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Interview With Nina Alami: Multi-Disiplinary Creative/Textile Designer

[When I was designing the slippers and learning about the history of the babouche, I wanted to find out what was going on in modern-day Morocco. It turns out, a lot. It's become an incredibly creative place with artists, designers, musicians and chefs taking the best of Moroccan traditions and spinning them into things entirely new. I reached out to some of the women that are part of the creative community to learn more. Here are their interviews.]

California native Nina Alami's passion for art, design, and traditional crafts led her to Fes, where she has since found the Artisan Project. In addition to helping connect local makers to a broader audience through her company, Alami is multi-disciplinary creative, and a textile designer in her own right. She finds constant inspiration in her adopted home where she is raising her family.



Where are you originally from, and why did you move to Morocco?
I grew up in San Francisco but lived in Los Angeles for nearly 12 years before moving to Fes. I’ve always had this fantasy of living somewhere outside of the US, but I never knew where exactly. I decided to take the plunge and move to Morocco after some good friends of mine moved to Goa, India. I had always loved the Moroccan aesthetic and have a textile obsession, so Morocco seemed like the right choice for me. 

Tell us about the neighborhood you now live in. What do you love most about it? 
We live in a riad that is nearly three centuries old in the medieval medina of Fes. Our house is incredibly tranquil and isolated from the madness of the medina. You would have no idea that we live off one of the busiest streets in the medina — just a minute walk from our house! 

Do any aspects of Fes remind you of L.A.? If so, anything that was particularly surprising?
Yes. Though the medina is quite urban and not very green, there are mountains and agricultural land just a 15-minute drive from where we live. This area is somewhat reminiscent of the canyons in Los Angeles where I would hike with my friends. 

What do you most appreciate and enjoy about the community you live in? 
It’s nice that people around the area where I work and live know my family and me. If I go to the local book store and am short on cash, no problem, I can just take what I need and pay next time I’m there. If I buy something heavy in the medina, or don’t want to lug around a bunch of purchases, the store owners just deliver everything to my house.

Moroccan rugs, textiles and other design elements are more familiar to American audiences these days. Why do you think the appeal of Moroccan traditions and style has grown in the U.S.?
I think Americans are attracted to the abstract designs and colors. The textiles, rugs work well in modern homes. 

What were some challenges adapting to life in Fes? 
Probably one of the biggest challenges for me was learning how to work with people here and accepting that you just don’t have access to everything the way you do in Los Angeles.

What most inspires you creatively there?
The landscape and the vintage textiles. 

Are any foods trending lately, or are those traditions very consistent?
In Fes, it’s pretty traditional in general. Unless you eat at a restaurant or coffee shop opened by a foreigner. 
Do people in your community embrace individual style or is there a norm? 
I would say in Fes, not necessarily. Most people just want to blend in. Foreigners are forgiven for being a bit different!
What is your favorite vacation spot in Morocco?
I love the rural areas of the Middle Atlas and Tangier.  
Do you (or family or friends) wear babouches? 
Yes. Especially at home. We don’t wear street shoes in the house so babouches are a must. We all have at least a few pairs.