Getting Artsi: a visit with Morocco’s slow-fashion visionary


Getting Artsi: a visit with Morocco’s slow-fashion visionary

In the first part of our series on ethical entrepreneurs, we catch up with Artsi Ifrach to get the measure of Marrakech

Annisha Lashand

BY Annisha Lashand14 December 2019

You can’t talk about Moroccan fashion without mentioning Artsi Ifrach. The Marrakech-based designer, originally from Israel, has earned national acclaim for his label Art/C, which showcases his handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces made of vintage fabrics, family heirlooms and materials sourced from flea markets around the globe.

For Ifrach, clothing is less about commercial opportunism and more about creating an outlet for memory and emotion. He’s drawn to timeless designs and fashion made with care and durability, as opposed to fast fashion – the modern-day practice of creating clothes quickly and cheaply, which has already proven to have dire effects on the environment.

Ifrach and his label are entirely devoted to taking things slow, and it shows. When we visited his statement studio in Marrakech, we couldn’t help but admire the quality in his couture pieces. After we browsed, we had a chance to chat with the designer himself…

First things first, because we’re in Marrakech, what do you love about Morocco?
There are none of the stresses here that exist in other countries. The rhythm is very different. The days are longer. The state of mind is very relaxed and open. Moving to Morocco allowed me to breathe, take my time and take it easy. I still make things happen, but in a different, less stress-oriented way.

When in Marrakech, one should definitely…
…eat tagine, drink tea in the garden of La Mamounia, go to a hammam, take an evening walk through Jemaa el-Fnaa square and immerse yourself in pure, authentic Moroccan culture.

Art/C - Mr & Mrs Smith

When did you realise you could make a career out of fashion?
I was a ballet dancer for 20 years and I was quite good at it, but I had to find something else to do, as it’s hard to make a living. I was very passionate about fashion, but I didn’t know how to approach it. At first, I just started creating things and the way people reacted encouraged me to continue. I don’t think it’s something you realise, it’s just something you follow. I follow my heart. I don’t consider it a business or a career. I think those words make it very stressful and create too much pressure.

How has living in Marrakech influenced your career as a designer?
Morocco is a great environment for a designer. It’s a very free-minded atmosphere and there’s nothing to influence you regarding what else is happening in the fashion market. It’s more about how you feel about the work. Marrakech is constantly flowing with people from all over the world, so the door is always open. It’s amazing the opportunity that comes along with this.

Artsi Ifrach - Mr & Mrs Smith

No two pieces from any of your collections are the same. Can you tell us about your unique design process?
All of my clothes are made from vintage pieces, so everything is one of a kind. The garments are pretty much impossible to copy, which is wonderful. I’m trying to preserve culture, but I’m also trying to move it a step forward. I’m attaching emotion to clothes, rather than using fashion as a commercial tool.

Your fashion philosophy seems to be in stark contrast to the idea that fashion is about pushing the latest trends month after month… 
I’m a slow fashion guy and I’ll stay that way. I think this is also the way of the future. We have to go back to slow fashion because we are on the verge of collapse. There are consequences for damaging the earth the way we are. We’re forming our values in the wrong way.

Art/C - Mr & Mrs Smith

Is that why you believe the way of the past has to be the way of our future?
The way garments were made in the past attracted me. Beyond them being made with more structure and durability, there was something precious about clothing back then. You can feel the time in the piece, which is very important. We’re a global world: we see everything online and on our phones. This is connecting us, but it’s disconnecting us at the same time. It’s disconnecting us from the earth and from history, and fast fashion is a result of the disconnect. We’ve got to go back to feeling that connection.

What does success mean to you?
To do what you love without any boundaries.

Riad de Tarabel - Mr & Mrs Smith

And for anyone else who visits Marrakech, what’s your favourite…
…restaurant? Azar
…bar or nightlife spot? Comptoir
…place to relax? Riad de Tarabel

Next, we chat to Dom Bridges of Haeckels skincare about cleaning up Britain’s beaches…