UNIK | The traditional Moroccan Djellaba revisited


Mother and Daughter duo form Unik the brand Mother and Daughter duo, Dadouh and Yass, co-founders of Unik

What is the inspiration behind your brand?

My source of inspiration comes from my Berber origins from the Rif mountains which is a northeastern region of Morocco, and more specifically from the Rif tradition of the djellaba. My motto is to reconcile and bring together simplicity, comfort and originality. Ever since a young age I was always into fashion following trends and all while while conserving a stamp of Moroccan traditionalism. One of my driving creative process is to make women feel sexy and sensual whilst using noble materials. The djellaba which is a Moroccan traditional piece of clothing is a constant and ongoing source of inspiration and I like to revisit it while giving it a boho chic vibe. The name of the brand, Unik, symbolizes my ambition to make every women feel unique whilst wearing my garments.

 

The djellaba reinvented

How long does it take to make one garment? Who makes them and how are they produced? 

It’s a collaborative work, I rely on the artisans’ expertise, knowledge of the material and I prefer to give them the time to work on the garment. I choose each artisan depending on the piece he or she is making and the the artisan’s specific expertise. With artisanal work,  there is a lot of trial and error, sometimes it takes quite a few different times testing the method or the approach to get to a satisfactory end result- of course, I have to admit to a bit of perfectionism on my side. I’m also very attentive to the artisans personal lives because it tends to have an impact on the work they do, so I keep a very close relationship with each of them.

 

The production time varies significantly depending on the complexity of the item. It can go from four days - shortest for something very simple – to up to three weeks for something complex with a lot of embroidery for example, all of which is made by hand. The process of production and creation is purely artisanal within a small workshop and twe’re really focused on conserving this artisanal and creative touch and intimate workflow. Even complicated embroidery is not done using machinery, it’s all done by hand and this is why it will continue to be a small business, simply because it cannot be scaled in the way that it would be with a factory.

 The Djellaba with embroidery details

How do you empower artisans/local craft and local techniques and what is your pledge to them?

My approach and promise to artisans is to make them truly accountable for the work they’re doing and I do that by personally choosing them based on their specific skills as well as putting in place a strong respect of timings and the ways of working with strong attention to detail. Even though this it is a little bit different from how things usually happen in artisanal productions where it may be more relaxed with less discipline, I preserve accountability thanks to this type of relationship.

So it’s a paradoxal mix of empathy, trust but also having a high standard and expectations that they should be delivering the products with discipline. On the flip side I really empower them by encouraging them and gsharing with them the praise and feedback of clients informing them what kind of products are liked etc., it really motivates them in almost like a coaching method. It really puts into value and showcases the beauty of the work they do and I am always very complementary of it.

Something that’s worth noting about artisanal work/production that it requires a lot of patience and sometimes sacrificing some materials. If you don’t come to the desired result after a lot of trials & errors for example, you might need to give up a garment that cannot be redone. It’s a lot of collaborative work, patience and empathy to understand the capabilities of artisans and what is feasible.

 

What is your favorite item and how do you style it? 

The traditional Moroccan djellaba being at the core of everything we do, we make small additions either through the type of materials used or adding/removing a cape or extra details such as embroidery, making it more relaxed or more complex so it’s adaptable from anything like a beachwear item to a nice comfortable garment to wear while receiving guests or a little bit more fancy item you can wear to go out with or to a special occasion.

Playing with the length of it as well - a short version for a casual and more masculine djellaba which is the way it is traditionally worn nby men in the Rif and the way her grandfather used to wear it; or a long djellaba with more transparent material to give a sensual and sexy feel/look.

 The Djellaba in long and pink, sensual version