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‘Creativity is so natural to Marrakesh. It's the energy of the city.’

Gems in this

Photo>>>Mario De La Rossa


Explore Playbook

Gems in
this story

Feature by Marley Ng

Anwar Bougroug is a fashion designer whose eponymous label fuses together the influences of his Moroccan heritage and his Scandinavian upbringing. He combines colorful North African patterns with Scandinavian silhouettes to create an inclusive, genderless clothing line that tells his personal story.

Anwar’s passion for fashion was first sparked during summers with family in Marrakesh, and the city is still a constant source of inspiration. We ask Anwar about finding his footing in fashion, why creativity is at ‘an all-time high’ in the city, and his Travel Playbook for finding food, drink and creativity in the Moroccan capital.


On growing up in Oslo

I was born in Norway. Because my parents are Moroccan and I was a child with an immigrant background, it was quite a different experience, but I was very welcomed. I have a warm feeling about growing up in Oslo; it was a good time in my life. I moved around a lot after that.

On summers in Morocco

What I love about Morocco is that, even though there are a lot of class and economic issues, people still blend in quite a lot and are very inclusive. Every relationship is close — you even talk to taxi drivers about very personal things — almost the opposite of Scandinavian countries, which are more reserved. You get so many different perspectives on life. We can all sit around a table, have conversations, and try to focus on what we have in common. It was such an important thing for the person that I am today. It gave me so much confidence. Morocco was a paradise.

On starting Bougroug

I saved money from the age of 16 because I always knew that I was going to have my own brand. I couldn’t relate to a lot of the stories in fashion, and I felt like my story wasn’t being told. So when I did my brand, I did a few photo shoots and had some fun. There was such a huge community that reached out, and they were so happy and supportive. It's been an amazing journey, and I’m really thankful to Moroccans and the people in our community.

On interweaving Scandinavian and Moroccan design

I always believe that you have to tell your own story. No matter what you do, it's always going to be from your perspective. People will definitely see Scandinavian silhouettes, but maybe there will be an interesting print, embroidery or color that is more Moroccan. I would never do just one world or another — it becomes a world merged from my experiences.

First row of Marrakesh courtesy of Mitchell Van Voorbergen. Second row left courtesy of Cecile Treal and right courtesy of Kasia Gatkowska; middle courtesy of Anwar Bougroug. Third row of Bougroug campaign by Ismail Otmani. Fourth row of Bougroug’s 2020 HUMA collection by Beste Zeybel.

On creating genderless clothing

Scandinavian and Moroccan clothing have similarities: they’re very modest and also more gender-neutral. That's the future. It's important that people can wear whatever they want. Your body will always decide what a garment looks like, so I'm not the one to decide for you. Everyone styles things differently. I don't want to label anything — if you think this shirt is a dress, do you; if you think this dress is a top, you wear it as a top. It's more fun and inclusive, and that's the world that I want to create.

On sustainability in your brand

It really started from the beginning. We work with artisans and a lot of women. For a small brand like mine, it’s very important to support our communities. And we do small scales for everything — we could do big quantities and only sell half of it, but instead we try to sell every item. Every garment has a story and purpose.

‘There are so many creatives here — and from all over the world — because the city is so inspiring. You go there and immediately want to start creating.’

On fresh eyes through travel

Travel is really when my brain shifts — it gives you a breath of fresh air, and you can think differently and see the bigger picture. When I’m not in my own routine, I can start seeing things in a different way; my brain goes into a more problem-solving phase. Things from the past start to resolve themselves, and I start seeing with fresh eyes — new colors, fabrics, textures, new people and energies.

On a window or aisle seat

I prefer an aisle seat for sure. I need to know that I won’t wake anyone up when I go to the toilet — that’s anxiety for me.

On creativity in Marrakesh

Creativity is so natural to Marrakesh and it’s at an all-time high. In a few years, it will really hit the global scale. There are so many creatives here — and from all over the world — because the city is so inspiring. You go there and immediately want to start creating. Everything is made in front of you: orange juice, olive oil, perfume, clothing. It’s the energy of the city — you see opportunities in so many things.

First row left of El Fenn boutique by Cecile Treal; right by Kasia Gatkowska. Second and third rows of La Mamounia courtesy of La Mamounia. Fourth row of El Fenn by Cecile Treal. Fifth row left and right of Nomad rooftop bar courtesy of Nomad; middle courtesy of Anwar Bougroug.

On showing a friend around Marrakesh

I would take them around the Medina, so they would get a kick of old-time Morocco — very buzzing and crazy. Everyone should go and walk around; absorb the energy. Go to Jemaa El-Fna, which is really the heart of the Medina. It's a completely different vibe during the night — there’s so many people and food stalls everywhere — so make sure that you do both. I would also take them to the more modern parts of the city, because the old and new parts are very different. If you want to escape, there's so much to do around the city as well — you have the mountains, amazing houses, riads, pools.

On where to grab a bite in the Medina

My favorite café is an absolutely amazing rooftop café in the Medina called Shtatto. Go there and have a drink or a cup of tea. You have the view of the whole city, so it's really beautiful. I would go to NOMAD for dinner. They have amazing food; it’s like fusion Moroccan.


On where to shop in the city

El Fenn boutique at the El Fenn Hotel has a very nice selection of Moroccan-made items. The hotel itself is amazing; they also have an amazing rooftop and café. The Moroccans started as a little concept shop, and they just kept growing. Now they have a hotel close to the Yves Saint Laurent Gardens. If it's a Thursday, go to Bab El Khemis, a market where you can find everything from vintage clothing to furniture. Khamis means Thursday, so it's only open on Thursdays.


‘You use all your senses when you’re in Marrakesh. There's so much happening around you that you don't walk around and overthink things.’

On chill places for a drink

I definitely recommend Le Salama for a drink, also in the Medina. It's fantastic — super nice, very chill. Bars in Morocco have a very chill vibe, because everything else is buzzing. Have the last drink of the day at La Mamounia. It’s stunning; it's so chic. There’s a reason that everyone goes there and why it's one of the best hotels in the world — it’s the perfect mix between history and heritage.


On a song that represents Marrakesh for you

‘Time’ by Arca. The sound makes me feel grounded, and it reminds me of now, which Marrakesh does a lot. You use all your senses when you’re in Marrakesh. There's so much happening around you that you don't walk around and overthink things — you're just on it. So this song really reminds me of to be in the present.

On Marrakesh in one word

Conflicting. It's a love–hate relationship, where love is 80%. It's super creative and enriching, but there are also things that I think should be improved. I go there to recharge and be inspired, so I absolutely love it there. But because Marrakesh is so special to me, I can also be like, ‘I wish these things were different.’ We have the most beautiful country, but things aren’t working. It's a lot of emotions. Everything — from the happiness to the joy to the sense of community, but also the disappointment, the frustration — is all there, just part of it.


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‘Creativity is so natural to Marrakesh. It's the energy of the city.’