The Coco Chanel of Marrakech | Interview with Norya Ayron
photos and words by felicia williams // designer norya ayron in Marrakech, morocco // shop the story
It was my first day in the medina of Marrakech.
While enjoying a break from a long but fruitful walk through the souks, my friend and I are savor tagine and wine in the luscious garden restaurant, Le Jardin, when I see her.
"Oh my god! It's her!"
"Who's her? What her?"
"Her! HER! The designer I read about before coming here. I can't believe it! I didn't even look up her address, and here she is, that's her boutique!!"
Indeed, I had experienced a stroke of luck. Before coming to Morocco, I had done extensive research. What was the culture like? Where should I go? How should I dress? What should I do? And of course, where should I shop for Black Hound?
I had seen Norya pop up in a web search and loved her story and the beauty of her goods. I read an article about her from Brownbook, a guide dedicated to design, culture and travel across the Middle East and North Africa. The first few paragraphs had me hooked and knew then that I wanted to meet this extraordinary woman:
"Night after night, she would create a new outfit by hand, using her salary to buy more fabric. Often she would stitch a makeshift piece together at the last minute. For Ayron, the nightlife scene in Cannes – an experience she refers to as ‘school’ – was educational, both for its dangers and the work it inspired. In hindsight, she understands that working in nightlife was the best way to express herself at the time, as it combined both of her passions – music and fashion”
Norya Ayron (her boutiques brand name) is nestled high above the black, polished tables and overgrown greenery of the garden. Climbing the stairs to her boutique, I came face to face with the woman herself.
She had a cigarette in hand and a cool demeanor about her. Her swagger and her shop exuded a feeling of cool I hadn't previously experienced in all my time traveling.
I introduced myself and gushed over the rows of luscious kaftans and bags she had to offer.
After spending a wonderful amount of time learning about her clothing, hearing about her journey into fashion, and trying on some of her pieces, I thought to myself: this is a woman who knows her soul through and through. She's talented, she's beautiful, she's lived an amazing life and she's completely at ease in her surroundings.
After the first thirty minutes, I turned to her suddenly. "You know what? You're the Coco Channel of Marrakech!"
She laughed. It was this throaty, French kind of laugh. Her eyes light up and she clasped my arm. She is the queen of hearts, this one. I could clearly see the model, the designer, the growing empress of North African fashion in her every move.
"You know, you are the second person to say this to me. You...and Mos Def!"
That was, most definitely, the coolest thing I had heard all day!
At the end of my visit, I carefully selected a couple of her amazing items. A Blue Lame Kaftan that knows no equal, a sheer emerald kaftan and the black kaftan I wear in my Black Hound bio.
It was an amazing meeting. Just before parting ways, she spoke to me of living and working in Marrakech. Her words built upon a growing feeling I had, that this would not be my last time in the wonderful country of Morocco.
"[Marrakech] is very inspiring ... Moroccan expertise is a goldmine for creators. Marrakech is a city where everything is possible! I get an idea in mind and I have the proto within hours. Also, light is one of the things that makes Marrakech a great city. It has captivating light all year long."
I look forward to bringing more of her beautiful pieces to Black Hound and continuing to watch her brand grow into an international standard.
Merci, Madam Norya. Merci!