Mohamed Benchellal

Multi-Award Winning Designer Mohamed Benchellal: “My Style Is Influenced by Moroccan Extravagance”

Multi-Award Winning Designer Mohamed Benchellal: “My Style Is Influenced by Moroccan Extravagance”

Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson
An air of eloquence and a sculptural line. Such are the traces of Benchellal. The creations of award-winning Moroccan-Dutch designer Mohamed Benchellal offer an entryway into the realm of timelessness, where women are commemorated as “empowered and divine.” Following his victory as winner of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, the designer has been on a steep ascension that has since seen his namesake label prosper on Net-a-Porter and receive further awards, including the top prize for evening wear at the Fashion Trust Arabia Awards in 2021, and fashion innovator of the year at the 2022 Emigala Fashion Awards.
At Benchellal, a harmony resides between a measured technique and a spontaneity that is unique to his process. With a family name that evokes the ever-evolving (Benchellal is Arabic for “son of the waterfall”), the brand is an extension of the man behind it, who is an artist loyal to his intuition. “It’s already in my name,” Benchellal says. “Water is unpredictable, and so is my journey. I follow my own stream, always.” Voluminous silhouettes give way to a refined glamour in his creations, just as a fascination with the classics elevates the brand’s resonance. He is devoted to sustainability and uses self-taught techniques in his atelier to manipulate fabrics, while employing the use of existing materials for ecological integrity. What is today celebrated as ethical, was born of genuine practicality. After studying at Amsterdam Fashion Academy and launching his brand in 2015, Benchellal would make use of deadstock fabrics found in local marketplaces. “Sustainability was a necessity for me to survive as a designer,” he reflects. “It was a challenge to find all these fabrics that were forgotten and to create something luxurious with them. If I could get a certain fabric that was considered cheap and make it look expensive… That was when I realized, I could do this.” In a world where fast fashion has an astonishing environmental cost, Benchellal has contributed to the ongoing industry sustainability shift.
Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson
As the son of Moroccan parents who immigrated to the Netherlands in the late Sixties, Benchellal attributes his determination to his family. “Everyone who works in fashion knows it takes a lot of money to set something up. I didn’t know where to start at first, but I knew I came from hard-working parents. So I started small and developed from there.” His extensive knowledge of fabric, as well as his sensibility towards the craft itself, was nurtured from a young age, as his own grandfather had worked in textiles. “My grandparents had these intense industrial sewing machines in the house that would make noise. I was always fascinated to see how they worked with them. At one point, I decided to try it myself. I took a portable sewing machine up to my room and started to cut my clothes apart. I became obsessed with figuring out how a piece was made.” As much as the sewing machine had become a form of creative liberation for him at this stage, it was the encouragement of his family that imbued him with the self-assurance he manifests today. Benchellal reminisces, “Both of my grandfathers would make me feel special. They would take me aside and say, ‘You’re going to do something very big.’ I always felt motivated by that. They also knew how to manifest and work hard to get what they wanted. They built a good life for themselves, and this was a huge inspiration to me.” There is a cultural legacy that lingers in the fashion house. An attitude that informs both his wardrobe and personal manner. “When you grow up as a Moroccan child, your culture is woven into your identity. Now more than ever, I feel I embody the best of these two worlds. There is the warmth of my Moroccan heritage and the freedom and discovery of my European upbringing. My parents and grandparents taught me how to present myself. Not only to dress well – I even feel guilty if I wear sweatpants – but the idea that what you radiate is what you receive. There is no better place for hospitality than in Morocco.” It is the grandeur of Moroccan ensembles that he carries throughout his collections, as an aesthetic resonance that never leaves him. “My style is influenced by Moroccan extravagance. I do everything over-the-top and love creating dresses with volume. I’ve always seen Moroccans as elegant people, who are strong and beautiful. I grew up watching my aunts transform into these glamazons for weddings. There is nothing more glamorous than a kaftan, and to see that as a child, it stays with you. To me, it was glamour to the fullest.”
Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson

