ANISSA AIDA is a name to be memorized if you don't already recognize it. We're going to make you fall in love with the designer behind the brand just like we did years ago and still do here at MAFT MAG.
It is a slow fashion brand launched in 2016 by the overly talented Anissa Meddeb who was born and raised between Tunis and Paris and a graduate from the prestigious Parsons, the new school of New York. She launched this brand in honor of her older sister Aïda who passed away in 2010.
The brand is a ready to wear line inspired by the heritage of Anissa’s home country, Tunisia and her fascination for Japan. The collections are a great mix betweenTunisian and Japanese cultures, giving us a modern spin to ancestral garments. This brand vision fascinates us as it combines the past and future with tradition and modernity.
Everything is developed and produced in Tunisia as the designer tries to stick to the brand’s mission to perverse cultural heritage by re-interpreting local ancestral techniques, knowledge and craftsmanship.Through careful choices concerning cuts, silhouettes and fabric selection, Anissa Aida's vision and identity is to achieve modern sophistication alongside timeless classics.
Anissa Meddeb is an inspiration for Tunisian designers. She obtained a bachelor degree from Parsons, completed an internship with Marc Jacobs, she created 6 collections, She participated in London Fashion Week 3 times, Paris Fashion Week, Berlin and China too. She has done pop up shows in different countries as she won prestigious awards and recognition. And now finally she opened her own showroom here in Tunisia.
A designer who never forgets her roots no matter how many countries she visited.
On Monday the 26th of July, I had the opportunity to visit Anissa's beautifully structured new showroom located in the northern neighborhood of Mutuelle ville in downtown Tunis, on the border with Belvedere park. This residential area matches the brand’s identity so well as it showcases a mix of art nouveau, modernist and contemporary architecture as well as lush greenery.
Architects Achraf Bahri and Hassene Jeljeli (JELJELI studio and Anissa’s Boyfriend) have turned the designer’s parent’s old three story villa in downtown Tunis into a new showroom and workspace for her slow fashion company. The completed renovation took two years and is characterized by bright, luminous spaces and a white and blue color palette that’s perfectly in keeping with the ANISSA AIDA brand.
The newly renovated building has been divided into two independent entities: a private apartment on the top floor that Anissa lives in, and ANISSA AIDA overtakes the lower two levels. The first floor now accommodates the brand’s showroom and workspace while the basement is home to the brand’s atelier space.The design that the architects made is so considerate to the identity of the brand with the use of geometric patterns that are reminiscent of the clothing pieces. Clever storage and display solutions have also been integrated into the space like a wooden unit on wheels that can be moved out of the way when the store plays host to different events.
After a well guided tour full of detailed explanation of every inch of the place, we sat on this comfy curved blue sofa that occupies the middle of the showroom and started the interview with ease and smiles like old friends all thanks to her charming welcoming personality.
Describe to me the Anissa aida 2021 Version?
The overall aesthetic is inspired by Japanese culture and also by our own culture and Tunisian heritage. I love working with artisans and reserving that craftsmanship. Also I like to work with pastel colors and those of the mediterranean, shades of blue and white.
My summer collection of 2021 aligns with ANISSA AIDA’s overall aesthetic and it is available already on my online shop. Now I am experimenting with technology. I want to include technology in my production and combine it with craftsmanship and traditions.
How would you describe your personal style? Who do you look to for style inspiration?
I love to watch a lot of runway shows, read magazines and go to concept stores.
My own style is minimal, I love different fields of design like architectural references and geometrical patterns.
Where are your favorite local places to shop?
Some of my favourite architects also do objects. I loved the lamps that my boyfriend Hassene Jeljeli gave me for the store. I love buying furniture from sustainable brands and eco-friendly shops. I love Supersouk, XYZ, Musk and Amber, Mooja and a few others.
What do you want to achieve through fashion or change in the system?
I wanna tell stories, my own version of the world as I lived and traveled to many places. I want my clothes to reflect that, that international vibe with our traditional touch in a modern way.
It is very minimal and adapted to modern life and architectural shapes, fluid and straight to the point.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today and in your business ?
It plays a huge role in fashion and life in general, it’s how we shape our images, how we are seen to society through images and photos, how we express ourselves. It’s really fascinating. Technology is evolving fast so we have to adapt quickly. For my business it has a huge impact, like I stop posting momentarily on Instagram people will start to wonder what I am doing and risk being forgotten. Therefore I am thinking of investing in a good marketing strategy to boost my visibility to bigger audiences and boost my brand image.
Can you talk about what goes into creating your garments? Where do you find the materials?
