The Moroccan Kaftan

...a Royal interpretation of an iconic garment

by Sonia Maria L.S.M.E.G.E.A.
Morocco, a vast territory, is full of nuance and complexity. Kingdom of juxtaposed relationships, land of ancestry, inspiring with its legendary sagas, its tales constantly whispered in one’s ear.

What do these words mean to me? If I pull the red thread of my childhood memories, the first very first memory etched in my mind, a single word, Kaftan!

Let us shut our eyes and imagine. From the Arabian Nights, the Kaftan is a long and wide tunic, collarless, long-sleeved, and composed of several panels that account for its size. It is worn by both men and women. Completely open at the front, it is trimmed with loops of braided silk, fastened by a row of buttons. The embroidery is of gold or silver silk, trimmed with precious stones or braids, adorning the breastplate, the shoulders and the bottom of the sleeves. The earliest Moroccan texts mentioning the Kaftan date from the 16th century.

A shimmering, hypnotic and magical tale, each Kaftan carries the illuminations of the tales that enchanted our childhood memories. As a blend of fabrics and lights, it is not only a subtle taste of grace that can be rustic or princely, but also attractive and distant. Attractive and distant like those Delacroix women; princesses and paupers, whose delicacy is forever true.

The spirit of the Kaftan, with its sense of colours, does not leave me. It is always with me, because the Kaftan is a part of our present day lives, reluctantly elegant.

Its cut, its shape, its tradition, its patterns, its embroidery -- everything about the Kaftan enlightens, impresses, seduces. The Kaftan is essential. The Kaftan is crucial for me.

Many inspiring women have shown me how such a garment is created somewhere between fantasy and reality.

I have always loved native art, folk art, but I have loved the anonymous pieces much more than marks and signatures. I abhor name brands and other arrogant logos which pollute our world and manage to bash both common sense and connotation.

The same observation, the same resistance. Today, reality suffocates us. It has only one purpose – to convince us that we are not individuals but rather, one. I refuse.

To walk among Moroccan designers is to walk among artists and craftsmen stamped with the seal of uniqueness. The Art and Crafts sector is going to revitalise. We are going to become passionate for the exclusive.

Morocco possesses a myriad of artisans. The hand-made and the high-tech go hand-in-hand. In both cases, designers embroider their lives. This both overwhelms and enchants me. Within the framework of a common history, each artist has imposed his deep, poised, virtuous, sensibilities on the small secret music within himself. When drafted, this chronicles a dreamed existence, ideal, and in one word, chimeric.

The Moroccan artist is his own Pygmalion. He has woven himself a protective skin, that serves the sole purpose of seduction. He chooses colours that at first are daring, but once the harmony is created, the association becomes obvious. This leaves room for reflection.

Repeated motifs are neither different nor the same as patterns that are in style or in force. The result is beautiful nuance and delicacy. A contrasting lining, a fabric taken from someplace else, a back that surprises, a thread suddenly suspended or at rest….

The Kaftan is part of the vast inspiration that has paved the way to a trade, where the garment is created half-way between fantasy and reality.

What could have been a uniform became a DNA marker. Behind every creation emerges a story of an eternal icon that continually unfolds in the passing of every day.

Living a poetic life is not strictly reserved for the artists, but each one can sharpen his or her vision thereby discovering a sense of wonder that reveals the essential. This is an ability that is apparent before a work of art, but also in the everyday things, for art is part of life.

These creators from Morocco, the famous as well as the unknown, with their words and their actions, have chosen to make their lives a poetic adventure. They find, without even knowing it, the spirit of the Kaftan. The design is the man!