Morocco spreads its style influence westward


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MARRAKECH, Morocco -- Moroccan style has gone mainstream. Its Moorish, French and Arabesque influences have proved irresistible to arbiters of fashion and design, as they translate intricate templates from Berber carpets, Kasbah tiles and riad arches for Western taste by reducing the busyness. Best described as a fearless approach to excess, the Moroccan look may have evolved as a counterpoint to the monotone deserts that cover much of this north African country.

Since the first caravans crisscrossed the deserts and climbed the Atlas mountains, Morocco has been a melting pot of European, Middle Eastern and African cultures. Intricate patterns and textures collide with color to create a kind of clashing continuity. Geometric patterns on tile and kilms, carvings on cedar doors and ceilings, hand-painted designs adorning restored Kasbahs, and turbans, jelabas, babouche and kaftans are all the root of modern Moroccan style.

J.Crew is featuring fall sweaters influenced by scarves and rugs found in the Marrakech market.

The ubiquitous hoodie favored around the world is just a cropped jelaba, a full-length hooded robe worn by both men and women since the days of the prophets. They act as a protective layer against dirt and sand, worn over clothes.

Also popular with Moroccans and tourists are turbans and babouches, which are rounded or pointed leather slippers. Yellow pointed babouches with a striped jelaba is Morocco's version of the blue blazer and flannels.

As for the colors, cobalt blue and green tones come from miles of Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline, pinks from sand dunes lit by the sunset and the reds from the clay that surrounds Marrakech. It all blends into an exotic tagine of interior design. And pouf! -- you have the look.

So from souk to sea, Morocco is the place to be if you want to see the source for this easy-to-assemble style trend.

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Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pasheridan.


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