West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana are getting much deserved love in the fashion world, but what about the Northern regions of Africa?
Tunisia is a North African country bordering the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert. This Arabic speaking nation is sandwiched between Algeria and Libya. It’s a relatively small region with a very rich and proud culture of etiquette.
Tunisians have a vibrant history of traditional dress that compliments their modest and conservative views as Muslims. Historically, traditional garbs were common along with beautifully adorned “blouzas” and “foutas”; an outfit that covers most of the body that’s inspired by wedding dresses of the past. In the past century, different costumes distinguished different areas, mostly highlighted by the "cut" tunic. The tunics are cut in fabrics of wool, cotton and silk. Many garments are decorated with illustrious embroidery, which is the distinctive sign of regional costume.
The male regional costumes have their own identity and ancestry. The Jebba, for example, is traditional attire that is still worn by many natives toady. This loose clothing drapes the whole body and differs in terms of its quality of fabrics and its colors.
The wardrobe and jewelry of the Tunisians are influenced by the design and fashion culture of the Romans, Arabs, Turks and Andalusians. Over time the manufacturing of rural money jewels and the town gold became naturally blended and integrated. Production multiplied, taste developed, and value rose.
Today, Tunisian designers are making their mark with outfits inspired by their country’s heritage. Tunisian designers have stood out prominently in recent years and their work has received international acclaim.
One of our favorite Tunisian designers is Olfa Mhaoued. Her collections are created by adding modern touches to the North African country’s traditional garbs. For example, her 2016 runway presentation in Tunis showcased her stellar ability to upcycle and repurpose traditional wear. Some of her pieces included embroidery on top of modern dresses and men’s robes deconstructed into women’s jackets. Olfa is quickly becoming a favorite, as she is able to successfully bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary for very chic and fashion-forward looks. Be on the look out for the future of Tunisian fashion!