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Luxury footwear brand Zyne only launched in 2016, but the Moroccan company has already been seen on the feet of Chiara Ferragni, Little Black Book author and fashion blogger Sofie Valkiers and others of that ilk. Dedicated to local craftsmanship facilitated by female co-operatives, the Casablanca-made brand is right up our alley. We’re pretty taken with those Moroccan babouches (slippers) – silk, sequin and “Raffia Mafia” embroidery mules.
How did you both get into fashion?
Zineb: After studying Fashion Design at Esmod Paris, I worked at Christian Dior as a design assistant in the “flou” section (for soft clothes like dresses). At the time, the shoe team were looking for an intern and I decided to take the chance and work with them. I soon realised that I could never go back to clothes. I then chose to learn more about shoe design at Central St Martins in London and Moda Pelle in Italy. After this, I worked at Sonia Rykiel as an assistant shoe designer. My background has always really been in fashion but became more targeted with time.
Laura: I studied marketing and communications in Paris and then worked for Christian Louboutin and a jewellery brand, where I managed all of their content. Like Zineb, I went straight into fashion after studying, but the marketing and communications side of it rather than design.
What led you to start Zyne?
After we had worked in fashion in Europe and found our niche in the industry, we decided that we needed to go back to Morocco and do something for our country. We wanted to make a positive impact in fashion and empower local women. We were both born and raised in Morocco and saw the unique craftsmanship involved in making the babouche – the Moroccan traditional shoe. Despite the skilful design of each shoe, the finesse was not the standard demanded by fashion houses in Paris, for example, largely because the traditional babouche is often made without an outer sole. We were yet to find a shoe incorporating Moroccan ancestral designs with high quality that could be worn on the streets of any city, so we decided to create one ourselves.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Every time we travel we are inspired by the places and the people we encounter. Morocco in particular inspires us with its colourful energy, fascinating history and dazzling combination of Arab, European and African influences. From the vibrant and bustling medinas to the sparse and sweeping Sahara, the country packs a remarkable variety of adventures into its corner of North Africa. Kasbahs and mosques offer a glimpse of a more mystical time, while hip cafés and high-design riads reflect Moroccans’ modern, cosmopolitan side. We visit the souks at least every other week to see the developments made in terms of product and anything new that may fuel ideas.
You’ve studied and lived in London and Paris – how do these cities influence your designs?
Zineb: In Morocco, our education was based on a French model, embodying “savoir faire” which means being very particular about the way to do things. This taught us from a young age to pay close attention to quality, technique and precision. But when I moved to London, the teaching at Central St Martins was very different – I was completely free as an artist, which was amazing because it gave me the room to develop my creativity and try new things without worrying about anything being wrong – imperfection was beautiful in its own way. The street style of London also inspired me; people here seemed free to do whatever they wanted. I think it’s a huge strength to have two different education types, and I’m very grateful to have had this.
Laura: Similarly to Zineb, Paris taught me to be rigorous and meticulous. As big cities, London and Paris both have a major influence on international fashion trends. They lead the way in clothing and design and have such rich cultural and artistic activities.
How do you combine the traditional with the modern in your pieces?
The babouche is the most popular shoe in Morocco, it’s a cultural piece from our tradition. The souks of Morocco are filled with babouche shoes because they’re easy to wear around the house and also a very nice gift to give. The product has been around for hundreds of years, it’s an ancestral piece of our history, one which should be worn proudly. So, we combine the traditional shape of the babouche and the techniques used to make it with contemporary beading and embellishments. We always include the classic babouche shape in our collections, but as our collections evolve, so do our shapes. Our next collection sees the introduction of the Raffy kitten heel, which we are very excited about.
Who is the Zyne customer?
Our customer is between 20 and 70 years old. We frequently get visits from mothers along with their daughters who both have a taste for handcrafted and comfortable luxury, but leave with two completely different looking shoes. The brand appeals to a conscious buyer who is inspired by the convergence of cultures that is reflected in today’s society and appreciates that a unique and artisanal product that can be perfectly imperfect.
Describe Zyne’s aesthetic in three words.
Sophisticated, handmade and comfortable.
How do the cooperatives of women working for the brand function?
We have two embroiderers working in our office making our prototypes and testing new techniques. Once we confirm a design, this prototype goes to the cooperative who add the beads and fabric. We have a lady that trains our team once per week in embroidery – she worked for the most prestigious embroideries in Paris for brands such as Chanel and Dior.
Where are the communities of women you work with based?
We work in Casablanca, but the women we work with come from all over Morocco. We work with women from different regions that are known for their unique embroidery skills – each region in Morocco is famous for their ancestral techniques and ideas. To begin with, we went to local cooperatives in Casablanca where the women had no jobs and few employable skills. We began working with them, teaching them how to make shoes. Soon we had our own space where they could work from. Many of them had commitments at home so couldn’t be in the space, away from home all day, but they could come and go at their convenience.
Where do you source most of your materials?
We source all of our materials in Morocco, we believe in a 100% Moroccan product.
What are your favourite pieces from the brand?
Zineb: It’s so hard to answer this. I’m very excited about the introduction of the heel into our collection, so my favourite would be one of our raffia heels.
Laura: Me too! My favourite has to be the mustard heel from the new collection or the Swarovski slipper exclusive to Net-a-Porter.
What are some of your favourite destinations in Morocco and why?
Marrakech, of course, for inspiration and nightlife. We also love going on road trips in the north to Chefchaouen or the south to Dakhla. Each city in Morocco has its own heritage, culture, and architecture.
Best places to shop in Casablanca?
If you’re looking for something traditional you have to go to the souk in Casablanca; Habbous is the place to find many treasures such as bags and jewellery.
How should we spend 24 hours in Casablanca?
Positioned at the edge of the new medina in Casablanca, the Quartier des Habous is a curiously attractive mixture of French-colonial architecture with Moroccan details, built at the beginning of the 20th century. Another must-see is the Hassan II Mosque. Casablanca’s skyline is dominated by this massive edifice, unmissable thanks to a striking green-tile roof. A traditional hammam is kind of a right of passage; our favourite place is Lucie St Claire. No trip is complete without a visit to Rick’s Café. A nod to the classic film for which Casablanca is widely known, it’s a romantic spot in a restored medina riad.
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