2021 Caftan

Yes, we want to party. Yes, we want to say “yes” in a dreamy setting. And yes, we always want to get married in a caftan.After more than a year of restraining ourselves, at Shoelifer, we thought it was more important than ever to focus on authenticity and highlight our craftsmanship. So what will the 2021 caftan look like? 

After scouring Instagram, Pinterest, and the Haute Couture shows of Dior, Chanel, Valentino (to name a few), lightning struck us. For several months, we have been urging you to buy local, and to celebrate creativity and innovation. But what about our roots, the soul of our traditional garments? Do we still want Indian embroideries? Very (too) tight sleeves? Straight cuts that don’t necessarily flatter a body that hasn’t moved much recently? Excessive sequins and rhinestones instead of our own zwak maâlem, made right here? A terz rbati with multicolored silk threads, enhanced with fine kitane? In short, the 2021 caftan, according to the editorial team, will be designed according to the rules of the art (in Darija we say “ala hakkou ou trikou”).  Whether cuts, fabrics, or ornaments, we have a desire to return to our roots, to the zmani spirit (meaning “ancestral”). But the matter is not simple. It’s not about cutting/sewing/embroidering the exact copy of a caftan exhibited in a museum. And as you know, “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.” To bring you inspiration, we have therefore selected some archival images that we have combined with pieces chosen from the collections of our favorite designers. It’s up to you now to create your moodboard before going to see the person who will create the caftan of your dreams. Bessaha!

2021 Caftan

Bahja or nothing!  (almost) 

What’s that, you don’t know what we’re talking about? Just ask your grandmothers and mothers. Bahja and denyaja are brocades made by hand, in a traditional way. The Benchrif family has made it their trademark, to the point that today, we talk about “Benchrif” when we mention these weaves used for clothing but also in decoration. They have gradually been abandoned because of their rigid nature but also because of their style: these brocades with floral motifs in very (too) bright colors no longer appealed to young brides. And yet, they were – along with the jawhara and the tlija – the most traditionally used fabrics in the bride’s wardrobe. Today, the weaves have evolved, with finer versions and more varied tones. But they are still brocades. So, we will choose a caftan cut close to the body to avoid too many folds and volume at the hips with the belting. On the other hand, we will prefer wide sleeves (so much more chic) and a classic size sfifa finish (4 to 5 cm). A 2021 caftan example? Manal Benchlikha, as dressed in her video for “Niya”,   by Salima Chaieb. We love the idea of a second piece of the same brocade, in a complementary or opposite color: a coat, a cape or a selham, like in this model made by Lamia Lakhsassi. Regal!

The voluminous zwak maâlem imposes itself! 

The zwak maâlem is a must in the finishing and ornamentation of traditional Moroccan attire. This manual work is traditionally done with twisted, braided, and rolled threads. Our artisans continue today to evolve it by adding  different braids and pearl techniques. We can also use the voluminous zwak maâlem (also called brid), to be inspired by the necklace of brides of yesteryear, adorned with pearls and crystals, like on this caftan designed by  Rabea Telghazi Salmeron. We love the idea of accentuating its graphic side by associating it with a sfifa of the same color on the front of the caftan. 

Another favorite, spotted this time at Myriam Bouafi: the zwak maâlem, perfectly executed on a beautiful brocade of silk, adorns the front of the caftan but also the collar and shoulders. It’s more than enough to enhance your posture.

The sfifa makhzania makes its comeback! 

For finishing, the kitane, fine braiding, had somewhat supplanted the sfifa, wider and therefore more imposing. The latter can be up to 10 cm wide: that’s quite a lot, we agree! Salima Chaieb found a solution and played the trompe-l’oeil card by joining the golden band of the sari all along the sfifa finish. The result? Manal’s silhouette (once again in her clip for “Niya”) is elongated. Zhor Raïs, on the other hand, superimposes two sfifa strips, slightly shifting them at the collar and the length of the caftan. Placed next to each other, they seem to form a wide and voluminous band, without weighing down the draping  of the piece. The queen of scissors even achieves this feat on a slightly wavy collar for more softness and romance.                              2021 Caftan

We reinvent terz ntaâ 

Terz ntaa is a traditional embroidery representing oriental floral motifs, often embellished with birds, notably the peacock. Its royal and romantic aspect has made this ornament the preferred embroidery of brides from the Fes region. Previously, this maâlem work was often done on large velvet caftans and took months of work. In a more modern version, we will opt for a slightly flared cut in a more fluid fabric. And why not dare to adorn the front and bottom of the caftan, and even the last part of the sleeves, with terz ntaa all over? As on the caftan imagined by Fouzia Naciri, whose “one thousand and one nights” masterpiece  we love. On velvet or thicker material, dare with more imposing motifs, made in the style of the maâlam, as at Myriam Bouafi Couture.


We draw inspiration from the embroidered plastron of the labsa el kbira 

The labsa el kbira (the grand outfit) is the traditional Moroccan Jewish bridal attire. It is recognized by its plastron and the bottom of the skirt laden with sfifa and maâlam work. While our labsa el kbira may seem outdated, it is still a major inspiration for 2021 caftans. This is particularly true of its plastron, which we will reinterpret by freely mixing ornamentation techniques, including gold thread embroidery, beading, brid, and zwak maâlem. In the latest campaign of the jeweler Mounier et Bouvard we spotted this caftan with a rich plastron, embroidered and adorned with zwak maâlem, enhanced with mlakia and kitane, and embellished with crystals: a perfect exercise in style. At Myriam Bouafi Couture, the plastron is modernized with a graphic maâlem work made with kitane and fine embroideries embellished with sequins. The bottom piece is also reworked with fabric applications fixed with embroidery, accentuating the modern aspect of the outfit. We say “Yes”!                2021 Caftan

Picture (c) : Widad Anoua

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