Meet the Maker: Souad Laghssais of Rchima Design
On September 10th, Maslouhi launched the Yalla Y'all Let's Vote 2020 Collection, benefiting two organizations working to ensure voting education, access, and rights in the United States: When We All Vote and The New Georgia Project. Through September 24th, you can support the work of these two organizations by pre-ordering several limited edition items.
One of the items in this collection is the (Voter) Protection from the Evil Eye T-Shirt. This t-shirt features a hand-painted design on a 100% cotton shirt made by Souad Laghssais, the Amazigh artist behind Rchima Design. Designed for the Yalla Y'all Let's Vote collection, this shirt combines traditional Amazigh (the indigenous population of Morocco) symbols of protection from the "evil eye" and feminine strength in an asymmetrical format. The result is a stunning work of wearable art.
Souad Laghssais is an Amazigh artist originally from Zagora, a town in the southeast of Morocco. She started Rchima Design (from the word "rshma," meaning to sew or paint designs on fabric) in 2017 when she was serving as a Corps Africa volunteer. While taking the train from Casablanca to El Jadida, Souad came up with the idea of making t-shirts and hasn't looked back since.
Souad's interest in traditional crafts and art began at an early age. Her mother worked as a tailor throughout her childhood and her aunt makes tihroyin, large scarves worn by women in the Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco to cover themselves from wind when they go out. These scarfs feature Amazigh motifs in different colors, which serve the dual function of decoration and storytelling. Souad grew up painting and sewing little by little, gradually taking it from a hobby to her own business.
Her designs aim to show her Amazigh identity to the world and celebrate her culture through contemporary wearable items, like t-shirts and bags. "Amazigh identity is around me and within me," Souad told me via email. "In my family, my aunts and my grandmothers have their Amazigh tattoos on their arms, hands and face. It’s something growing up I became fond of. The same symbols from those tattoos I am bringing into my arts to remind me of them and to tell their stories." But Souad is not simply copying these symbols; instead, she puts a modern spin on them. "In doing so, I am continuing and preserving the Amazigh cultural identity," she explains. "I am sharing the stories of the powerful women I have known."
Feminine power not only informs Souad's designs, but also the opportunities she pursues with her art. In January 2020, she started a collaboration with Dar Moustaqbel, a nonprofit in Marrakech that focuses on girls' access to higher education in Morocco. This is an issue that is personal for Souad. "Growing up, girls’ education was not well supported in [Zagora]," she told me. "A lot of girls dropped out of school due to limited resources, family pressure to get married at an early age, or to tend to the household cooking and cleaning. A lot of my classmates unfortunately didn’t make it to university as I did, despite being passionate about their education." Souad describes organizations like Dar Moustaqbel as "a flame of hope" for girls coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who aspire towards higher education. Currently, 30% of the sales generated from her profits go towards Dar Moustaqbel.
Maslouhi is proud to offer an original Rchima Design shirt as part of the Yalla Y'all Let's Vote 2020 Collection. Souad stated that she developed the design for the shirt with "energy" and "hope." "[I hope] that people will choose wisely who they want as a leader," she said. "Someone kind with values that would help peace to prevail in the world."
(Voter) Protection from the Evil Eye T-Shirt is available for pre-order in sizes S, M, L, and XL through September 24. Sizing dimensions and care information can be found on the product page.