Benchellal creates a harmonious tension between body, shape, and comfort. However structured his garments may appear, there is also fluidity. Instead of contouring the body, he experiments with proportion, with an understanding of volume and cut not dissimilar to architecture. A recurring theme throughout his work is his reverence for women. In the early years of his creative experimentation, he showcased his designs on female friends, while today he collaborates with Hollywood actors and supermodels, including dressing Iris Apfel for her 100th birthday, and Billy Porter, Alicia Keys, Priyanka Chopra, and Sharon Stone for red carpet events. “These high-profile artists feel they have a responsibility to wear something sustainable, yet that is also new,” he recounts. “And that is also inspiring for me.” He adds, “My dresses are not just clothes, they are an event. I believe that women are the most beautiful creation. I want to sculpt around them. They are already divine, but I want to highlight that through my work. To put women on a pedestal. That is my mission when designing.”
Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson
His latest collection is a collaboration with the “catwalk contessa” herself, Dutch model Marpessa Hennink. “I remember being a little boy, seeing Marpessa in the magazines of the 80s and 90s. I was fascinated with her, and I would have never dreamed of designing for her. It came full circle.” A radiant Hennink is a contemporary elegante in Benchellal’s garments, with their symmetrical drapery or voluminous roses placed meticulously around her shoulders. “It is truly inspiring for me to see that there are young people out there that stay focused on their vision, undeterred by the daily distractions that social media dictates, and who stay refreshingly independent in a business based on conformity to hype,” Hennink shares. “I’m so grateful to have been introduced to Mohamed.”
Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson

Benchellal creates in a way that is particular to his vision. His process begins with the touch of a fabric, followed by an examination of its length. “When I get my hands on the material, this dictates my design. I feel that this is a much more sustainable approach to fashion; to produce from what is available.” While dressing Hennink, pieces were even finalized during the shoot itself. “I was sculpting them around her body, in the moment,” he explains. Hismanner of rejecting the habitual customs of the industry further attests to his singularity as a designer. “I work in a different way that suits me. And though at times it can be a struggle, you must believe in yourself, especially if you are taking a different route.” As a one-man-show of sorts, Benchellal takes the helm of his business proactively, fulfilling all tasks, from cutting to designing, distributing, and even PR, personally. “I do everything myself,” he explains. “It’s challenging, but it stays interesting that way.”
Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson
Perseverance is integral to success. It requires action, just as the awareness of bearing risks. In Benchellal’s journey, this manifests through the defiance of popular opinion, and his ability to pursue his own vision, regardless of what the industry may be accustomed to. “Success doesn’t happen overnight,” he affirms. “Working in the professional realm of fashion, you deal with a lot of advisors over the years. I didn’t agree with all of them, because I work in a way that doesn’t suit the old world of doing business. I was told that my way wasn’t the way of working. But I see myself as a designer of the new generation. In my kind of world, money should be the tool, not the goal. In that way, it is putting the planet before profit.” In prolonging his passion for the ethereal, his body of work promises to enchant, wherever inspiration may next lead him. When Benchellal designs something, it is for life. “I love my freedom. I could release 30 new dresses tomorrow or wait a whole year and only release a single dress. I am living in the moment, always breathing fashion. I think if you pin everything down and have all these plans, you can block yourself and all the beautiful things that can happen.”
Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Desiree Mattson

Vogue Fashion Prize Winner Benchellal’s SS21 Collection Effortlessly Combines Sustainability and Glamor

Vogue Fashion Prize Winner Benchellal’s SS21 Collection Effortlessly Combines Sustainability and Glamor

