“Where were you last night?”
“…That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.”
“Will I see you tonight?”
“I never make plans that far ahead.”Rick to Yvonne – Casablanca (1942)
This post is about Casablanca, the fashion brand and not the movie which is also not the city although the movie was set in the city but was actually shot in Los Angeles. The quote above is in reference to how long ago the last post was, while also being a reference to Casablanca, the movie and not the fashion brand nor the city.
A newcomer onto the scene of luxury fashion, Casablanca was founded in 2018 by French Moroccan Charaf Tajer, who first entry into the fashion industry was via the French streetwear brand Pigalle in 2008, despite having worked in the background of fashion before even that. So what exactly is Charaf’s goal with Casablanca? Casablanca’s own description on their website provides an apt, albeit lengthy, description.
Casablanca’s aesthetic is a fusion between lux and leisurewear, a perfect equilibrium of comfort and elegance. Casablanca re-interprets timeless environments of a luxurious heritage hotel suite or a crisp glass of champagne at a private country club terrace sunset. By adding a vivacity of color [that] keeps the brand youthful and easily inserted into a plethora of daily living … Casablanca offers pieces for wearing when the days exertions are done, but the night has not yet begun. Those magical hours, marked by their sense of ease and heady anticipation, can be the most decadent part of the day.Charaf Tajer, probably
With Casablanca, Charaf presents his modern yet thoughtful reinterpretation on both sportswear and loungewear, with designs and motifs that ooze a certain laid-back-lifestyle air, while maintaining a certain degree of playfulness that gives the brand unique perspective. With a debut collection that broke ground with relatively reserved aplomb, featuring plush terry tracksuits, relaxed tailoring and tees emblazoned with Casablanca’s rather elegant logo, Casablanca has since become more known for it’s line of boldly patterned silk shirts and refined take on après-sport, or after-sports, sportswear.
With all manufacturing being done in it’s namesake city of Casablanca (the city and not the movie and in the context of the fashion brand), Charaf is most definitely informed by the historical legacy of the city in the design of his clothes. Bold colors, full body graphical flourishes and imagery that fully invokes the idyllic North African resort backdrop Charaf is trying to emulate take center stage in the brand’s now iconic silk shirts.
Now to some, if not many, these shirts may seem like yet more additions to the ilk of gaudy, flamboyant, casually-unwearable-by-most-people high fashion shirts ala Versasce, Vetetments or Wacko Maria, and you may be right. But where I personally find most graphically noisy shirts an eyesore, there is a strange appealing quality to Casablanca’s shirt designs that expertly teeters on the edge of wearable for the confident and kitsch enough to be featured in its own Met Gala exhibit.
This most likely is the result of Charaf’s own design ethos regarding the brand, which is one of the few I know of (and granted I know relatively little, hence the “Layman” preface) that tries to encourage men to break away from the conventional, by filling a fashion market niche that stands between the former and the recent influx of trend driven high-streetwear currently sweeping the world.
Here are some great quotes off of a great interview Charaf gave with Complex Magazine a bit after the brand’s debut.
What do you want your customer to feel when they put on a Casablanca piece?
I want them to feel on point.
Can you expand on that?Charaf Tajer for COMPLEX – June 1st, 2018
I want them to feel like they took a risk, but not too much. They took a risk, but it’s a controlled risk. And it’s my job to control that risk. It’s my job to make them wear a special color or a special type of fabric. I want them to feel original, but not clowny. That’s why I said “on point.” It’s almost like when guys do drift in powerful cars. They know exactly what they’re doing. This is the beauty of it. Yes, you take a risk, but it’s very controlled.
And at the risk of simply using quotes as opposed to my own words to illustrate a point:
What are your thoughts on ironic fashion?
I’m kind of tired of all the irony that’s been going on. When you’re ironic, you’re not taking a risk because you’re making a joke. So nobody can judge you because it’s always a joke. Casablanca is not a joke, because my work is not a joke.
Sometimes, I like to use funny things, but it’s not ironic. This is very important to understand. I’m trying to reproduce the feelings I have when I go to a tropical country and I arrive at a hotel. It’s a specific moment. There is no irony.
But let’s be clear. Just because something isn’t ironic, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have humor. In Casablanca, I use humor and I will continue to do so. But irony, I think it’s something that is, how do you say, played out?Charaf Tajer for COMPLEX – June 1st, 2018
This ultimately results in a brand that reminds me greatly of Noah (founded by former Supreme creative director Brendon Babenzien) and OAMC (a brand I wrote about in this article), brands that have emerged out of the popular culture morass of streetwear brands playing a game of one-up, to create in-the-making classics that will have the legacy, individuality and heart to last beyond hashtags and influencers.