the center of a business crafting hand-made Tunisian shoes. Stepping into New York’s Soho Works, Tunisian model and entrepreneur Fourati grabs a coffee and chats with others in the space before beginning her artistic process. The model – who has graced the covers of Vogue Arabia and Vogue Italia, walked for Giorgio Armani, and booked campaigns with Dior, Chanel Makeup, L’Oréal, and YSL fragrance, to name a few – is no stranger to the power of creative imagination. Meanwhile, her Paris-based business partner, Carrica, has already started her morning ritual of going to her Tunisian baker to buy croissants and chat for 15 minutes before diving into work. Carrica has been the head of VIP concierge services at Hermès HQ, was a cultural event planner at the French Institute Alliance Française, and notably, has received accolades from former French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, for her volunteer work in researching ethical businesses.

The founders of the Tunisian-inspired slippers take every opportunity to soak in the energy of the city, so it’s no surprise they call Soho Works their workplace. The membership-only space allows those in an artistic line of work to gather, mingle, and share ideas. “Soho Works is like our kind of creative barber,” says Fourati. “It is a really great place for us to be very creative and to even talk with fellow business owners or collaborate with them,” says Carrica of the space located in NYC’s Meatpacking District, which is concrete but also very airy. The duo come for the people, positive vibes, and ambience. “It’s just very stimulating. The people are great, and the space makes you want to do good work,” she adds. “The staff is young and cool and they’re all wearing our shoes, so it’s kind of like a tribe, these are people we want to talk to,” says Fourati with excitement.

Kenza Fourati

Photo: Ellen Hansen

Their leather samples are always within arm’s reach. “When people walk by, they see all these colors because we always spread our samples out and have three or four shoe prototypes on the table,” says Fourati. Their workspace is also a place to collect ideas from; professionals fly in from all over the world to host seminars or brand interviews. “It’s pretty rewarding to be able to interact with these people; it’s good for the mind,” says Carrica. Sharing struggles with other entrepreneurs is also very helpful, they add.

The New York to Paris time difference is an adjustment for the co-founders as they used to work together daily in NYC. Now, they also work from their respective homes. Fourati wakes up surrounded by art and related books, which she has all around her house. “It allows me to feed myself into art, architectural fashion, and photography,” says Fourati. Then, she connects with Carrica – the duo have a two-to-three-hour video chat to discuss urgent needs. “We make the best of her being in Paris,” says Fourati. “We try to take advantage of the fact that Simone is closer to where things are made.” The entrepreneurs are constantly testing out new material, while also trying to be as sustainable as possible. Carrica adds, “If it’s sustainable today, it doesn’t mean that it will be sustainable tomorrow, so we’re really trying to experiment with different materials.” The Osay founders continuously go through the fit of a shoe again and again in order to improve it. “It’s a lot of moving in our own shoes. Footwear is a little complicated, it is a kind of science,” they say.

Kenza Fourati

Photo: Ellen Hansen

The Tunisian model and her Argentinian-American business partner, who both grew up in Tunisia, do their best to travel to the North African country as much as possible to collaborate with and understand the struggles of artisans. “We want to know what the issues are when it comes to material and the working conditions,” says Carrica. “We want to improve everything. If we’re bringing something into the world, we really want to make sure that it’s helping communities.”

Kenza Fourati

Photo: Ellen Hansen

Kenza Fourati and Simone Carrica also spend time in their small atelier in downtown Tunis, where four artisans work and where most of the material is stocked. The two businesswomen scout for leathers and walk the streets of Tunis talking to various companies, producers, and artisans. From choosing the materials, to the finish of the shoes, to what the name of the piece will be, the founders try to integrate the artisans in every single aspect. “It’s their art and we need to let their art speak,” says Carrica.

Originally published in the March 2024 issue of Vogue Arabia

Suggestions
Articles
View All
Vogue Collection
Topics