Henna Girls and Heavyweights

Hassan Hajjaj is probably the only artist to ever blow off Louis Vuitton’s invitation to collaborate. And it’s not because he doesn’t respect the label. In fact, it’s because he likes it a little too much. To understand why, we’ve got to take it back to the late 80s when Hajjaj, an immigrant from Larache, a tiny fishing village in Morocco, opened an affordable streetwear shop in London. He remembers those early years of hustling, “At that time, all these big brands weren’t designing for me and my friends. They were designing for rich people. But we also wanted to be part of that world. We wanted to have money and be able to wear this clothing.” So he started picking up knockoffs in flea market stalls, cutting off the logos, and stitching them onto clean white tees and the backs of acid-washed jean jackets.

Hajjaj soon became a fixture on the British club scene, promoting underground parties and assisting on photo shoots into the 90s. Entirely self-taught, he stumbled into his own artistic practice after helping an English photographer on a fashion shoot in Morocco where he observed that his country was being exploited as just a flat exotic backdrop against which leggy European models would pose. He knew it was more than that. “I wanted to do something to present my own people who stand between the traditional and the modern. I wanted to represent my own friends,” he decided. So entirely self-taught, he began to shoot photographs his way.

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