Photo: Courtesy of Benchellal
“Sustainability is a core value of the Benchellal brand,” starts its founder and designer, Mohamed Benchellal. He considers the challenges sourcing deadstock fabrics – filtering out the damaged parts, determining self-taught techniques of fabric manipulation, and economical cutting, to which patterns produce the least waste – what makes his everyday process so interesting. “This latest collection is no exception,” he continues. SS21 features couture-like separates and dresses that have all been made from leftover or discarded textiles. In fact, instead of creating a physical archival inventory at his Amsterdam atelier, he takes his previous-season garments and deconstructs them, to reassemble them for the new season. Such focus on living in the present is practically unheard of, especially for an industry that proclaims to be forward-facing and yet consistently revisits styles of decades past.
Mohamed Benchellal. Photo: Courtesy of Benchellal
“As a designer, you are always pushing boundaries. In the realm of evening wear, it can be a fine line between the magical and the ridiculous,” tells Benchellal. While focusing on the here and now, he reveals that his guiding light is a return to “timelessness.” Offering women statement garments – a reinterpretation of the kandora mixed with classic button-up shirt elements; voluminous translations of the scent of oud and the bakhoor smoke; lotus and Arabian jasmine-inspired petal-like volumes; or a tuxedo blazer over a floor-length dress in gold hand-painted canvas with wrapped sash around the hips – the Fashion Prize winner makes, for the first time, a direct link with the MENA heritage and his clothes.
Photo: Courtesy of Benchellal
The Moroccan designer, who grew up in the Netherlands, always searched for a way to reference his fascination with the region in his fashion. His recent stay in Dubai for the Fashion Prize ceremony offered him the boost to finally create a collection inspired by the landscapes, women, and colors of the region. Nomadic cobalt blue and saffron orange are added to his classic palette of black, white, and red, while his reinterpretation of the kandora, along with his signature volumes and draping, are a further nod to Arab women, whom he hopes will feel as though they are wearing armor in his clothes, giving confidence and a feeling of invincibility.
Photo: Courtesy of Benchellal
“Real glamour is about translating the feeling of ultimate freedom into a garment, it’s not about money,” he states. “It’s also about the opportunity to realize my goals by pursuing a career in fashion with the full support of my family along the way.” Even when a curfew was introduced in Amsterdam, he would work alone at his atelier, sleeping alongside his sewing machine until he was permitted to venture outside again. “Especially now, when life has slowed down and seems rather unexciting, it is fashion like this – a hopeful alternative to ordinary life – that can keep us striving towards a better future.”
Photo: Courtesy of Benchellal
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Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

Announcing the Winner of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, Powered by NEOM

Announcing the Winner of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, Powered by NEOM

2020 Vogue Fashion Prize winner, Mohamed Benchellal. Photographed by Michel Takla for Vogue Arabia

After weeks of excitement and anticipation, the finale of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, powered by NEOM has arrived. This year’s prize returned bigger and better than ever before, highlighting sustainability at its core and looking to empower some of the region’s most talented designers. From more than 250 people across 20 countries applying to be part of the illustrious program, only 10 finalists were carefully selected.
Over the past three weeks, finalists Karim Adduchi, Yousef Akbar, Benchellal, Jude Benhalim, Born In Exile, Emergency Room, Harithand, Lama Jouni, Lurline, and Ilyes Ouali have been preparing for the final stages of the Vogue Fashion Prize.
With the immense talents of all the finalists, the jury was faced with an almost impossible decision: who out of these vast talents could win? However, a decision was made with the winner revealed at an intimate gala held at the Armani Hotel in Dubai.
The evening honored this year’s finalists and saw Moroccan couture womenswear designer Benchellal crowned as the winner of this year’s Vogue Fashion Prize. Karim Adduchi was named as first runner-up, with Lurline and Lama Jouni both placing as second runners-up.
“It was an incredible honor to receive so many applications to the Fashion Prize this year from all over the world, and to be joined by a prestigious jury featuring some of the most iconic names in the fashion industry,” said Manuel Arnaut, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Arabia. “This unique combination enabled us to continue to deliver one of Vogue Arabia’s core aims: being at the center of the fashion ecosystem in the Arab world by nurturing its emerging designers. Thank you to our partner NEOM, with whom we created a beautiful narrative around sustainability, and congratulations to all of the finalists and winners.”
Here is all you need to know about this year’s winners.
Winner: Benchellal
Benchellal. Photographed by Michel Takla for Vogue Arabia

