Monday May 27th, 2024
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Marrakech’s Funky Cool Medina Curates the Funkiest Coolest Finds

And it’s making one heck of a statement…

Ziyad El-Helbawy

Marrakech’s Funky Cool Medina Curates the Funkiest Coolest Finds

Do you know that TikTok sound that starts off with ‘a kaleidoscope? Pfft…I’m not five’ and ends with a very awe-fueled ‘shapes and colours’? Well, that brief audio is perhaps the perfect descriptor for what Marrakech-born artist and entrepreneur Fahd Al Marsaoui achieves through his quirky bazaar in the heart of Marrakech, Funky Cool Medina.

You’re probably wondering if the name is perhaps inspired by Tone Loc’s ‘Funky Cold Medina’ and that we’ll gladly confirm that. Within Funky Cool Medina’s vibrant walls, Fahd has manifested a true explosion of creativity and cultural flair through flowing silhouettes lined with art and myriad shapes, colours and textures.

Born and raised in the bustling medina, Fahd was immersed from a young age in craftsmanship and artisanal traditions. Though circumstances were tough as he worked to support his family, Al Marsaoui also experienced the medina as an educator - it instilled in him passion for languages and exposed him to a diversity of cultures. He discovered his talent for fashion while repurposing found fabrics and vintage pieces into his own eclectic style.

After finding success with his travelling pop-up displays at UK music festivals, Al Marsaoui was inspired to share the vibrant spirit of Morocco on a bigger platform. Later, Al Marsaoui founded Funky Cool Medina, and today it acts as a permanent home for Fahd's dynamic vision. Walking through its vivid doors, indeed, is like stepping into a kaleidoscope.

In a virtual exchange with Al Marsaoui, SceneStyled found out all about the eclectic Moroccan bazaar’s story…

Give me the funky cool tea, what’s the story?

I am Marrakchi, born in Marrakech, and grew up in the medina, which is famous for its handmade artisan products. My childhood was tough in many ways as I worked to support my family – I started off hand-stitching leather, moved onto bags, and then to clothes. It was here I really found my groove. While I couldn’t afford to buy high-end fashion, I could make whatever I could imagine. I started off small, just customising some of the clothes I already had, and started scouring the vintage markets for unique pieces from Europe and would style them together.

So although there were struggles in my childhood, there were also a lot of blessings. A medina education makes you a linguist. I speak six languages, I am surrounded by creativity and artisans, I meet people from all around the world daily, and I’m able to do my soul work of designing and creating unique heirloom clothes.

How did Funky Cool Medina come to be? When was it founded and what was the initial vision?

I married and moved to the UK in 2010. Here, Funky Cool Medina was born as a popup bringing vintage and handmade clothes from Morocco to the UK. The UK has an amazing festival scene, where the festivals are experiential events with music, shopping, food, comedy, healing areas, etcetera, and we bought a curated collection and showcased it at Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Glastonbury, and so on. I was able to work with the craftsmen in Morocco, design, make, and we would fill a huge van and drive to the UK and tour the festivals throughout the summer. We did this for a few years while simultaneously renovating a riad in the medina for our home.

When our children started school, we decided to move back to Marrakech full time so they could go to school and learn Arabic here, and this is when Funky Cool Medina, Marrakech was born. Our vision from the outset is to create a main character, unique fashion using traditional methods and fabrics.

The name Funky Cool Medina came to us one day when we were thinking what to call the shop; my nickname was Funky Fahd in the medina, and I love early hip-hop – it just felt right, and Funky Cold Medina is a song most people know.

So everything at Funky Cool Medina is exclusively designed and handmade, correct? Could you walk me through your process?

Yes, all my pieces are unique, individual, and handmade. I am most creative at night and will start with laying out all the materials I have sourced and vision from here. I buy the materials in small pieces, a lot of them vintage Moroccan fabrics, sourced from the mountains and desert.

What inspires you? What sort of colours or patterns or aesthetics draw you in?

Morocco and Marrakech are a constant source of inspiration; if you can imagine it – you can get it made here! And the energy of constant handmade creation is very motivating. I love to work with riots of colour; life is too short to be wearing head to toe black!

You give off main character energy in the best way possible - how would you describe your own style?

My style has evolved over the years; I love to mix street style with classic simple pieces, and of course, I am always wearing one of my handmade hats!

Tell me more about the kind of community you are building through Funky Cool Medina?

We attract a really diverse and creative community around the shop: artists, musicians, filmmakers, and fashion lovers of all ages from all countries. Many people who purchase from us become lifelong friends. There is never any pressure to purchase. Come and visit, get creative, dress up, and if you find something you love, buy it. We have built an amazing local community of fabric suppliers, tailors and so on, and to be able to support them and give back is one of my greatest joys.

What would you say makes a ‘Funky’ piece? Do you perhaps have any favourites?

I look for colour, shape, and movement. My latest collection involves vintage Berber upholstery material made into floor-length coats. They are very royal, heirloom pieces that will stay with you forever.

Are there any memorable encounters you’ve had over the years with the store?

So many stories! Everyday is a vibe in the shop; come along, chill, try some clothes on, drink some tea, make some friends.

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