The color red – whether poppy, bordeau, cardinal or vermillion – has long been associated with a multitude of meanings. The primary color was considered a ceremonial hue for Ancient Egyptians and Mayans. In contemporary Europe, however, it now signifies passion and joy, while in China it represents luck and happiness. For Moroccan designer Mohamed Benchellal, though, it will always signify elegance, beauty and timelessness. “I’m always fascinated by the diversity and depth of the hue,” says the designer; “with a single shade, different effects can be achieved depending on the choice of fabric.” In fact, Benchellal identifies so much with the rich pigment that it remains the mainstay hue of his eponymous Amsterdam-based fashion brand, founded in 2015.
I have always been drawn to this world of classic timelessness, and how the woman is portrayed in an iconic way. I think women want to be seen in a beautiful and elegant way – and I can give them that”Mohamed Benchellal
The label reached new heights last year, with Benchellal winning the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, powered by NEOM. “I feel proud to be Moroccan because I have a lot of respect for where I come from, but I am really looking forward to where I’m going,” he says. “This prize is a stepping stone to that.” The brand, soon to be carried by NET-A-PORTER, is worn by personalities including Helena Christensen and Camila Cabello – women who are mindful of the planet and in search of refined, classic pieces featuring meticulous detailing. “I have always been drawn to this world of classic timelessness, and how the woman is portrayed in an iconic way,” he says. “I think women want to be seen in a beautiful and elegant way – and I can give them that.”
In 2020, Vogue Arabia’s Fashion Prize emphasized the importance of sustainability being ingrained in the character and codes of its 10 finalists. Winner Benchellal demonstrated how a couture brand can evolve with fabrics that are upcycled or taken from stock materials. “I reused and recycled materials from the beginning, and it has been my modus operandi ever since,” he says. “When I work in a sustainable manner, my design process is driven by surprise and adventure.” Case in point: a red, caped dress created during his artist in residence in Italy uses fabrics purchased from a rural market. “I was in a mountain village, away from the city, and didn’t have access to many fabrics,” he recalls. “Instead of focusing on the industry’s problems, I want to inspire and create by showing that beauty can be realized by reusing materials.”
I reused and recycled materials from the beginning, and it has been my modus operandi ever since. When I work in a sustainable manner, my design process is driven by surprise and adventure”Mohamed Benchellal
The designer, who studied at Mode Lyceum Amsterdam, explores various silhouettes, from tailored and fitted suits to voluminous trenches, dresses and eveningwear. As a result, the Benchellal silhouette is a playful symphony of volume, proportion and sculptural cuts. Selected from 250 applications by a jury that included couturier Jean Paul Gaultier, designer Amina Muaddi, Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut, Vogue Arabia sustainability editor-at-large Livia Firth, and Nisreen Shocair, CEO Middle East, YOOX NET-A-PORTER, among others, it’s clear Benchellal deserves every minute of his red-hot moment.
The models featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown