In a time when much of North African and Middle Eastern cultural narratives are defined by negative portrayals in the media, a Moroccan-Emirati fashion designer redefines the scene with her new collection. “Growing up between two cultures, the Emirates and Morocco, I was surrounded by two very distinct cultures in the Arab world,” says Maysson Al Otaiba.
Morocco’s historical, political, cultural, and religious development has, without a doubt, shaped the identity and modernity in Moroccan fashion. The first wave of Moroccan fashion designers emerged from Casablanca in the 1960’s. The vibrant Moorish circles and intricate patterns seen in textiles captivated the world. From First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to musical sensation, Cher – America fell in love with the beauty of Morocco.
Every generation, another layer of Moroccan culture is woven into fashion’s historical archives. Whether it be a rise in metallic, the present fad of all things gold, or the replicated Moroccan textiles found in home decor – we witness a peak in interest for the region. Now, designer Maysson flames that interest a great deal after having left her mark on the fashion world with the launch of her new line.
The meticulous details of Maysson’s designs represent the spirited canvas that is Morocco. I had the pleasure of getting to chat with Maysson about her new line and her inspirations.
MM: What inspired you to get into fashion design?
Maysson: I am fascinated by people and how they express themselves through fashion. From the rich and vibrant colors of Morocco, to the old jewelry from Abu Dhabi’s Bedouin tribes, I started taking pencil to paper and drawing what I saw as a child. From there, my interest in fashion grew and I began creating my own designs.
Family holidays were mostly spent in London, so the London College of Fashion was my ultimate dream.
How do you find your creative inspiration for your seasonal palettes?
I am inspired by my travels as well as the multi-cultural background of my family. One also has to research trend forecasts, so I apply some of these colors and styles to the collection pieces. We have approached our collections as more trans-seasonal, so they can be useful in both seasons, in terms of colors and silhouettes.
As an Arab Muslim woman, what challenges have you faced because of your identity in the fashion world?
I’m the only one responsible for my gains and losses in life. The fashion world is comprised of designers from all sorts of backgrounds who share one thing in common: to create beautiful clothing, share their talent, and make a career out of it. My Arab background has been an asset to me, as it has helped me to develop a niche for my style of clothing: where east meets west. I try to weave visual aspects of the Mediterranean and Arab lifestyle into my designs – the coin buttons are a signature of the Maysson brand.
I’m the only one responsible for my gains and losses in life.
What three words best describe your line?
Bold. Bohemian. Chic.
Who was your role model, growing up?
My mother was – and continues to be – my role model. Ultimately, you just need to be the best version of yourself.
Any advice for young Arab Muslim women interested in getting into fashion?
You will need to go out and experience many things before you realize what part of the fashion industry you love. Once you discover what you’re truly passionate about in the business, you will work harder in order to achieve it.
Be strong, confident and fight for your dream. There will always be challenges coming your way, so don’t let them bring you down or discourage you. Instead, use them as lessons and motivators in order to succeed.
If you could tell your 14 year old self one piece of advice what would it be?
You will need to live, eat, and breathe what you pursue in order to make things happen.