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Morocco looks to a rosy fashion future

By Anne-Sophie Castro

2 Nov 2016

Business

Major fashion companies are often put off by China and its rise in manufacturing prices, which is precisely why they are willingly turning closer to home to relocate production. Turkey, Tunisia, Portugal and Romania - each has its speciality in regards to sourcing and apparel manufacturing. Despite the fact that terrorist incidents in Tunisia and Turkey may have put certain labels off, the more intrepid ones remain persistent, with denim and lingerie becoming the most produced collections.

However, other fashion companies are currently favouring Morocco for fast-fashion production, as the European Union's seventh largest supplier of textile and clothing. But in what geostrategic context does the Moroccan textile industry currently find itself? Morocco's free-trade agreements and infrastructure network (Port of Tangier, free-trade zones) have transformed it into a production and export platform for Europe, the United States and the MENA region with lead times between four and six weeks.

The aim is to continue attracting foreign investors

Since 2016, His Majesty King Mohammed VI has revoked visa requirements for Chinese tourists, allowing them to freely enter the country. According to the Ministry for Industry, the aim is to continue attracting foreign capital and investors in order to to reach a 23 per cent growth rate by 2020. In the words of Zahra Maafin, Managing Director of Maroc PME (The National Agency for the Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises), "Morocco has become the world's fast-fashion specialist. Despite this, solutions for continued investment in Morocco need to be found". In other words, competition with other fashion-manufacturing hubs remains tough.

The textile sector in Morocco is the leading industrial employer in the country, currently counting 175,000 fixed jobs. In 2015 the Kingdom turned over 31.4 billion Dirhams (approximately 3 billion euros) and every year its 1,600 textile companies produce a billion items. "Morocco is predicting a rosy future thanks to globalisation and the increased demand for fast-fashion products. The Moroccan textile market should double by 2025 to reach turnover of 100 billion Dirhams (10 billion euros) thanks to the emergence of the middle class" explains Maafin.

Morocco is experiencing a resurgence in creativity

In order to reinforce its ability to attract foreign investment, the Moroccan government is implementing an industrial acceleration plan and aiming to create 100,000 new roles by 2020. Training for the roles will be rolled out in particular by the 'Offer of Professional Training and the Promotion of Employment' (OFPPT), the 'École Supérieure for Textile and Clothing Industries (ESITH), Casa Moda Academy, and the Ministry for Industry.

Casa Moda Academy is the country's only 'modern' fashion school. Far from the clichés of traditional dressmaking, the school, which opened in 2010 in Casablanca (and is directed by the Atelier Chardon Savard in Paris), provides three-year training and awards a certified diploma. In contrast to the fees at Paris, London, Milan or New York schools, the course costs 26,000 Dirhams (3,500 euros) and is aimed at middle-class students.

Casa Moda Academy is directed by Sylvie Billaudeau, Director of Studies, who studied at Esmod Paris in 1987. An expert in the subject, she worked in the haute couture division at Chanel for fifteen years. "At the creative level we have potential, and success stories leaving with a high-quality level of creativity. We help provide the sector with designers who have profiles of interest to companies. There is a real upbeat feeling about artistic matters, with our objective being to promote creativity in Morocco. Let's not forget that Morocco is not a country of fashion culture. Here we wear traditional dress, and this is how we are viewed from abroad. This new trend for fashion therefore needs to be integrated into our system" says Billaudeau.

The school was established by the fashion sector. "Certain students who can afford to do so leave to study abroad, but others remain here" explains Billaudeau. “We are sought after internationally, including in Bordeaux, with regard to architecture and fashion - and a show is to be organised soon in Rabat. We also work a lot on recycling and sustainability, and we have been asked to exhibit at Cop22.” (Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Climate Change to be held from 7 and 18 November in Marrakech).

"Our central educational pillar is modernity. We are able to use Moroccan fashion traits without remaining as artisans,” says Bechar El Mahfoudi, in charge of communication at the school. “The school’s creative process applies to all sectors: clothing, accessories, footwear. We teach a way of thinking that allows students to throw themselves into their desired area of fashion."

According to Billaudeau, "the problem here in Morocco is that we are a country of fabrics. Everything is imported. There are very few suppliers of primary materials. We search for our materials in the local markets, but there is not necessarily any consistency for our students who need to improvise with what they are working on with 'limited resources'. By contrast, this allows them to be flexible and creative".

Maroc in Mode - Maroc Sourcing

Fashion and textile fairs are rare in the Euromed zone. Since the disappearance of Tunisia from the Texmed fair some years ago, Maroc in Mode and Maroc Sourcing are currently the only export fashion showcases in the region. These two fairs, dedicated to fashion, fabrics and accessories, are organised by AMITH (Association Marocaine des Industries du Textile et de l’Habillement - Moroccan Organisation for Textile and Clothing Industries)and held their 14th and 13th events respectively at Marrakech Parc Expo, Circuit International Moulay Hassan on 19 and 20 October , 2016.

Together with the 107 international exhibitors from Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Belgium, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, China and Tunisia under the umbrella of CEPEX (Centre for Promoting Tunisian Exports), this intimate event brought together manufacturers of denim, workwear, sports- and leisurewear, and knitwear, fashion schools as well as governmental organisations such as 'Invest in Morocco'.

This year, both fairs welcomed some one thousand professional visitors, including 350 international buyers from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, and buyers from brands such as Morgan, El Corte Inglés, Barbour, Prenatal, Mustang, Sandro, Jules, Aigle, Mango, Bershka and the Arcadia Group, among others.

The Moroccan 'Flou Flou' gears up for launch in France

Besides the fashion chains and international brands operating in the country, Morocco currently has three ready-to-wear brands at "more attractive prices": Marwa, Flou Flou and Diamantine.

Marwa is a young and urban fashion brand for women, similar to Zara, but cheaper and created by Karim Tazi, the Chairman of AMITH. The Moroccan brand has a team of international designers and a network of 65 stores, of which 40 are owned and 19 franchised in Morocco, four in Algeria and two in Libya.

Flou Flou, with the Blue Bird dressmaking company behind it, produces primarily for France and the United Kingdom (Armor-Lux, Leroy Merlin). It has 31 units in Morocco and will be arriving in the South of France in six months time. Positioned as a high-end brand, its dresses have an average price of 900 Dirhams (90 euros) and its jackets 1,200 Dirhams (120 euros). As for Diamantine, it offers traditional collections of updated djellabas and caftans.

"Fashion is speeding up around the world and a new trend appears almost every week,” says Mohamed Tazi, Director General of AMITH. “The fashion industry needs to move forward and produce as quickly as possible, and many Moroccan companies are focusing on this fast-fashion sector”.

The 'Maroc in Mode and Maroc Sourcing' pairing will be organising two events per year as of 2018 in order to be even more in synch with collections. The next event will be held on 26 and 27 October 2017.

Anne-Sophie travelled to Morocco as a guest of Maroc in Mode.

Photos : Casa Moda Academy, Maroc in Mode-Maroc Sourcing, Denim