Kawter

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I don’t even know when and how I met Kawter. I guess it was via social media, then we became friends for real. We try to see each other each time she comes to the capital. Since the moment we met, more than a year ago, I wanted to do her portrait for the website, and even some people asked for it, but we didn’t have the chance. Guess you’ll understand, I would rather enjoy the little time we had together, but today I will be less selfish, and I’ll let you join us, the time for a chat. This portrait does not reflect a particular meeting, it is a combination of all the meetings we had.

Kawter’s biggest hobby is fashion. On Instagram, she posts her different looks, and speaks about her inspirations: “I was born in Morocco, and I usually come back every year during summer breaks. I was 6 years old when I first came back in Morocco, and I couldn’t stop going to a tailor in the street where my grandmother used to live. I sat there, and I looked at him in silent because I didn’t know any Arabic at this time; he tried to talk to me in French, but I wasn’t really reactive because I was shy. One day, he gave me threads, a needle, and some tissue, I took it in my hand, and then I left quickly for my grandmother’s house to sew. And I believe that it all began from this story.” She explains to me that she always has been very shy on her practice of sewing until few years ago. “I didn’t like when people watched me sewing, it was like my private garden. My mother knew that I was sewing but when she was coming to my room, I was pretending to read or to do something else”.

At this moment, Kawter began to make her own clothes. She bought things from Emmaus with not super trendy cuts to fix them. “It allowed me to have cheap clothes that I wanted. And given the fact that I’m from a humble family, it was significant. One of the first pieces that I’ve really sewed was a green AL Malik trousers (as we say in Morocco). It was super wide, and I sewed it without any pattern, just by modeling on my body.”

Then, several textiles projects followed, led by the young girl. “The first one I’ve achieved was Basir, a textile project that I’ve created when I was in Belgium and 17 years old. I sewed all the pieces with my hand, without using a sewing machine. My finger was like a sieve, the needle kept cutting my skin. It didn’t go as I wanted, because I was putting in myself too much pressure, then I’ve dropped it. Then, two other projects have followed, that encountered the same issue for the same reasons.”

“Today I have Abondance, which is not a textile project for the moment but more a portfolio. People often ask me why it is called Abondance: it is in fact the meaning of my first name. Between Basir and Abondance, I have evolved humanely as well as mentally and today, particularly thanks to a great environment, I become each day a bit more the woman that I have always wished to be deep inside. The reserved and shy kid that hung around the Moroccan tailor has always wanted to trust herself, to be someone strong who never drops anything. It is what I aspire to be.”

After her return to France, she opened a blog with her ex-boyfriend, to speak about fashion, beauty, lifestyle… It is how OrangeBleue was born. “At this period, I had an attraction for orange, I wanted by all mean this term in the name, and he identified more himself with blue thus it gave OrangeBleue. I had this blog during one or two years with a Youtube channel but, as for my textile projects, I put on myself a lot of pressure because I saw other people making progress faster than me. Finally, I got spotted to become fashion editor for Elevated. I jumped on the opportunity, I was going to have less responsibilities and more freedom.”  

An adventure that she is still living right now, because Kawter comes back next week for the Paris’ Fashion Week to attend the fashion shows and write for the website. “In the beginning I was so excited! I had stars in the eyes. But in fact, it became quickly a disillusion I have to admit. The stress to not be on time to fashion shows because the other ones have finished late, the time spent to wait hurried creators, the hubbub of the music… the fact that you can not see the pieces under all their seams is quite frustrating too. That is why I prefer presentations to fashion shows, it is more calm. But what I really love in the Fashion Week is the clothing styles that you see, people get dressed like they want, and I think it is cool, your clothing style opens talks with perfect strangers. It is my world, I feel that we are all there for the same reasons et when you come from the countryside it is true that it is a little weird at first.”

Contrary to what people think, Kawter doesn’t live in Paris but in Orleans. “The brakes of the countryside when you are a fashion fanatic are real but not insuperable. If your city and its inhabitants are not used to undertake projects and events, it is a brake because you can not evolve alone. In my case, the second brake is the fact that my mother prevents me from moving freely to Paris in particular for financial reasons, what I understand but I’ve missed a lot of opportunities. Nike contacted me to invite me to events and to create new contents together but when I said that I came form Orleans, they replied that they were only looking for Parisians.”

