It is often forgotten that Yves Saint Laurent was born in Algeria, in a town called Oran. Lilia-Yasmin, however, is bringing attention to the French designer’s North African heritage, as part of her greater vision to spread Arab culture through fashion. Under her Paris-based fashion label Atlalfromgalbi, Lilia-Yasmin produces a popular oversized T-shirt and tracksuit top with the words “Yves Saint l’Oran” embroidered on it. “It’s not at all humorous,” she insists. “It’s about our roots.”
Lilia-Yasmin, who was born in France to Algerian parents, has always been drawn to the North African and Middle Eastern Arab worlds, with late Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum being a constant source of inspiration. After studying international economics, she landed internships and employment at Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga, working on strategy development, merchandising and production. There, she learned the ways in which culture can be represented through clothing, but also came to see the lack of representation of Arab culture in the industry. “I saw places like Japan, Russia and Africa inspiring fashion, but felt there was no shout-out to Arabic culture in the big fashion houses.”
Armed with the business acumen gained by working at these global brands, Lilia-Yasmin set out to create Atlalfromgalbi in 2018, releasing her first range of Arab culture-inspired T-shirts the following year. Named after “El Atlal,” a song by Umm Kulthum meaning roots, and the Arabic word for heart (“galbi”), the label is a heartfelt homage to the designer’s ancestry.
In 2020, the brand released a digital fashion campaign called Wilaya of Roots, captured in Paris’ Grand Mosque, and set to a music track by Acid Arab. Its most recent collection, Utopia 62, reminisces about Algeria in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the call for freedom rang deep. Satin and silk feature prominently in these designs – a reminder of Lilia-Yasmin’s childhood visits, with her Algerian grandmother, to seamstresses who would produce special garments for every happy occasion they attended in their community.
For Lilia-Yasmin, Atlalfromgalbi is less about creation and more about the celebration of what already exists in Arab culture, using film, music and literature to inspire what she develops. “It’s a label that represents my way of thinking,” she says, “and my roots.” The Yves Saint l’Oran T-shirt is the perfect expression of this attitude. Says Lilia-Yasmin, “You can do anything if you know where you come from.”