Moroccans know the designer as an “ambassador” for representing their country in the international art scene.
Rabat – Moroccan designer Hicham Lahlou recently debuted his latest creation, his “Morocco” porcelain collection, in collaboration with French porcelain giant Haviland.
Porcelain is present in nearly every culture around the world, and Lahlou’s “Morocco” collection is a unique representation of the medium in his own country.
Hicham Lahlou signed and created “Morocco” for Haviland, the leading porcelain manufacturer in France. Haviland presented the “Morocco” pieces during Paris Design Week from September 9-18.
The “Morocco” collection is a set of superimposed decorative cups enclosing candles with the scent of orange blossoms.
Haviland describes the creation as a sensory journey that transports one to the most beautiful valleys in Morocco.
The “Morocco” collection is part of a larger collection by Haviland called “Palmeraie,” or Palm Grove, inspired by the old Medina of Marrakech.
Hicham Lahlou told Morocco World News that he drew inspiration to create “Morocco” from Morocco’s traditional heritage.
The “Morocco” collection constitutes the highlight of “Palmeraie” in the sense that it pairs Moroccan tradition with the know-how of Haviland, which established itself 178 years ago.
The first collaboration of its kind between Lahlou and Haviland is a realization of his long-time dream. It showcases his talent and his role of “Ambassador,” a nickname that has followed him throughout his career, representing his country worldwide through his Moroccan-inspired designs.
Hicham Lahlou’s inspiration
In addition to Morocco’s traditional heritage, Lahlou cited a quote by French writer Georges Bernanos that says, “We are from our childhood as we are from a country.” He sees the phrase as a reference to his childhood memories in the two imperial cities of Rabat and Fez that helped inspire the creation of “Morocco.”
The Rabat native recalled his childhood memories in the capital city, which he described as “green and good” and to which he attributes a “special emotion.”
“Affection and sensitivity are attached to creation,” said Hicham Lahlou. He added that a creative person is a very sensitive one, and that his subconscious connection with Rabat manifests with no doubt in the “Morocco” collection.
Although he grew up in Rabat, Lahlou spent some special childhood moments with family in Fez and also draws inspiration from that city. Hicham Lahlou’s main inspiration from Fez comes from his memories of Eid Al-Adha. He spent the annual holiday with his family, enjoying traditional Moroccan eid customs and food.
Customs, gastronomy, crafts, and architecture in Morocco, according to Hicham Lahlou, are what makes the North African country a place of “the art of living… and that is how design plays a role in bringing cultures together.”
“Haviland is located in the city of Limoges, which is the capital of porcelain in France,” said Lahlou. He noted that he already worked on ceramic and porcelain with Moroccan craftsmen, but the latest experience was a new exercise which he greatly appreciated.
Founded in 1842, Haviland quickly became France’s most important porcelain factory and started attracting the most renowned artists around the world. These included Salvador Dali, Paul Gauguin, Vassily Kandinsky, among others, and now Morocco’s Hicham Lahlou.
Not only artists have succumbed to the charm of Haviland, but also several royal figures and heads of state. These include Napoleon III’s wife Empress Eugenie, Jaques Chirac, and Abraham Lincoln.
Lahlou described Haviland porcelain craftsmanship as the best in France. According to the designer, blending his Moroccan approach with Haviland’s expertise benefited the “Morocco” collection, making it a creation that represents Morocco with a French touch.
Made in Morocco
During the COVID-19 crisis, the “Made in Morocco” label made headlines in international newspapers. The Ministry of Industry mobilized companies to promote local production of medical gear, notably face masks, hazmat suits, and disinfectant gels.
When asked how design could possibly contribute to the nationwide campaign, Lahlou said that design should not be limited to making offices and decorating shelves of stores. Instead, the state needs to integrate it as a major strategic act, a transversal ecosystem that all ministries should adopt.
“We should use design in Morocco as a strategic tool to promote industry, handicrafts, urban planning, and ecological goals.”
The first Arab and African board member of the World Design Organization, from 2017 to 2019, and “Regional Advisor of Africa” for the same entity, Lahlou also sees design as an asset to help realize the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“It is also important that we take the planet into consideration, because we cannot keep on producing that same way, without respecting the requirements of the environment, such as using recyclable material or finding new eco-friendly technologies.”
Hicham Lahlou’s call to integrate design beyond the creative realm
Hicham Lahlou is continuously striving to give design in Morocco its due attention as an economic lever and strategic act, and not only as “a creation act.”
“Using design as a strategic act is a vision that is likely to boost export of Moroccan-made products, or even boost tourism,” said the Moroccan artist.
Hicham Lahlou sees in design an important tool to boost every sector in Morocco, one that stakeholders need to exploit.
Lahlou hopes collaborations with renowned companies abroad, such as his partnership with Haviland, will inspire Moroccan institutions to use design as a means of development. Doing so would generate job opportunities in marketing, investment, the event sector, and more, he stressed.
“In addition to being an art, design also plays a role in business that should be taught in schools and universities,” said Lahlou. He reinforced his call to action with a quote by IBM’s former head, Thomas J Watson: “Good design is good business.”
The development of the “Morocco” collection marks 25 years of Lahlou’s international career, during which he has traveled the world to promote Moroccan culture through his creations.