Naila Missous spoke to Parisian-Tunisian brand Barcha about their style sentiments, African connections and what it means to be modest in modern day.
Why did you call your brand ‘Barcha’?
Barcha means ‘a lot’ in the Tunisian dialect. It was actually our Mom who came up with the name. We wanted something short and catchy, so people could remember it easily. Barcha is a kind of souk where the modest woman can do her shopping, and then find little treasures that she can’t see in the conventional shops.
So who is Barcha?
Lamia and I are sisters. We’ve always been very close, like twins, even though we have a year and a half between us. We come from a family of 6 (three sisters and one little bro).
We were born and raised in Paris but our parents are originally from Djerba, a small island in the South of Tunisia. We both studied law before going to business school. I graduated with my MBA thesis on the modest fashion industry, and that is how we realised that there is this huge potential that is still not exploited. I finished my studies in 2015 and the year after, we decided to start our own modest fashion label Barcha.
What are you trying to achieve with your brand?
At Barcha, our main goal is to offer to hijab-wearing women a fashion that simply combines modernity , femininity and modesty. We reinterpret the codes of mainstream fashion with our own inspirations to create a new fashion movement dedicated to strong women proud of their cultural and religious identity.
I see a lot of North African influences in your work – where do you get your ideas from?
Our influences are various. Indeed, since we were little, we have been immersed in a French-Tunisian culture that influenced all parts of our lives. Whether in our language (three words in French, and then three in Arabic all in the same sentence), in our food (harissa on pasta), or even in our clothing style.
We also have always loved the Persian culture. The way Iranian women manage to have a super bold and original style despite their official boundaries is incredibly powerful. You see this Iranian influence in the way we style our models’ headscarf :, very loose like in the Iranian fashion blog The Tehran Times that we absolutely adore. Otherwise, we follow the latest fashion trends during the fashion weeks, the modest fashion bloggers streetstyles especially Ascia Akaf, and in general we get inspired through art, design and from our travels abroad.
Does that mean, in this instance, fashion and roots go hand in hand?
When we started this project, it was essential to involve the North African women who inspired us so much since we were little. This is why we decided to produce our first collection in a woman-owned workshop in Algiers where we also sourced our main embroideries. For the second collection, we decided to also produce in a small workshop in Djerba, Tunisia, where we made sure that the female workers had good working conditions.
If you could collaborate with any other North African designer, who would it be and why?
We love this Morroccan designer called Sofia El Arabi. She takes traditional garments that she mixes with modern clothing, and displays it in sublime Morroccan riads or landscapes. We’d love to see what she could do for the modest woman.
If you could dress any North African, who would it be and why?
It would be a great honour for any modest fashion brand I think to dress the British-Egyptian blogger Dina Tokio. Her style is constantly evolving. It’s urban and casual but she knows how to bring this little bold touch to make the whole outfit super stylish.
We got the chance to meet her during the London Modest Fashion Week and she is hilarious and very friendly. If by any chance she hears us, Dina, we are ready for you anytime girl!