Craving a more authentic Moroccan experience? Founder Mohamed Elmaarouf is now offering private shopping tours around the celebrated bazaars and markets of Marrakesh. Whether you’re browsing the brand’s offerings on L-ATITUDE or tagging along on one of Elmaarouf’s shopping excursions, these artisanal goods are sure to dazzle and delight you.
How long has Imports from Marrakesh been working with the Moroccan artisans? What is that relationship like? How does that history influence your business today?
We have been working with Moroccan artisans since 1998. All of our products produced by small artisan workshops in Marrakesh and Fez. By working directly with the artisans, we preserve and promote the lineage of traditional Moroccan handicrafts. The craft techniques are handed down from generation to generation. Every product/ project we produce is a collaboration with our artisans and the creative vision of our clients. Editing an artisan’s aesthetic choices to suit our design specifications is a delicate balance. We have discovered that the best way to work with artisans is to make a sample and only then do we begin the process of refining the color palette and scale. Often we ask the artisan make a sample however he wishes, then we sit with the artisans over mint tea on the tiny stools in his atelier and discuss the all little design adjustments that need to happen. For example, our special pouf man employs his traditional craft and we specify the leather quality and embroidery color combinations. To suit the taste of American designers, we shifted him away from jarring color combinations to subtle monochrome color combinations that are easier to mix into a modern interior. Our role is to simply channel the artisan craft technique to make products that are
traditional with an elegant edge.
Imports from Marrakesh began in America by selling products in the Chelsea Market. How is that experience different from selling in the Moroccan markets?
In Marrakesh the market is mostly geared to selling artisan crafts & antiques to Europeans, tourists from around the world and of course Moroccans. We had the opportunity to be a retail pioneer in the Chelsea Market dealing in Moroccan tiles, carpets and décor as an exotic accessories for the home. Due to being in the heart of the creative community in NYC, we established a great network of interior & fashion stylists, set & party designers who selected our special one of kind textiles and décor for editorial, film & photo shoots and special events. This would happen in Marrakesh too but on not such a grand scale. We cater to American taste and work hard to make Moroccan style accessible and affordable to everyone. We take inspiration back and forth between both worlds – Marrakesh and NYC. We continue to be in a unique position to be based in NYC, a mecca of the design world, by offering our special custom design services to architects and interior designers. Through the internet we have now become an international business….with clients from Beverly Hills to Hong Kong..
What is the story behind your one-of-a-kind Zemmour pillows? Who makes them? What are they inspired by?
These special pillows are hand-woven by the women of the Zemmour tribe. This style of pillow actually comes from many Berber tribes; Zemmour is one of the largest Berber regions, our collection also includes pillows from the Azrou and Beni M’tir tribes. These pillows are traditionally used for interior decoration in nomadic tents, where the floor is layered with carpets and the edges of the space are lined with these long rectangular pillows. The pillows are used fas a simple divan for seating, reclining and sleeping. Similar to the American patchwork quilt, these pillows are made by mothers in the tribe who take great pride in expressing their knowledge & talent through the process of weaving these pillows. Each design was woven with love and made to be a family heirloom… They are the heart of the ‘nomadic home’. This collection of vintage Zemmour pillows is imbued authentic spirit though the intricate geometric designs that represent magical Berber symbols- including the tree of life, the evil eye. The soft muted colors obtained from natural dyes, and the fine texture of the pillow the result of hand spun wool hand-woven on a narrow loom made of tree trunks. Each pillow was woven as one long runner then folded in half to become the pillow. The front of the pillow is an intricate geometric design and the back the pillow is always a striped design. They look good both ways and it is fun to have reversible design- we like to flip them around for fresh look… We have been collecting one of a kind Zemmour pillows for many years. These days, this style pillow can be found it the souks all over Morocco, but most of them lack soul because they are woven for the tourist market, just for money and not for tribal family use. The new Zemmour pillows are simply not as fine because the quality of the dyes, wool, and weaving has declined. The older textiles which speak of an ancient time in Moroccan- Berber culture. Our inspiration behind collecting these pillows is to share the special art and history of the nomadic weavers. The Zemmour pillows can instantly add a touch of global style to a room.
In what ways are Imports from Marrakesh products reflective of Moroccan culture? All of our products are reflective of Moroccan culture – as they are objects that are used in the art of daily living in Morocco.
We like to offer objects that have traditional ritual uses and expand their function by using them as exotic home accessories. The Hamman bowl is a perfect example. Originally used for rinsing the body with water at the steam baths, the Hamman Bowl is also a beautiful object with its repousse metalwork, large floral designs that resemble Arabic henna patterns. We like to expand its use as an object in beauty in our daily life. A small object like a hamman bowl can transform a mundane area like a entrance table into a special space. We like to fill the hammam bowls with roses and use one as a glamorous place to toss your passports and keys.
Currently what are your favorite travel destinations?
India, Southern Spain and Egypt because the art and craft in the these areas has a huge connection with what we do…. Venice for its history of merchant ships filled with exotic goods from the silk route, the Islamic influence in the architecture, and dream-like quality of the city sinking into the sea. Also Doris Duke’s ‘Shangri La’ in Hawaii is an endless source of inspiration for me. She commissioned custom décor from master artisans Morocco for her home. She was a bohemian heiress who combined her passion with modern architecture with her passion for exotic decor.