Amine Bendriouich is a designer form Marrakech currently based in Berlin. His fashion label is called Amine Bendriouich Couture and Bullshit.
Amine was a finalist in the createurope Fashion Awards in 2009 – the first Arab or African to do so. He won the Audience Award and Jury Prize that led to a residency in Berlin.
My name is Amine Bendriouich. I’m a fashion designer, creative director and student of the Now. I’m from Morocco.
If I had to describe what I do, it’s tailored streetwear but it depends. I don’t work on trends and I don’t work by seasons. I make a collection when I can and when I want to make one.
How did you get into fashion?
I started to design clothes when I was a teenager because I could only wear the stuff my parents bought me. I started dreaming and drawing the stuff I’d liked to have that I couldn’t afford and little by little it developed into something more serious.
I wanted to go study in France after high school but I couldn’t get the visa. So I went to the same school but in Tunisia – I finished top in my class.
I then moved back to Morocco and started my brand. I started making T-shirts and doing some guerrilla marketing with two friends. It became very big. I think we made the most famous T-shirts in the Arab world. Literally. We had press from Morocco to the Middle East and Europe – it was crazy. The T-shirts said ‘Donkey’ and ‘Feeling good’. The idea was what’s the worst you could think of me… ‘Donkey? Okay I’m cool with it’ It was just a way to say I’m different.
I’m not doing this to be beautiful.
A lot of people adopted the concept in their own way, and after this I started my brand ABCB. I created this event called Contemporary Moroccan Roots for the launch of the brand where I presented my work and the work of artists who inspire me: video, graphic, design, photography, performance, music… basically I wanted to show the people the culture I belong to.
When I did my first show, people would be like ‘Oh it’s nice, it’s beautiful’ but I was like, come on man, I’m not doing this to be beautiful. The sky is beautiful; the trees are beautiful. I’m trying to do this to put something out there. I’m standing for something that I need people to understand. The idea was to create an event to introduce people to my world, so they understand my work.
I did some of the events in Marrakech. At the biggest one we had 1,300 people and an exhibition of 14 artists, eight live concerts and DJs, an open bar and dinner for guests. It was crazy. And every time we’d chose locations in the city that the people never go to, like some poor neighbourhood or some industrial area.
Then in 2009 I was a finalist for a fashion design award called createurope: The Fashion Design Award. After I won, I had a residency in Berlin for a year where I stayed and I loved it and I stayed another year. I started building bridges between Berlin and Casablanca. I was bringing over all these artists I was meeting.
How would you compare the cultures of Berlin and Casablanca?
I love Berlin’s ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude. Berlin is poor and sexy. And Casablanca is the same. There is a spirit that the people share. Of course they are very different because it’s two different places.
I was going back and forth then stayed in Casablanca from 2012 until 2014 and then moved back to Berlin last July. I still produce all I do in Morocco.
Is that important for you?
That’s the added value. If I go to Italy, China or wherever… everybody can do that but for me the value is I can do what I do from Morocco. Industry there is focused on making jeans and big production things. For me I need to show that it’s possible to do what I do starting from Morocco.
I have to show all the other young people out there you can make it, whatever your situation.
It’s also important for the youth of my age. I don’t have a wealthy family or a big family name. So I have to show all the other young people out there you can make it, whatever your situation is or your environment, you can make it if you want to. So that’s what I’m going for.
On my website it says ‘Straightforward, simple, fresh expression from the Moroccan kingdom on the north of African lands. Thank you for your stereotypes, I am building my own aesthetic.’ That’s important to me. I’m not trying to be like anyone. I’m trying to put a vision out there and for me I see it as completely possible.
Who are the other African designers that inspire you?
Hassan Hajjaj is one of the people who made me want to do what I do. When I was in high school I passed by this shop accidentally. They had these amazing T-shirts. They were too expensive for me, back in the day. I went in and asked whose designs they were and they told me it’s this Moroccan guy living in London.
I changed my way to school to pass by this shop like a window licker. Then years later, when I started and stuff, we met and the first Hassan Hajjaj t-shirt I had, Hassan gave it to me. I was crying, it was my dream!
We then worked together on different projects and made a collection together. It’s not other designers who especially inspire me. I’m very aware of where I’m from: I’m Moroccan, I’m Berber, I’m Arab, I’m Tuareg and I’m African. All of that is strong identity. At the same time I feel like home is where the heart is, so if I feel good here, or in America or in Japan wherever. So I don’t put limits to it: we’re all one race moving around the globe.
I don’t recognise myself only as a Moroccan designer or an African designer. I’m coming from a place where I do this for people who recognise themselves in my work. I’m very much influenced by artists, photographers and musicians. Music is a very big influence in my universe.
Malick Sidibé was a very big influence on every African artist or creative.
I’ve worked with lots of artists like Keziah Jones, Mos Def, I’ve collaborated with Kehinde Wiley and Hassan. Malick Sidibé was a very big influence on every African artist or creative. It’s not just photography; it’s culture; it’s society. I’m not just triggered by designers. I do respect Xuly Bët’s work and Ozwald Boateng’s.
What are you looking forward to next?
For now, I’m looking forward to this. As I told you I’m a student of the now. I make plans but I try to make the best of every situation. I hope this will give me the exposure I want. Hopefully it will sell. We’re doing a New York and LA edition. I’m working on another collaboration with Hassan. There’s a music project I’ve started and I’m working with some musicians – once I’ve done that I’ll do a show.
Find out more at bendriouich.com