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The It Girl: Salima Chaieb

Founder and creative director of the eponymous Moroccan fashion brand SACHA BY SALIMA CHAIEB shares her perspective on slow fashion, the unstoppable women who inspire her and why it's crucial to trust your instincts

Above: Salima Chaieb

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Casablanca, Morocco where I lived until 2000. Then, I moved to Montreal, Canada with my family where I finished high school and graduated in biomedical sciences with a master's degree in biomedical engineering. In 2008, I moved back to Morocco where I worked in biomedical industries. In 2015, I decided to attend the Canadian fashion school, College Lasalle. Two years later, I obtained my pattern-making diploma.

I opened my atelier in Casablanca, working with seamstresses to showcase the best of their craft. I've always dreamt of creating contemporary designs by twisting Moroccan, locally-produced fabrics, usually used to make traditional garments such as kaftans and djellabas.

I was well aware that the fashion industry was the second largest polluting sector. That's why, from the beginning, I decided to collaborate with self-employed women weavers to create Moroccan rugs from all our atelier's fabric scraps. This is what I call our "Nothing Is Left, Everything Is Transformed" - NILEIT initiative. It is something that we are very proud of at SACHA.

I'm also the curator behind the fashion blog Epic Fashion Moments. It all started with an Instagram account where I've started posting about three to four years ago during my professional retraining. Initially, it was just me posting fashion references that made me love fashion and made me live my dream. Overtime, Epic Fashion Moments turned out to be a kind of encyclopedia of contemporary fashion for fashion students and also a moodboard for several fashion players such as celebrity stylists and Editor In Chiefs.

Above: Salima Chaieb at work

We live in a social media era and I deeply think that it is an amazing opportunity for our generation. We can make our voices count in many ways by using platforms that didn't exist before and that can reach a large audience.

I'm really glad I have followed this path no matter how many sacrifices and countless sleepless nights it costed. Because at the end of the day, no matter how old you are, no matter how hard you've worked, you will always be proud of yourself and grateful to you for having listened to your inner voice. If I have learned just one lesson from my journey, I will say that we are capable of amazing things as women! We can move mountains through our determination and focus to reach our aspirations.

What inspires you?

The question, rather, is "who" is my inspiration. And I would answer that I get it from women of strength and determination. I am thinking in particular about my mother who always does her best to offer the best to her family. I deeply admire these unstoppable women and I think about them when designing my creations. I want them to feel comfortable, stylish and chic at the same time because they don't have to compromise on their identity.

Courtesy of @_sachaofficial_

Favourite city and why?

There are many cities that I love for different reasons – some for art, some for the quality of life, most for the people.

But, to me, the one that stands out the most is the one where I feel most at home. I would say that my favourite city is Marrakech. My energy matches the Moroccan city’s vibe. I feel deeply connected to its culture and tempo.

There is always something to do, plenty of artistic events, great bars and restaurants (nothing beats a local tanjiya, the Marrakchi traditional dish), and wonderful people.

I also think that this city is one of the most historic I have ever seen. Marrakech has stood for almost one thousand years. The Red City walls and gates are spectacular, not to mention its typical winding souks, its infamous palaces, its garden oases and its wave of museum openings

As a designer, I really appreciate the Marrakech art scene which has placed the city on track to become a major art destination. The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) is the city's new hub for the art world. It opened its doors to coincide with Marrakech's 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, also held in London and New York, and considered as the leading fair dedicated to contemporary African art. In recent years, a range of art galleries and concept stores have also been popping up in the city to support national designers and the growing art scene.

What do you do in your spare time?

I read fashion books and online vintage fashion magazines. I also enjoy spending time with my daughter and family. On Sundays, I love seaside walks and a good movie to watch in the evening to clear my mind.

Favourite food?

I am a big foodie so I guess I don’t have a favourite food. I can eat everything except chillies and hot pepper sauce.

Courtesy of @_sachaofficial_

If you could go back in time, where would you go and why?

To me, there were two major zeitgeists in contemporary fashion history: the finale of Versace Fall 1991 show and Alexander McQueen’s Spring 1999 Show as a memorable art performance. I would loved to have lived back in the '90s and had the chance to attend Gianni Versace’s 1991 fashion show that cemented the supermodels’ status by sending the “Fab Four” Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista lyp-syncing “Freedom! ’90”. It was a reprise of George Michael's video that they all starred in and it was pure magic.

I also would have loved to have been part of the audience at Alexander McQueen’s iconic spring 1999 show. The finale, with Shalom Harlow standing on a wooden rotating table, wearing a white dress and being sprayed with yellow paint by programmed robots is the most poetic, yet chaotic fashion shows I’ve ever seen. It gives me chills no matter how many times I play it on YouTube.

Who do you look up to and why?

My greatest inspiration of all times: Azzedine Alaïa. The master couturier came in Paris from Tunisia, built his career from zero, dressed the most gorgeous and powerful women in the world without following the official fashion calendar, only by staying true to its ethics. He was practising “slow fashion” long before this notion came into existence.

What is your life motto?

“Believe in yourself and know that everything is possible,” which has helped me go through hard times and never give up on my dreams.

Courtesy of @_sachaofficial_

Biggest achievement?

Switching from a biomedical engineering background to a fashion design career by founding my own atelier in Casablanca and seeing my creations worn by women I admire. Plus, my greatest daily achievement, which is finding balance between work and family.

Any career/business tips?

- Work hard. I cannot say that enough. Having a dream and setting short and long term goals to realise it requires considerable determination, effort and sacrifices as well. Patience, perseverance and dedication always pay off.

- Believe in yourself. You are in the best position to manage your business because you built it from A to Z. I do believe that dreams and intuition come both from our subconscious. Then, always believe in your ideas and trust your intuition.

- Don’t fear criticism. With or without merit, a criticism is always constructive. It helps to consider a new approach and gives the opportunity to improve yourself and your work.

Courtesy of @_sachaofficial_

Anything else?

In parallel to my label and the curation of Epic Fashion Moments, I also collaborate with production companies on costume designing films and music videos. I am currently working on a musical project that should come by the end of the year. I am extremely excited about it and can’t wait to share with you all the passionate work that led to this game-changing collaboration.

I will continue to develop SACHA and work on new timeless designs because I strongly believe in slow fashion as it has been done for years way before all this frenzy of consumption. I still do believe in quality over quantity. And Epic Fashion Moments will continue to serve as a moodboard for many beginning by myself.

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