MOROCCAN ARTIST HASSAN HAJJAJ’S ONE-OF-A-KIND SHOREDITCH BOUTIQUE
Tucked away cosily just off Kingsland Road in London’s Shoreditch neighbourhood is Hassan Hajjaj’s gem of a boutique, Larache. Although initially my interactions were limited to a lovely lady named Ekram, who manages the store on weekends, I later got a chance to speak with Hassan, the man behind the magic. Born in Morocco, Hajjaj came to London when he was just a teenager, and has ever since dabbled in the world of fashion, tea rooms, restaurant collaborations, club promotions, and style, in addition to working as a photographer by day. He opened Larache around five years ago, with a clientele comprised of design professionals, graphic designers, and travellers; an eccentric and arty crowd, who instantly took to the rustic vibrant ambience and Hajjaj’s unique products.
Upon entering Larache, you find yourself in a celebratory melange of colour and pattern, brought to life by the bounteous assortment of goods on display, and enhanced by a certain humbleness and warmth. For instance, there is a small sitting area cleverly designed using Coke cartons mounted with intricate Persian cushions, the patterns of which cleverly clash with the blazing urban graphic art on the saturated table tops inscribed with English and Arabic text. As well, something else that caught my eye was a table whose legs were reformed with ornate metal teapots wielded together, and stacked on each other. However, the most striking piece would have to be the wooden rack installation with tiny compartments housing an array of cans, jars, and bottles, all beautifully collaged to give a feel of Marrakech. Apparently, as I was told, it is a replica of something else Hajjaj had made for a famous restaurant in Paris a few years back.
The boutique is a smorgasbord of Oriental exotica and the urban Shoreditch aesthetic, full of innovative takes on rugs, sculptures, and numerous other oddities
Altogether, the boutique is a smorgasbord of Oriental exotica and the urban Shoreditch aesthetic, full of innovative takes on rugs, sculptures, decorations, table tops, bags, and numerous other oddities. As Hajjaj explained, the boutique represents a montage of his childhood in Morocco, inspired by the food, culture, and traditions of North Africa, blended with the eccentricity of East London – an amalgam brought to life in every corner of the shop.
At Larache, each piece seems as if to be yearning to tell a story. I could almost imagine Hajjaj sitting in his workshop thinking of ideas, sketching them out, making a few phone calls to sort out materials, and later travelling to Morocco to work with artisans in their workshops. Having worked with different craftsmen and artisans for over fifteen years, Hajjaj manufactures the bulk of his products in Morocco – something I find especially fascinating, as in doing so, he is making a cultural contribution to his homeland.
It’s shops like Larache that are so important in today’s fashion eco-system, as they represent artists catering to the eclectic tastes of stylish Londoners, but who also support many local craftsmen and livelihoods in the process. I, personally, would always find a table in someone’s living room with a story behind it much more fascinating than an impeccably varnished piece ordered from a catalogue – a quintessentially Shoreditch point of view, I dare say.
And I’m proud of that.
Nikhil Sharma is a London-based menswear designer who runs the fashion blog Porcelain Paper Rockets
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