Bodywork: Charaf Tajer’s Casablanca Grand Prix

January 23, 2021
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A few days before unveiling his Fall 2021 collection, Casablanca’s Charaf Tajer is driving around Paris. Briefly, he activates Zoom’s camera function; his outré style is unmissable and unforgettable. You know it’s him. At that moment, he is wearing circular-lens glasses in an icy blue shade, and a thick pearl necklace. For safety reasons, he quickly reverts to audio only. One can hear sirens wailing and trucks blaring in the background. But Tajer, content and relaxed, has it all filtered out. “It’s so beautiful here,” he says, voice full of real marvel. “I really missed this. It’s just breathtaking sometimes, like… fuck.”

This brief conversational exchange hints at Tajer’s magic sauce when it comes to Casablanca. The luxury lifestyle clothing brand, still in its infancy, is named for the Moroccan city (Tajer’s parents met at a clothing atelier in Morocco, and the designer is known to champion his Franco-Moroccan roots). His past collections have garnered a reputation for celebrating specific places with elaborate prints, most recently with a season inspired by time spent in Maui, Hawaii during Covid-19’s early days. For Tajer, the destination plays a large part in his aesthetic approach—be it the vertiginous beauty of Italy’s Lake Garda, the stately classicism of Marrakech’s La Mamounia, or, simply but enviably, that uniquely pink-gold Parisian light as sunset nears. Products with this sense of place have helped to anchor, and popularize, Casablanca’s luxe-leisure oeuvre. This continues in Tajer’s Fall 2021 offering: he has now landed in Monaco. 

“The idea of the collection is Monaco and car sports, especially Formula 1,” says the designer, still driving. “The show is telling the story of the afterparty, after the race. What I wanted to do with it was project ourselves in a moment when there’s no Covid, because I am tired of it. I want people to imagine some good times. We’ll enjoy life again, and we’ll be together again.” The sentiment is unsurprising yet certainly valid: Tajer is very social (he once ran the nightlife-centric French brand, Pigalle) and decadent revelry—bordering on hedonism—is a Casablanca bloodline. “We’re doing the contradiction of glamorous Monaco and sporty Formula 1,” he says. (He’ll add that his favorite F1 athlete is the decorated late Austrian driver, Niki Lauda.)

With Fall, which, notably, sees Tajer introducing womenswear alongside menswear for the first time, Monégasque and motorsport collide, with a visual booster pack of 1960’s cinema poster references and Monaco’s casinos added to the blend. Built of bonded or stretch Chantilly lace, jacquards and knitwear, Tajer’s suggestion ranges from formal elongated coats (not dissimilar to the plethora of such jackets observed at U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent inauguration), contrasting diamond-inlaid moto-pants, drapey suits, and Casablanca hero items: printed silk shirts. One features a racetrack flag pattern with a Greek statue bust, the words “Casablanca Grand Prix” written beneath it. Most impressive may be a knitted jumper depicting a racecar driver from an earlier era, with Monaco’s blue Mediterranean in the background. A steeply angled sailboat slices through the azure yarn waves. In all, the viewer really does get a sense of place, revved up by Tajer’s chosen athletic kick. 

Was it hard to think about, given the world’s current and ongoing restrictions? 

“It is true, travel is so much more limited nowadays. But, to find creativity, I think it’s as simple as going into nature. I tried to do this, even if I wasn’t going places far away, or frequently.” 

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