“Since becoming a mother, my perspective on so many things has changed”, says New York-based Tunisian model Kenza Fourati before adding, “I’m now convinced, more than ever, that we have to consume and live fashion differently, essentially with more integrity, purpose, conscience and soul”.
This is why, after a decade of walking shows for some of the fashion industry’s biggest brands, such as Giorgio Armani, Valentino and Céline – Fourati became concerned with the damaging impact of fast fashion and began the groundwork for O S A Y (Our Stories Are Yours) an online lifestyle store that only stocks brands that are either sustainable or organic.
With the fashion industry being one of the worst culprits for pollution, Fourati came to realise that traditional, local craftsmanship from her home country was an ethical alternative to the negative human and environmental impact of the globalised fast fashion industry. “I attended a workshop at the Model Alliance—a non-profit organization which focuses on the fashion industry—with a survivor of the Rana Plaza collapse and that really affected me. Fashion isn’t only about the glitter and glam, I we have a responsibility to shed light on the darker reality of the industry and promote change”.
So with her business partner Simone Carrica, who also grew up in Tunisia, the duo made it their mission, to showcase socially-conscious emerging designers from the region.
Starting first and foremost with Tunisia, the duo has carefully selected an array of diverse and vibrant local brands and artisans who are committed to promoting cultural heritage while being eco-conscious.
Among them is La Babouche, an artisanal shoe brand revisiting the iconic local slipper and Lyoum, a contemporary ready-to-wear brand mixing classic Parisian aesthetics with Middle Eastern references and details. Vakay is a premium handcrafted wooden sunglasses brand that’s made in the southern industrial Tunisian city of Sfax, while beauty wise, l’Odaites is a plant-based organic brand, founded by three Tunisian sisters inspired by the memories of their grandmother’s beauty secrets.
“A couple of weeks ago, we did a pop up store in Washington DC and we actually sold out straight on the spot. So I am now convinced more than ever that people are eager to discover these unique products and listen to these inspiring stories”, she says. As the store continues to expand, Fourati hopes to challenge the misrepresentation of the region by increasingly putting a spotlight on homegrown talent. With plans to add other designers in to the mix who subtly embrace both traditionalism and modernism, such as Tunisian designer Anissa Aida famed for her fluid, minimalist lines and Moka Cioccolatah – it’s safe to say this is just the beginning.