In search of Heimat (Home)
Yassin Boutayeb on expressing ambivalence of belonging and using Moroccan influence in his clothes.
What was your childhood like and were there any Islamic Icons that you looked up to?
Growing up in a small village in Germany, I always struggled with appreciating Moroccan culture while at the same time being German (most definitely more than Moroccan) . I didn't want anyone to question my 'Germanness'. I used to ignore my Moroccan heritage, so I could be seen as 'fully' German – whatever this means. With all of the great books, Instagram profiles, and YouTube channels that deal with diaspora identities - I realised that for all these years, I had been neglecting an important part of my identity just for others to put me in the right box. I now know that people will always put me in a box and that no box would ever do me justice – so now I appreciate the amalgamation of everything that fed into who I am – German, Moroccan, and everything else.
I look up to people that have lifted themselves to a better place and still maintain the humility and humanity they experienced on the way up. My grandma became a widow at the age of 34, being left alone with five kids, having to provide for them and raise them while not being able to read nor fully understand that foreign language that now is my mother tongue. That’s someone I look up to and admire.
What are some of the key experiences as a child that still influence your work and life today?
In all the beautiful Moroccan weddings I used to go to with my family and the women dressed in colourful Takshitas. Takshita is like a Kaftan, a traditional Moroccan garment with different layers. During the celebration, the bride changes up to seven different outfits. These outfits usually represent parts and cultures of Morocco such as amazigh, Fassi, and Sahrawi outfits. It is about celebration and how it makes us all feel, which is what I want to translate into my work.
I get inspired a lot by geometric ornamentation, which you can find in some of my silhouettes, especially in the necklines of my designs. I have been experimenting a lot with the meaning of modesty.
Is there someone specific you think of while designing clothes?
I think of all my fellow friends in the diaspora community while I design clothes. As a third-generation Moroccan immigrant in Germany, the search for identity is a fluid concept of what Heimat is, and an appreciation for cultural heritage has always been a major theme in my life. Being from different countries can sometimes make us feel torn between two cultures and expressing a part of our identity through clothes plays a huge role in bridging that gap. With my work, I want to combine an appreciation for cultural heritage with recent cultural trends and create something that mirrors the in-betweenness of people. I feel like, especially in the fashion industry, there is not much space provided for concepts that represent this ambivalence of belonging.
What stories would you like to tell through clothes?
I hold a great passion for the blending of culture and identity through fashion expression. Cultural barriers in our society are built upon differences - in our location and heritage. I was determined to create a brand that breaks past these walls. The garments I design represent diversity and a sense of togetherness. I do all of this with the intention that people will view my work and find a part of their identity in these layers of elaborate garments.
I refer to the experience of diaspora communities. These are people who find themselves living outside their shared country of origin or ancestry. This often leads to an ambivalence of cultural identities and a lack of belongingness. With my work, I want to express this "in-betweenness" of combined cultures. I want to fuse past cultural heritage with recent international trends and create something beautiful.