BY Lisa Lindblad
November 17, 2009
There are these blessed cities, regions and countries where the craftman’s skills are so prolific and so varied that they have become design sourcing and shopping destinations of wide renown. Think Bali, think Thaiand, think Mexico, think Morocco and, more particularly, think Marrakech. Along with the blessing comes something else, however – a tendency, over time, for the design to become tired and stale and for the craftsmanship to become sloppy. Usually — not always, but usually – the remedy arrives via the design savvy and the international contacts of an expatriate who, with some money, patience and passion, sets up an atelier in his field. In Marrakech, many of these ateliers and many of these new designers started, and continue to be born, in the industrial area known as Sidi Ghanem.
The professionals of Sidi Ghanem have produced a map with a listings and locations of their studios, factories and shops that run the gamut from photography to woven textiles, ceramics to iron work. Head out to the area with the map in hand, a good driver and a cell phone for some of these designers are available by appointment only. Also, please note: Many do NOT take credit cards so Moroccan Dirhams are the best. As you are not going to set out with a wheelbarrow of cash, many of the designers are very willing to arrange for payment via Western Union (not wire transfer) or by cash when you can access an ATM machine.
Some of the best: Florence Teillet (Tel.+212 066 122 5905) (photo above) makes terrific textiles in a range of weights, all color combinations, and various fabrics. Many are hand embroidered and many of them combine the rough and the smooth — cotton with silk, sheer stripes in an otherwise hefty cotton weave, hand embroidered linen. She also has a children’s collection and a small collection of tunics, tops and caftans. She shows her fabrics in loose “color ways” that help in the monumental task of making a choice, so good is her look.
Tassi (Tel.+212 65 24 33 52 11) are clothing designers that sell primarily wholesale in Marrakech and Paris but will sell retail to the odd client who walks in. Interesting babouches that look like a cross between typical Moroccan slippers and cowboy boots, a good line of virtually sheer woven leggings and tops and very good classic jackets with inspiring linings and details. Also appealing is a sweet, stylized, silver main de fatima bracelet strung on a black cord.
Atelier Nihal (Tel.+212 671 16 01 62) is very special with wonderful hand woven textiles of good design as well as terrific cotton and silk textiles that are woven with leather in a basket weave pattern. Useful for upholstery as well as for boxes, wall hangings and handbags which they sell both there and in their separate industrial area shop.
Also to put on your whirlwind tour is Amira Bougies (Tel.+212 624 33 62 47), Metiers D’Hier for iron work (Tel.+212 624 33 58 29), Via Notti for sheets and other bedlinens (Tel.+212 264 35 60 24).