Moroccan designer Mohamed Benchellal has been named as the winner for the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize with his couture womenswear label Benchellal.
Holding sustainability at the core of the brand, Benchellal impressed the jury with his contemporary yet timeless designs that exude the ultimate sense of glamour. “If I win the Vogue Fashion Prize, the prize would not be for me. The prize would be for all those women who feel empowered, beautiful, and elegant dressed in Benchellal,” the designer previously said.
Benchellal will receive a financial grant valued at US $150,000, alongside editorial/press, marketing, and mentorship, as well as a placement on Net-a-Porter.
First runner-up: Karim Adduchi
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize first runner-up, Karim Adduchi. Photographed by Michel Takla for Vogue Arabia

Moroccan-born artist and designer Karim Adduchi is the first runner-up of this year’s prize. He presented his impressive and unique creations – drawn from the inspiration of his rich heritage – to acclaim from the jury. Karim Adduchi will receive a financial grant of US $50,000 to further develop his couture womenswear label.
Joint second runner-up: Lurline
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize joint second runners-up Sarah and Siham Albinali of Lurline

Sisters Sarah and Siham Albinali of Saudi Arabian ready-to-wear label Lurline was named as joint second runners-up in the competition. Embracing soft goth fashion mixed with refined femininity, Lurline takes pride in its approach combining traditional and modern techniques to create their pieces, challenging preconceived notions of what Saudi fashion looks like. It’s creative and voluminous flair captured the attention of the jury. Lurline will receive a financial grant of US $25,000 to further develop its ready-to-wear brand.
Lurline. Photographed by Michel Takla for Vogue Arabia

Joint second runner-up: Lama Jouni
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize joint second runner-up Lama Jouni

Lebanese designer Lama Jouni was also named joint second runner-up of the Vogue Fashion Prize. Since Lama Jouni’s launch in 2016, the Lebanese designer has created a series of collections inspired by music, travel, and art, and at accessible price points. Her bold yet sophisticated and contemporary designs representing the fierce yet understated woman, impressed the jury. Lama Jouni will also receive a financial grant of US $25,000 to further develop her eponymous ready-to-wear label.
Lama Jouni. Photographed by Michel Takla for Vogue Arabia

The entire class of this year’s finalists will present their collections at an exclusive Fashion Prize showroom during Paris fashion week in March 2021.
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Meet The Finalists of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, Powered by NEOM

Meet The Finalists of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, Powered by NEOM

Meet The Finalists of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, Powered by NEOM

The return of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, powered by NEOM, has, so far, been nothing short of sensational. Offering the chance for emerging designers to showcase their work on a global platform, the empowering event has returned bigger than ever before, with sustainability at the core of this year’s prize.
Since its launch in 2015, the Fashion Prize has catapulted some of the most promising regional designers to stardom. With world-class industry professionals on this year’s jury, we saw more than 250 people across 20 countries apply to be part of the illustrious program. From the hundreds of talented applicants, 10 finalists have been carefully selected, each specializing in either ready-to-wear, couture, accessories, and high jewelry categories. Without further ado, Vogue Arabia presents the finalists of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize.
Mohamed Benchellal: Benchellal
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Mohamed Benchellal of Benchellal

Category: CoutureCountry: Morocco
Moroccan designer Mohamed Benchellal launched his couture womenswear label Benchelall in Amsterdam in 2015. Benchellal’s atelier holds sustainable and ethical values at its core, taking an intricately handcrafted approach to each garment. Looking to establish a future of fashion where couture and sustainability go hand in hand, Benchellal has garnered international interest through his playful, contemporary, yet timeless designs.
Ibrahim Shebani: Born in Exile
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Ibrahim Shebani of Born in Exile

