Casablanca is taking the plunge into women’s wear.
The buzzy men’s brand founded by Charaf Tajer is launching its first women’s collection, a 15-piece capsule that is reminiscent of the brand’s men’s collection, but with female-specific silhouettes in new fabrics and prints. It will make its debut on Net-a-porter on Aug. 14.
The French-Moroccan designer was one of the front-runners for this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Designers, was a partner in PPP — a multidisciplinary Paris-based creative collective spanning the fashion label Pigalle and the Pain O ChoKolat and Le Pompon fashion events and nightlife concepts — and has collaborated with Virgil Abloh. He launched Casablanca in 2018 with a men’s line he called Casablanca Tennis Club. The line quickly attracted attention from retailers for its colorful silk shirts, pajama dressing, summery pastel jackets and breezy trousers that seamlessly straddle streetwear and tailoring. He also has an ongoing collaboration with New Balance.
Tajer, who has a background in architecture, grew up in Paris, but his parents met working in an atelier in the Moroccan city that inspired the label’s name. Produced in France and Casablanca, “the collection is 50-50 and I am 50-50,” he has said.
Tajer said that in the beginning, “I didn’t think I had a strong point of view,” but his early success has proven otherwise. His men’s collection is now sold in more than 130 stores around the world.
The women’s collection drew its inspiration from Italy’s Lake Garda, with its gardens, snowcapped mountains and Roman architecture. It features silk shirts and robes in handpainted prints in a color palette of pink, green and white with the accents of the brand’s signature orange.
Lightweight sweaters, and polo shirts in a slim cut with a wide collar, are reminiscent of the Casablanca Tennis Club in the Seventies. Other pieces include a cashmere track suit with wide-leg pants and a tailored jacket with structured shoulders and peak lapels over high-waisted pleated pants.
Tajer also used his Dalmation print in the women’s collection in a rosa T-shirt and cropped denim jacket that he pairs with matching straight-cut jeans.
The collection was initially scheduled to launch in the spring, but the pandemic put a halt to those plans. When showing his men’s spring 2021 collection in Paris last month, Tajer said he was stuck in a lockdown in Hawaii after visiting there for a research trip for his fall collection. The nine-day trip turned into a more than a month before he was able to head back to Paris. But the forced lockdown also influenced the design of the line as evidenced by the selection of retro casual Hawaiian shirts featuring Tajer’s unique spin.
He said he decided to go into women’s wear because a lot of women — including celebrities Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid — were wearing men’s Casablanca pieces, so he opted to create something specific to them. He describes the collection as “elegant but strong,” with an aesthetic that “brings a bit of masculinity into women’s.”
His men’s collection is currently carried in Maxfield, United Arrows, The Webster and Isetan, among others, and his goal is to continue to expand the collection for both genders. “We would love to have the brand expand in both men’s and women’s,” he said, “and create a real house of fashion — a real maison, a bigger way of thinking. That’s what I hope to accomplish.”
He said in his mind, there are brands and then there are “houses of fashion” such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. “It is interesting to me to develop something where everyone can find an item that speaks to them.”
Tajer said although the women’s launch was delayed by the pandemic, he looks at the time as a learning experience for the brand as a whole.
“The pandemic was a big challenge for everyone, but encouraged us to think about things we need to adjust for a better future,” he said. “I am fortunate that I was in designing the collection at the time and we have the flexibility to move our launch of spring 2021 and work on a video presentation. It has been a challenging time, but we are working through it. That’s why we called the collection of spring 2021 ‘After the Rain Comes the Rainbow’ as we want to spread positivity, hope and some inspiration to everyone during this time.
“We are so excited to launch the women’s collection. We hope it goes well as it’s our introduction to women’s and we have big dreams for women’s wear.”