After seeing Afro-jazz muso Simphiwe Dana, glide onto the Kippies stage in a bold and eclectic design at the recent Cape Town International Jazz Festival, we can safely say that Salima Abdel Wahab is an artists’ artist. The Spanish-German-Moroccan designer and musician, creates a unique cultural mix of practical, comfortable and light designs.
Salima Abdel Wahab at Cape Town Fashion Week. Image: AFI
What went through your mind when you learned that the theme for Cape Town Fashion Week was – I AM AFRICA and what does that that mean to you?
In discovering this theme, I felt very excited as it was the perfect theme for me. I resonated with it as someone who grew up and lives in Tangier, Morocco. The confluence of many migration routes in Africa served as inspiration as I developed this collection with great enthusiasm as I AM AFRICAN.
Who is Salima Abdel Wahab for those that don’t know and what does she stand for?
I could say that the designer Salima Abdel Wahab represents a heritage of the city of Tangier. I grew up in this multi-cultural city. I myself come from a Hispano-German-Moroccan cultural mix. I am always very curious to discover and learn from other cultures and I try to condense and express all of this in my work by creating for a variety of people, temperaments and characters.
What is the meaning of your name and would you say you live up to it?
The meaning of my name is “the one who brings peace” and I act as much as possible in accordance to this meaning. In my work too, I always try to express tolerance, to create a space of respect for others.
Afro-Jazz singer Simphiwe Dana wore one of your designs at the Cape Town Jazz International Festival, tell us how that came about and the inspiration behind that glorious design?
I was introduced to Simphiwe Dana by my PR representatives OnPoint PR at Cape Town Fashion Week. What a beautiful coincidence it was to be in the same city, at the same time, and to be able to join our respective arts. She attended my show the night before her performance and was seduced by one of my creations, Mamiwatta, the siren of the Strait of Gibraltar, that I went to dress her the next day before she went on stage.
I thought of my show as a journey from the North to the South, from Cape to Cape. This journey begins with the Strait of Gibraltar where Mamiwatta lives. She wants to save everyone, but unfortunately cannot. The choice of an African goddess of song Simphiwe Dana, to choose to wear this dress for her big night in Cape Town was therefore symbolically strong. I was pleasantly surprised by her boldness.
Mamiwatta, the siren of the Strait of Gibraltar the dress that impressed Afro-jazz musician Simphiwe Dana. Image: AFI
What is your design philosophy?
There is always, at the beginning of a creation, the subject of the journey, the figure of the traveller. I created a line to meet these criteria – Wagamonde. It is a concept, a way of dressing that seeks to offer in every garment an answer to the needs of the traveller: practicality, comfort, lightness. They are modular clothes that play different roles, serve several functions, which also provide assurance, a look of the soul.
Tell us more about your hometown Tangier in Morocco – great places to eat, things to see, do and experience…
I like to go down the rue des Ferronniers towards the Socco Chico. We can see the horizon and we come across architectures from the protectorate era. I also like to spend Thursday mornings, admiring the women of the countryside who, backed by the English Church, present their productions. It’s a feast of the senses, the scent of fresh mint blends with zaar flowers and oregano. Then we discover that straight behind the wall of the cashbah.
The stroll in its enclosure allows the discovery of a shedding of craftsmen, riads, restaurants, jazz club and galleries. At the entrance of this cashbah, I recently opened a shop which my neighbours and I hope will preserve the special spirit of this historic area of the city.
What have you learnt about the design industry that you wish you knew before starting out as a designer?
I cannot remain insensitive to the industrial phenomenon, especially that of delocalised textile manufacturing, which is exported internationally and leaving behind a crazy amount of waste. I grab the residue of this fast mode. And from these fabrics, I recompose my raw material to give body to my creations.
What I like about this job of designer is that it allows me to touch many forms of artistic expression. It is a profession that can be experienced transversely in the different fields of art and design.
Which design/designer stood out for you at the Cape Town Fashion week?
Every performance touched me. I made it a point of honour to look at everything. It was beautiful to exchange and communicate with this heterogeneous family of creatives. But more particularly, I had a very pleasant meeting with jewellery designer Adele Dejak, from Kenya. A strong encounter that will not stop in Cape Town.
Proudly African design. Image: AFI
Featured Image: AFI