“I don’t know how to work with my head, I work with my heart,” says fashion designer Artsi Ifrach of Maison ARTC, from his atelier in Morocco’s vibrant city of Marrakesh. Having swapped a career as a ballet dancer for the world of fashion, Ifrach is determined to reach the hearts of others through his one-of-a-kind pieces made from antique fabrics and repurposed vintage garments and interior textiles.
“If you want to touch people with clothes, you have to pique their memories,” he says. He does so with brightly colored, tactile materials that hold rich histories, loaded with stories from the places they come from and the hands with which they were formed. His vast archive of embroidered tablecloths, woven tapestries, silk kimonos and intricate lace finds new expression in Maison ARTC’s fantastical creations that are equally suitable for men and women. The rare textiles have been collected during travels, and closer to home, from antique dealers and markets.
“Today, fashion is all about what’s new, but I want to focus on the old and make it new, in a way that allows it to be kept forever,” says Ifrach. “I want to take the hard work and time that people put into these materials and bring that to the present, creating a future that values the human being, because you can’t replace imagination and skills with machines.”
It was a natural move for the designer to find himself in fashion after the industry of dance, with its extravagant costumes and appreciation of the bodily form. “My pieces are very big, voluminous and colorful, and they have a lot to do with movement,” he says, illustrating the link that led to the pursuit of a life-long passion, in which he gets to flex his creative muscle every day. “It’s like going to the gym,” he says. “You have to do it with determination and daily consistency.”
The regular output from Maison ARTC is experimental, playful, daring and lavish, with no two pieces ever the same. Garments are led by an organic process free of pre-emptive drawing. “Sketching would limit my freedom,” Ifrach explains. “It would be like baking a cake, where there is a specific way to make it. But I don’t want to know how to make it [the garment]. I want the process to make it.” Modeled mainly on Ifrach’s own body, with masks and veils concealing his head and face, the avant-garde garments are impossible to ignore. “I eliminate everything that disturbs you from looking at the piece. I cover myself, and let it speak for itself.”