Category: Ready-to-wearCountry: Libya
German-born, Libyan designer Ibrahim Shebani was inspired to launch his luxury ready-to-wear label in 2018. Aptly named Born in Exile, the brand reflects Shebani’s experience of his family’s exile from their home country in the 1970s. His powerful designs represent a modern twist on Libya’s rich culture and folklore traditions, turning them into everyday garments.
Eric Mathieu Ritter: Emergency Room
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Eric Mathieu Ritter of Emergency Room

Category: Ready-to-wearCountry: Lebanon
Ready-to-wear label Emergency Room was born from the mind of designer Eric Mathieu Ritter. The Beirut-based brand launched in 2018, inspired by the necessity of sourcing a sustainable and ethical alternative to clothing creation. Each garment designed by Ritter utilizes dead-stock fabrics and unique vintage materials, forming Emergency Room’s conscious ready-to-wear collections.
Harith Hashim: Harithand
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Harith Hashim of Harithand

Category: Ready-to-wearCountry: Lebanon
Baghdad-born, Iraqi-Lebanese designer Harith Hashim established his luxury ready-to-wear label Harithand in 2012. Hashim’s creative flair, use of couture codes, and playful ruffles bring his vision of chemistry between a woman and her clothes to life, through his elegant collections of formal daywear and evening pieces.
Ilyes Ouali
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Ilyes Ouali

Category: Ready-to-wearCountry: Algeria
Algerian designer Ilyes Ouali’s namesake brand was conceived in 2016, inspired by his mother’s style. Taking inspiration from his mother’s impeccable wardrobe, Ouali redesigned eveningwear styles to represent the modern consumer, while retaining traditional feminine elegance.
Jude Benhalim
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Jude Benhalim

Category: JewelryCountry: Egypt
Cairo-based jewelry designer Jude Benhalim founded her eponymous label with her mother and partner, Rana Alazm, in 2011. Born and raised in Egypt, the designer’s statement pieces reflect the modern women that serves as Benhalim’s muse. Finding inspiration in geometric shapes and architectural designs, Benhalim curates intricately handcrafted pieces made with the bold female spirit in mind.
Karim Adduchi
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Karim Adduchi

Category: CoutureCountry: Morocco
Moroccan-born artist and designer Karim Adduchi launched his womenswear label in 2015 and has since seen his collections grace the runway at Paris and Amsterdam fashion weeks. Previously named on Forbes Europe and Forbes Middle East’s 30 under 30 lists as a designer to watch, Adduchi’s unique creations are recognized as examples of self-expression and globalization, often drawn from inspiration of his rich heritage.
Lama Jouni
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Lama Jouni

Category: Ready-to-wearCountry: Lebanon
Before establishing her eponymous ready-to-wear label, Lama Jouni trained at Balmain. Since Lama Jouni’s launch in 2016, the Lebanese designer has created a series of collections inspired by music, travel, and art, focusing on captivating silhouettes for the fierce yet understated woman.
Sarah and Siham Albinali: Lurline
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalists Sarah and Siham Albinali of Lurline

Category: Ready-to-wearCountry: Saudi Arabia
Sisters Sarah and Siham Albinali launched their ready-to-wear label Lurline in 2018. Born in Saudi Arabia, Sarah and Siham bring their conception of the modern woman to life in their unconventional and daring designs. Embracing soft goth fashion mixed with refined femininity, Lurline takes pride in its approach combining traditional and modern techniques to create their timeless pieces.
Yousef Akbar
2020 Vogue Fashion Prize finalist Yousef Akbar

Category: CoutureCountry: Saudi Arabia
Born and raised in Jeddah, Yousef Akbar has been passionate about fashion from a young age. The Saudi couturier launched his namesake label at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2017. The brand credits its foundations to creating ethical and responsible garments, infused with elegance and femininity, made by using recycled materials.
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