For the video presentation of his fall collection for Casablanca, Charaf Tajer ignored the old showbiz adage that you should never work with animals or children. The shoot at the Hôtel de la Païva, the Paris home of a famous 19th-century courtesan, featured a cast of dozens and two very lively poodles.
That was small potatoes for the designer, who recalled that one of his earliest photo shoots involved baby tigers that belonged to France’s equivalent of Joe Exotic: a man whose house was filled with big cats. “They looked at us like we were meat. Honestly, the big ones were very scary,” he recalled.
In keeping with his grand ambitions for Casablanca, Tajer celebrated the brand’s first coed collection by recreating the ambiance of a Champagne-drenched Seventies-era after party at a luxury hotel after the Monaco Grand Prix — complete with an actual race car, which had to be tipped sideways to fit through the door.
Among the label’s signature prints this season was Lady Luck at the roulette table, which appeared as a playing card motif on a long-sleeve maxidress; a running hare, the emblem of the fictional Casa racing team; and a red-and-white Casablanca logo motif, a clever pun on longtime F1 sponsor Marlboro.
Designers from Tommy Hilfiger to Virgil Abloh have tackled the racing theme, but Tajer managed to bend it to his brand’s dandyish sensibility. Harlequin checks, in black-and-white or colored versions, referenced the checkered flags on the race track, Monaco’s coat of arms and the diamonds on a deck of cards.
The gambling theme carried into night, with Bond-girl evening gowns, featuring cutout bodices in the shape of card symbols, that felt gimmicky at times.
For Tajer, who makes a cameo in the film as a piano player, switching locations each season is all part of the fun. His last collection was an ode to Hawaii; the one before that took him to Italy’s Lake Garda. “We want to challenge ourselves, but also entertain people and have fun with it,” he explained.
He did have a final word of advice for anyone planning a trip to Monaco in real life. “Don’t gamble,” he said. “I think the iconography of it is very cool, but I went to the casino for research and it’s easy to lose money there.”