IDYR Transforms Rags into Super-Chic Bags with a Consceince
Written by: Jane Cornish for The Nopo
Photos by: Youssef Aboudrar
If you are a fan of Moroccan design there is a chance that you’ve probably stumbled upon the vibrant, colourful rugs made of rags called boucherouite. This ancient art has been given a modern makeover and welcome revival by Fadwa Moussaif and Amal Kenzari, the dynamic young duo behind accessory brand IDYR Design. The name IDYR means “life” in Tamazight [Berber] and together, Fadwa and Amal, have breathed new life into the ancient art of boucherouite, their dedicated team of weavers and Morocco’s accessory scene.
Fadwa fell in love with all things fashion at a young age. She was first introduced to the creative arts by her embroiderer mother, but she credits lunchtimes in elementary school spent copying fashion magazine pictures with her classmates, as the experience that really sparked her interest in the fashion industry. She developed a real talent for drawing, and an eye for design - sowing the seeds of her future career.
Fadwa, a story-teller and designer, explains that the stylish, eco-friendly label that IDYR has become, would not have been possible without the steady, sensible guidance of Amal, an environmental process engineer by trade, who shares her love of Moroccan craftsmanship.
Fadwa Moussaif and Amal Kenzari co-founder of IDYR Design
As with many life goals though, Fadwa’s path towards a creative career in design has had a few detours, yet all of them seemed to lead her back to one thing - boucherouite. At university studying to become a biology technician, Fadwa admits she was “not a great student,” but maintained a strong interest in the community, and social justice that led her to sign up for ENACTUS,a community of students and leaders from academia and business committed to using entrepreneurship to improve lives and shape a better and sustainable world. Through the ENACTUS program, she learnt all about social entrepreneurship, and met her future business partner Amal. It was here that they discovered that 50% of women in the 20 small towns they visited around Casablanca and neighbouring Mohammedia, were skilled boucherouite weavers but only 15% were making a liveable wage from the craft.
At just 25, Fadwa and Amal have made a mark for themselves on the local design scene as part of a growing group of innovative, socially and environmentally conscious young Moroccan entrepreneurs, alongside the likes of footwear brand like Zyne, painter Zineb Al-Kohen or jeweller Rhita Benjoullin, passionate about sharing the wealth of traditional Moroccan handicraft and design with the world.
“When IDYR was first born, we were focused on supporting female artisans by helping them market and sell boucherouite rugs, it has evolved significantly since." Says Fadwa.
IDYR has grown from marketing boucherouite rugs to completely modernising the age-old weaving technique and encapsulating it into stylish handbags, passport covers, wallets and more. As well as saving this unique artform, IDYR has also rescued four tonnes of fabric waste from Morocco’s booming textile industry from going into landfill, and transformed it into the threads that are woven into each unique, hand-made piece their artisans create. Their desire to become more sustainable extends to every aspect of the business from production, to packaging.
"When we started IDYR we began to learn about the dark side of the polluting fast-fashion industry. We decided to do something about it and shift to using sustainable materials. We made big changes in the way we produce our items. We started using recycled fabrics for weaving, vegetal tanning for the leather and we use non-toxic water glue. Even our packaging is made of recycled high-quality tote bags." Says Fadwa.
The other guiding light for this dynamic, eco-conscious and fashionable duo are the artisans themselves, and Fadwa is quick to tell me that, “these people are the creators of IDYR, we're just coordinators Amal and I. The artisans are IDYR’s raison d’etre. The idea of this project was born from their experiences and designed to help them, they're our motivation."
Each woman in IDYR’s team of talented weavers has a story to tell, but it all starts with the company’s doyenne of boucherouite and oldest employee Khalty Milouda. Khalty (aunty), a fiercely independent and passionate boucherouite master was surprised and delighted to hear that the two young women were interested in reviving her craft, an artform she believed was no longer wanted in her beloved Morocco.
“Khalty Milouda is our oldest artisan, and the one who helped us transform boucherouite from a very thick, and rustic style of weaving, to a very thin, chic and high quality textile. She can make the most complicated and unique designs." Fadwa recounts that, “lonely and jobless, Khalty thought she would never work again due to low demand for boucherouite rugs", but IDYR opened up new doors for the company’s creative matriarch. "Now she feels that she is useful and has a sense of purpose. Khalty is a real hero, and a shining example of Morocco’s proud, strong rural women,” Fadwa said. Today Khalty is responsible to train and direct the rest of the artisans on new design. She has a place of honor in the IDYR family and she is loved and appreciated.
Most of IDYR’s artisans live in the overcrowded, underserved peri-urban areas on the periphery of industrial hubs like Casablanca where their husbands go to seek work, and a better life for their families. Many of the women however end up left behind, isolated far from their families and hometowns, they consecrate their entire lives to child-rearing and have few opportunities for fulfillment, little agency or financial independence. This is one of the social injustices that IDYR has sought to overcome, and Fadwa really feels the company is doing something special when she sees her artisans' blossoming self-esteem, and the their self-professed sense of fulfillment from their creative career, and financial independence. They especially take pride in being the custodians of the ancient craft of boucherouite. "When my children need something, I don't have to say no. Yesterday I bought my son's exercise book. I felt blessed to have my own salary.” Fadwa quotes Saadia, one of IDYR's weavers. “These stories make my day,” Fadwa tells me beamingly.
Fadwa admits that in the early days of IDYR finding the right craftspeople was one of the biggest challenges. But once they found the right team, the artisans had a special and important role in the brands development, contributing their own unique voice and experience. “When we couldn't pay them suitably the first year, they stood with us, when we didn't have enough orders, they waited for us, when we had crazy and hard ideas, they followed us, when we didn't have a workshop they freed a part of their living rooms for us, and even when they needed some colors of fabric not in stock anymore they cut their own fabrics to finish the design.” Fadwa says emotionally
Fadwa and Amal hope to create a sustainable and timeless design statement through IDYR that not only young Moroccans, but eco-conscience fashionistas around the world will be proud to discover and wear. To date the duo have been able to revive the art of Boucherouite weaving, provide empowering employment for 11 artisans and recycled over four tones of scrap fabric that would have otherwise gone to landfill. Not bad for a pair of science graduates who grew up drawing, and dreaming of becoming fashion designers.