Fashion has been trying to integrate Moroccan style into clothing for years. I recollect a quilted skirt in a zillij pattern years ago that never made it off the runway into mainstream. Recently, Tracy Reese created a zillij-inspired handbag that I think I have to buy. It is a much better version of Morocco than the Furla bag I saw a few springs ago, which featured an unfortunate zillij print.
Anthropologie has picked up the effort to bring Moroccan style to fashion with it’s 2008 spring catalog titled “Escape to Morocco.” I brought the catalog to a recent family dinner to get the opinion of my husband and two brother-in-laws. “The tall brunette got more attention than the blond in Morocco” was the opinion of the oldest. “Why did they do her hair that way? It is really unflattering” was the opinion of the cover model given by the youngest. My sister in-law questioned “Are you looking at the girls or the clothes?” My view: ladies, none of the feature outfits are appropriate for a tour of the medina in Fes.
I appreciate that Anthropologie is selling a fantasy. I also appreciate that they shot the photos in Marrakesh instead of some make-shift set in a random sunny location. But, Moroccan design, I believe, has a role to play in fashion beyond a backdrop and naming convention. The pattern on the tessellated shirtdress looks more appropriate for a window dressing than a dress. The chellah handbag looks inspired more inspired by zinnias, the garden flower, than Rabati carpets. This year, Cynthia Steffe’s collection (this dress, for example) shows more Moroccan-inspired design than anything the Anthropologie catalog.
Morocco is not an easily-package experience. The best aspects of Moroccan design are tied to architecture, lighting, and ornamentation. It is difficult to pick one piece without brining the whole structure to a crumble. But, fashion industry, keep trying. Morocco is a design gold mine. Proportion, harmony, and color never go out of style.