Photography by Chris Isham
The ancient city of Fes is a feast for the senses. Inside the Blue Gate, market stalls stretch in a continuous riot along the cobbled streets. Mountains of fresh produce give way to carts full of more varieties of olives than you can count on your fingers. You pass through clouds of chamomile, the tease of freshly baked bread, and the sudden, acrid scent of animals. As the street slopes downward, shop owners hawk their wares in one language, and then in another. It is laughably easy to get lost in the tangled web of alleyways. It is impossible not to be enchanted.
Founded in 789 AD, Fes is the country's cultural capital. Life in the medina, the medieval walled portion of the city, carries on much as it always has: people make, buy, sell, and live as a community. There are no motorized vehicles allowed. Many of the structures are over 800 years old, and the city is currently involved in numerous UNESCO World Heritage restoration and preservation projects. Supportive scaffolding looms over some streets — new bones to shore up the old walls. The beams are a sobering reminder that without preservation, the oldest and most valuable cultural traditions become vulnerable.
Having experienced Fes before, we arrive with an idea of the kinds of goods we hope to source. Our goal is to find artisans with whom we can partner to produce the highest-quality representations of Morocco's traditional craftsmanship. Fes is home to the oldest tannery in North Africa and has deep roots in pottery, textile, and metal-working traditions. We want to offer these major categories in our first collection, and a talented group of artisans is currently working on a line of home goods for us. It will include items that are both useful and evocative — lines in a story from another time and place.
Behind the noise of the streets and beneath the extraverted clamor of daily business flows an undercurrent of sacred privacy. The traditional Moroccan house, or Dar, is built around an open-air courtyard with all rooms and windows facing inward. There is no hint of the lavish interior from the outside, which might be marked only by a simple door at the end of a winding alley. The doorway is a line of demarcation, an entrance into a secret. Intricate mosaics, carved cedar, and plaster detailing mingle around natural light and a view of the sky. We look forward to sharing this enchanting world with you through the Morocco Collection.