Randall Bachner a successful New York – based fashion photographer whose 10-day holiday in Marrakech in 2011 recast his career path. With an eye for capturing beauty, he was captivated by the North African city’s color and energy. Consequently, Bachner relocated and founded the fashion company Marrakshi Life in 2013 with the principal idea to honor Moroccan heritage, aesthetic, and culture by sustaining and championing its traditional weaving practices. Initially, the former photographer was introduced to local artisans – weavers and tailors – who would help him create his vision. Together they explored the idea of making clothes that take inspiration from the traditional Moroccan aesthetic and combine it with contemporary urban design. They decided these garments were to be made from handwoven fabrics in a myriad of colors.
Bachner established his atelier in Marrakech, situated amongst other craft shops and part of the community, employing local artisans and craftsmen. The vertically integrated company allows all aspects of production are overseen in-house or locally by the atelier. Therefore, not only does the production of their designs have minimal environmental impact, but the social implications of creating their garments are entirely responsible, too, by benefitting the community in which they are made.
Creating the garments begins with the raw cotton fibers are dyed locally in the signature Marrakshi Life color palette. The fibers are then spun in the atelier before being woven on wooden flatbed looms, many of which have been passed down for generations. The weaving process is complex and physical. It can take up to five artisans to load the warp onto the loom as it must maintain a high tension throughout the process. Through this process, the stunning colors and architectural patterns of Marrakshi Life fabrics are realized. The atelier now has 70 weavers + tailors, who produce up to 6 meters of fabric daily on human-powered looms. The newly woven cloth is hand-washed, a step introduced to prioritize the wearer’s comfort. The pattern pieces are individually cut and sewn, which helps to reduce waste. Finally, each Marrakshi Life garment is hand-finished to add the final details and ensure the garment is of the highest quality. From the time of a consumer’s online purchase, the made-to-order clothes are ready to ship within 10 business days.
The androgynous silhouettes are often beautifully simple yet expertly executed through skillful tailoring. This restrained approach is in keeping with Marrakshi Life’s look, allowing the exquisite craftsmanship of the handwoven fabrics to speak for itself. Each collection features a range of garments including caftans, tunics, dresses, tops, trousers and shorts. A key component of their style is to prioritize functionality, comfort and inclusivity in their garments; the shapes and colors of the designs are practical, gender-neutral and sit outside current fashion trends, which can often be seen to dictate the production of Western fashions.
Marrakshi Life’s utilitarian garments, created from brightly colored and creatively patterned fabrics, have an original and contemporary look. This is borne out of the desire to bring together two cultures and aesthetics that, at first thought, could arguably be positioned at odds with one another: the functional and minimal Western urban look juxtaposed with the vibrant and colorful North African style. However, Marrakshi Life’s collections prove this initial assumption wrong. Randall Bachner has created a new definition of contemporary Moroccan fashion that incorporates the country’s rich cultural diversity and celebrates the skill and craftsmanship of some of Morocco’s most talented weavers. -Fiona Ibbetson