Welcome to the playful and kitschy world of Zoubida, the brainchild of Moroccan-French creative director and designer Sophia Kacimi. Based around a slow fashion process, what Kacimi calls art-to-wear, Zoubida’s statement bags, jackets, and accessories are gracing the streets of London, Paris, Marrakesh, and everywhere in between.
By Ethan Dincer
The decision behind naming the label Zoubida comes from Kacimi’s childhood: “I have 14 uncles and aunts, so it was really hard to not choose a name in the family. When I was young, with my brother, we didn’t speak Arabic well. When you’re a kid you hear conversation, and you catch some words – don’t ask me why but we caught Zoubida. She must’ve been the talk of the town, with the neighborhood, and it stayed. When we were growing up, when something was not going as expected, we would say ‘Zoubida!’ And I thought it sums up all my work in Morocco – nothing goes as planned.”
Kacimi began Zoubida during the lull in work during COVID, further compounded by her frustration working in the luxury fashion industry. After years of engaging with merchandising in some of the largest labels, such as Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, and Burberry, Kacimi quit her job at the onset of the pandemic after feeling a drive to create something more sustainable, something more rooted in her homeland and lived experiences.
The first foray into exploring her Moroccan roots was a pottery retreat she organized with friends a few years ago in her family’s village, before the pandemic. As Kacimi treats us to fresh strawberries and Moroccan desserts in the same bowls from the retreat, she details the inspirations – found materials and fabrics right in her family home – that formed the ethos of Zoubida. She became intimately inspired by the thick luxury fabrics adorning curtains and the special covers her family would use when guests were invited to her family home, an experience Kacimi says is “relatable to anyone in the Middle East”.
“I was in Morocco during COVID, where nobody had work to do, you know, just smoking cigarettes and waiting. Because the border was closed for non-residents. I was like you know what, I’m going to go with my gut, I’m going to launch something. I went for it, I wanted to provide work for the people that didn’t have much to do,” Kacimi reflects. She saw the colorfully rich upholstery fabrics decorating homes around her as the core of Zoubida: “all the solutions are around us, might not be the easiest solution but they’re here. You have to cook with all the ingredients around you.”
People around Kacimi thought she was crazy for making clothes and garments out of the fabrics right in front of her, yet, to her, she maintains you don’t need pieces for a garment shipped from Portugal, India, or China. Even if the materials are a little unconventional, the solutions are there.
The pieces that make up Zoubida are iconic jackets and bags. To Kacimi, “I think when you wear a jacket there is this feeling of confidence. You can wear the most simple thing and it works. It started like that. I made a few pieces just for friends, just for fun.” The label’s first collection is now released: “for me, this was the first opportunity to create something without any filter. Nobody’s there to decide, to put their hands in my work. I started the brand from scratch and wanted to make it fun. The brand is very me in every corner of it.”
Kacimi’s experiences in luxury fashion made her reflect on and implement sustainable, local, and slow fashion. She found 15 artisans in her Moroccan village, all of whom were impacted by the pandemic. After months of organizing art workshops, inspired by her original pottery retreat, she made inspirational relationships with these artisans – some of which, she laughed while talking, didn’t believe her ideas of re-using upholstery fabrics would be sustainable.
“The first photoshoot was in Paris, and since then I have many new pieces that I’m about to release. I did a photoshoot with a Moroccan photographer. Doing the branding with a Moroccan photographer makes more sense for the brand – have Moroccan models, etc.
I did everything myself with my family. When I’m not in Morocco, I have friends and family they call me, they send me different fabrics. It’s a very, very handmade, hands on process. At the moment, I don’t have the option for anything else. I’m passionate and I know this will work, but I don’t have the budget to finance it to someone else.”
Zoubida prides itself on its intentionally slow process.
“The ultimate aim is not to drive volumes because you only need one jacket like this in your wardrobe and you’re good. What I’m hoping is just to attract the right person, and I realize that most of the people I attract have a link with the Middle East or North Africa and they understand the work behind Zoubida.”
Celebrating cross-cultural encounters, breaking the rules of fast fashion, and transcending gender norms, Zoubida’s colorful, kitschy play on tradition reflects Kacimi’s bold and eccentric style, promising exciting statement pieces gracing the streets of Kacimi’s multicultural world.
Cover Image Photo Credit: Yoann et Marco/Courtesy of Zoubida
More on ZOUBIDA, here!