On my newest collection I'm looking at different types of patterns and I adore pattern manipulation. I do a lot of research, and prototyping until we are satisfied. It's how we create our brand and build our identity. The fabric is sometimes is Tunisian, silk by hand to preserve Tunisian knowledge. But sometimes when I travel I fall in love with a fabric so I bring it with me and use it with my garments, like recently in Kenya I brought back this amazing fabric.I like mixing fabrics from different parts of the world. I am always experimenting and mixing just like this fabric is handmade in Ksar Hlel but the design is actually inspired by Japanese patterns. I get inspired by something and then create something else.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
Comfortable. I want women to be at ease when wearing my clothes. That's why I try to make every design airy and easy to move in, not so tight. I want them to be their authentic selves without any uncomfortness.
How Is selling abroad going so far?
Because I lived in the US, I had a few contacts already so in New York I started selling in a store in Soho New York and I also met the owner of a store Soukra in San Francisco, California and have been working together since 2015. Also my designs are on sale at a store in Champs-Élysées at Le Dix in Paris. I’ve done pop-up shows too here and there and it was such a great experience. I loved it alot and it takes a lot of preparation.
So I guess to answer your question, it’s been going well and we aim higher of course.
Most Tunisian designers focus on selling abroad, you sell internationally and locally but you chose to focus on the tunisian market. Do you think we have enough demand and support? I Would like to know your opinion as a business woman and not a designer.
Well I am indeed selling abroad and here in Tunisia. So far it's going great both ways, my designs are displayed on my online shop and in stores. I am not really focusing on the Tunisian market, it just happened by nature I suppose.
It’s been good for me to sell in different countries as each country has different styles and cultures therefore some designs sell more here while others don't in the US or Paris, what sells in New York sometimes doesn't sell here in Tunisia. Therefore my business plan keeps changing and evolving, I have to always be flexible and able to adapt with different clientele.
Tell us about your participation in Africa 2020 with the Creative Tunisia initiative.
Africa 2020 is a series of events made by The president Emmanuel Macron to celebrate Africa. At first it wasnt gonna include anything fashionable. Then it was decided that a fashion event is included, which is an exhibition at The Museum of Decorative Arts of Paris. At first they wanted to choose one designer from each country of Africa, then it was changed to five from each one. So I applied for this opportunity and was selected among the five. We went through training and video calls on zoom and mentoring by the people of Convergence so that we create one look for the exposition. The jury consisted of a group of prestigious experts in our field. It was a learning experience and it lasted for a while because of the pandemic but I am glad to have been chosen and looking forward to going to Paris in late August for the exhibition and event.
You went all out with this showroom, we are very impressed especially since you are among very few designers in Tunisia who did it. How did this idea come to life?
The showroom was originally a house that belonged to my parents, they live next door. The house was about to get sold a few years ago so they came to me with the idea of renovating it and making it my own space. The preparations took two years. My boyfriend is the architect behind it as my mother also helped. The paintings hung are by a cousin of mine, I love them so much as they make the place shine brighter and more at ease. Every painting matches the aesthetic of the place and my collections perfectly.
I am looking forward to doing a big launch for the showroom as I haven't quite found the right moment to do so with the pandemic.
We’ve seen that you’ve been preparing a new sandals collection ! We're very excited.
Yes, I am so happy with this collection, and it’s a limited edition. I've only made fifteen with an artisan here in the medina of Tunis. Right now, they are available at supersouk.
Hopefully I am going to make more of it, going to experiment with more pastel colors and maybe patterns. Also I am thinking of doing another shoe collection for winter.
Is there a designer or house you would like to collaborate with in Tunisia and abroad?
Yes there is a designer in Morocco that I've been following and being in contact with too on Instagram for a future collaboration. The brand is called Marrakshi life. The founder is American but lives in Morocco. I fell in love with his aesthetic, his minimal and traditional designs that I relate to. He uses stripes, handwoven technique, and magnificent photoshoots.
I love a few Tunisian designers, we do have really talented ones and I'd love to collaborate with them.
What do you advise young aspiring designers and students? Which mistakes to avoid?
I advise anyone wanting to enter the fashion world to be their authentic self, really just be yourself, trust your intuition and vision, have confidence and perseverance especially, you shouldn't give up easily. Always evolving, learning and seizing opportunities is the key to success.
Be kind to each other, please. It's a very competitive industry and you can find a lot of designers afraid of being copied and used so they keep their distance and are even unfriendly sometimes and skeptical.
A big mistake to avoid is to never get inspired by someone else's design or even a brand. Here in Tunisia we don't give importance to copyright or plagiarism which is unethical and wrong on so many levels, illegal even. That's why you should always do your research thoroughly and create original work, get inspired from patterns, from cultures but never from another designer.
What is the future of Anissa Aida? Can you give us and our readers something to look forward to in these dark times?
Well soon enough I’ll be doing a launch party for the showroom. I am already working on my next winter collection as I am in the research phase. I have the Africa 2020 exposition in September in Paris. And I'm going to participate in Fashion Week Portugal in December I guess so stay tuned.
Anissa Aida is now stocked in New York, Paris, London, California and Tunisia.