When Charaf Tajer was a child growing up in Paris, he and his friends collected items from historic French brands – Hermès, Cartier, Lacoste – and wore them to project their vision of themselves. “We used to say that we were doctors going to play tennis on a Sunday,” Tajer says, over the phone from his office in London. “These brands were mental windows to another world, a world we didn’t necessarily have access to yet. Pretend until you do, if you will.
Tajer no longer has to pretend. The 36-year-old made his talent for dreamlike worlds full of images his full-time job, first as a nightlife maestro (he founded the lively Parisian club Le Pompon), then in as Creative Director of the growing brand. Casablanca, which earned it a coveted LVMH award last year. He’s now rumored to be the next creative director for Kenzo, which is owned by the luxury conglomerate.
Shortly after Casablanca launched in 2018 with menswear, the young, famous, influential and feminine – Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid – joined the club, co-opting the boys. A true ladies’ collection was inevitable, and it’s finally hitting stores now, after her January debut in a co-ed show. (Donatella Versace took note of Tajer’s flair and reportedly tried to recruit him.)
“Women’s clothing is the holy grail,” says Tajer. “It completes the story for us.”
Entitled “Grand Prix” (in the most literal sense of the term), the fall collection is inspired by the rarefied world of Monaco, Formula 1 racing and the culture of indulgent casinos. The coats had oversized diamond designs derived from playing cards. One robe depicted the queen of spades holding a fruit to a roulette wheel. There is an evocative genuflection in his designs towards legendary Italian and French houses, but his pieces are more spiritually suave than their high-quality predecessors. The look is not so much ‘work hard / play hard’ as ‘make it look like gambling is your profession’.
Tajer is the son of Moroccan immigrants met while working in a sewing workshop in Casablanca. He spent his youth imagining, dreaming and, not to be too woo-woo, manifesting a big and daring life. (Casablanca is now offered by luxury retailers, including Harrods, Maxfield, the Webster, and Lane Crawford.) Travel is integral to the brand’s ethos; Tajer has made 26 trips (and it’s not over yet) to Japan, the key to inspiration for his spring 2022 collection.
When the pandemic forced the closures last March, he was in Hawaii on a research trip that lasted more than a month before the restrictions were lifted. He gave a very colorful lineup which was celebrated last June during Paris Fashion Week for men with a dinner at the Ritz Paris that drew Bella Hadid and Ella Emhoff. The same month, the label announced that 17-year-old American tennis champion Coco Gauff would be the ambassador for its new Casablanca X New Balance 327/237 campaign.
Tennis occupies a preponderant place in the Casablanca consciousness. Her website is branded with “Casablanca Tennis Club”, and there is an entire “After Sport” section in her clothing store. “It’s the most elegant sport,” says Tajer. Given all of this, one might be surprised to find out that Tajer is not playing the game. The perception, for him and fans of the Millennial Jetet and Millennial Z of Casablanca, is a reality, and nothing is. prohibited for lifestyle.
What is perhaps most compelling about Casablanca is that in the space of three years, Tajer has managed to create a world that feels remarkably complete, self-confident, and tangible. Of course, shoes, bags, accessories and jewelry fit easily into the image, but it is just as easy to imagine the hotels in Casablanca, the luggage in Casablanca, the Casa de Casablanca.
“It’s kind of like Barbie, you know?” Tajer said. “Barbie is skiing, Barbie safari, Barbie Japan.”
Casablanca isn’t a hotel yet, but if it was, Tajer says it would be Cuixmala, the luxury retreat on Mexico’s Pacific coast. “I feel like I’m absolutely aligned with the people there, their sense of community, their respect for nature and their high design,” he says. “These things make me feel and vibrate differently.” In her silky smooth operator dresses, you can be sure that the good vibes won’t be far behind, wherever the Cuixmala you choose is located. Don’t be surprised if you aren’t the only one in Casablanca from head to toe.
This story appears in the September 2021 issue of City Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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