On the educational level, Kawter tells me about her frustration of not studying things that she liked in high school. “I chose mostly literary subjects while I wanted to be in decorative arts. I have always been an average student, talkative but without problems. During the last year of high school, it got worth because of my philosophy teacher, we could not bear each other and if you want the whole story, I almost quit and dropped my studies, but I thought that my mother did not make sacrifices to watch me giving up, so I decided to continue. At the same time, I had a student job and few weeks before the high school diploma, I did a burn-out: sick leave, prescribed antidepressants (but never taken), in short, I was not feeling well. I thought that I would never get my high school diploma and most of the teachers said it too. Thanks God, I had my boyfriend, he helped me a lot, to not giving up and to motivate me. Thanks to him, I got my high school diploma with honours.”

“The hardest, was getting into schools. I received a hard blow from APB: turned away by eleven institutions of MANAA. I felt a lot of frustration and loneliness, because even if you know that you are not alone in that case, it doesn’t necessarily help you to put into perspective. This year I went to a university in my sector for one year and I realized that I was incapable to study something that I wasn’t passionate about. Next year, I’m going to begin a two-year technical degree of fashion and garment in Paris. This is not the best formation, but it will teach me what I want to learn.”

Then we spoke about goals and inspirations. The VraiesMeufs of her life? “I have a few models in my life. For her courage, her bravery and her piety, my mother inspires me a lot. For her style and her aura, Aleali May is a model to follow and I think that they are my two only inspirations at this moment. Well, there is you too, with VraiesMeufs! You are the three women for who I pay respect and admiration.”

“I think that my ultimate goal would be to combine all the things that define me, in the same place. I would like to open a complex mixing fashion, art and culture, with an exhibition of the creators in one floor, an exhibition of artists in another one, and a museum on the story of ethnic minorities, the part that schools do not teach us.” Kawter knows that she is not the only one to love art, history and fashion. “Our generation looks like very superficial because many of us think a lot about their appearances, but we are in search of an identity.”

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She tells me about the first time that she did not feel at “home”. She remembers the registration’s day to the high school diploma, next to her name, there was written “foreigner”. “I experienced a big identity crisis. Most of the immigrant’s descendants are legally French, which is not my case. So, I have difficulty to recognize myself fully in this group. There was not a single one immigrant like me within my own circle during primary, middle, and high school. However, I am a child of the Republic, I express myself perfectly in Molière’s language, I have received a French education and I have always lived here.”

In middle school, she did not have Arabic friends, and within her family, they made her reproaches for being frenchified because she did not speak Arabic and because she had a style that was out of ordinary. “This kind of remarks can hurt you. From the point of view of France and its institutions, you are a foreigner and within your family you are a foreigner too. You have the impression of being an alien and it is hard to carry on for a schoolgirl.” It is in fact a little time ago in the end that Kawter found a balance between Morocco and France. “Two years ago, I really reconnected with my origins and my inheritance, in particular with my Berber roots. It is partially thanks to meetings and questionings, I would say. Find yourself among your plural identities, is a long process that lasts a lifetime.”

And her different identities, Kawter defends them heart and soul. “I have always been sensitive to injustices and inequalities. There are things that I have never managed to find normal, even if people wanted to convince me otherwise.” She explains to me that her feminism gets closer to Islamic feminism lauded by Zahra Ali than the white feminism. “I do not know enough on it because I am studying the subject right now. But what I have understood, the Islamic feminism to which I adhere, bases its argument on the Coran and on the Hadiths in order to build these principles while being Muslim. I am in complete agreement with this ideology. We need to keep in mind that the man and the woman are not identical but complementary and that does not prevent the fact that they are equal and that, a lot of people have trouble assimilating it.” Among their claiming, the Islamic feminists require a rewrite of the Islamic laws that, according to some contemporary Muslim scientists, are soiled by a patriarchal view of another period. “We need to remember that in Allah’s eyes, men and women are equal, our sins as our good deeds are treated in the same way”.

A "vraie meuf” for me, cannot be translated by any appearance. The essential is in her brain and her heart. A “vraie meuf”, is a woman that assumes herself completely in the good as in the bad sides of her personality, she aspires to be better than yesterday by focusing on the self-surpassing, whether it is in her projects or in her personal life. In fact, there is no personality or appearance that can limit and define a “vraie meuf”, we can see it by her actions, her values and her inspirations. Aspiring to be a “vraie meuf” is already being a “vraie meuf”.

translated by Lehna