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Meet Sonia Ahmimou, the Leather Goods Designer on Our Radar

Photo courtesy of Aswad

With a CV that includes the crème de la crème of French luxury houses – Louis Vuitton, Moynat, and Hermès – Sonia Ahmimou was bound to land on our radar. The Moroccan-French accessories designer launched her own brand of leather goods in 2016, called Aswad (meaning “black” in Arabic). The classic, minimalist range of leather accessories includes backpacks, belt bags, and card holders. Quoting Islamic art and Brutalism (a style of architecture popular in the 1950s to 1970s, characterized by raw concrete modules) as inspirations, her debut collection features 97 tightly edited pieces, each handmade from sustainable leather in her Paris atelier. Vogue Arabia caught up with Ahmimou to discuss Aswad, her transition from wanting to be an architect to designing accessories, and to decode how Morocco inspires her.

On Morocco
“Morocco plays a big role in my designs. I love crafts, and Morocco is very rich in this sense. It is a constant inspiration. I am fortunate to have two cultures. I cherish Morocco: its way of life, its history, its beauty, and its cuisine. It is also a very rich country architecturally – I am very fond of the royal stables in Meknes. I spent a lot of time there in my childhood.”

On her style
“I feel good in simple, practical clothes. I think that beyond style, elegance is most important. I love noble materials and simple shapes. My favorite piece is a very large, white shirt that I can wear for any occasion. My mom was an antiquarian. I loved going to auctions with her to look for rare items, especially clothes and bags. I think it started when I was 13. My first bag was a dark green crocodile pouch with a small golden lock. I used it for a long time as a pencil case.”

On changing lanes from wanting to be an architect to designing accessories
“When I was young, I spent days making small paper and wooden objects, clothes, miniature houses, and furniture. I always loved to conceptualize objects and think in terms of volumes, which led me to want to be architect or fashion designer. I eventually became interested in leather goods because it was the perfect compromise between the two trades. Structurally, as well as in aesthetic research and volume development, I think there is a very strong link between these two trades.”

On Aswad
“Aswad means black. I like the tone – it adds depth and perspective. Black is synonymous with emptiness. Everything is imaginable. Black has no limit, it is obsessive. Each culture has its own interpretation of the color black. In Japanese culture, darkness has a very important place. The designer Yohji Yamamoto makes exceptional use of it. In Islam, wearing black signifies descent from a great lineage. In India, black restores balance and health. There is a kind of mysticism in black that does not leave me indifferent.”

On working with Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Moynat

“I prefer practice to theory. After I had visited some leather workshops, the school benches started to bore me, so I decided to go to work very young. You have to be inventive, and above all, to be in love with this craft.”

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