Morocco Comes to West Elm

As I’ve been preparing for my trip back to Morocco, I have been wondering what I should bring back with me after I meet with business owners all across the country to bring a little bit of Morocco back to the US for all of you. 

Sure, there’s the argan oil, the rose factories, the textiles businesses, the pottery factories…what should I introduce to all of you?

Well, West Elm has started to bring back Marrakech to their shoppers.

When I got the catalog last week, I was so happy to see that West Elm had brought Morocco to its customers.  As I read through the new collection, I was disappointed.  Why?  They brought back Marrakech…and I don’t like Marrakech. 

I don’t like it at all.  I made sure to tell my tour company to make sure there is absolutely NO STOP in Marrakech.  That’s how much I don’t like it.

There are certain items that West Elm has made available that I plan on buying from them instead of lugging it back from Morocco…like their metal trays.  I love these large metal trays.  They’re elaborate and beautiful…and one of the things I loved about the breakfast and dinner service that I received there.

As for the rugs…they are all very beautiful.  BUT…if they had gone to Fes, they would have gotten a more interesting story behind certain Berber rugs.  I am partial to the Berber rugs because Berber women are the ones who make the rugs.  When they are sold, the sale of the rugs goes directly to the women who made them.  Most of these women live in a commune.  They are either widowers, divorcees, or victims of domestic abuse.  The sale of the rugs go to help these women. 

If the Marrakech Berber rugs help these same types of women…I’m all for it, but the patterns and style of rug…I’m not so sure.  Mine were designed by a different tribe.

The Berber rug I purchased was a small 2×3 rug, but it’s one of my most prized purchases from Fes, Morocco.  It’s so prized…my cat won’t leave it alone.  She has claimed it as hers.  She loves that rug so much and has since I unfolded it and put it on the floor.  The other rugs I’ve purchased from the States…oh, she doesn’t even bother with them.  The Berber rug…let’s just say she’s sold on moving to Morocco.

If the women benefit from the sale of these rugs…they really should advertise that, instead of the artisans thing.  I’m all for supporting the artisans, but there’s also another story involving women that live in communes.

As for the poufs…I like that they chose the fabric design of the poufs.  BUT…a visit to the tanneries in Fes would have netted them the more popular poufs that everyone wants these days and are lamenting that they have to pay an arm and a leg for it.  Another difference here is that their poufs come pre-stuffed.  I don’t recommend this at all for people investing in poufs.  Why?  Because, you should be able to use your poufs as extra storage…and that’s what they should be sold as…a form of extra storage.

I stuffed my seasonal wardrobe into the 2 poufs I bought.  It’s a great way to store clothes, blankets, etc. AND have extra seating to boot. 

It would actually save West Elm in shipping charges AND stuffing charges if they sold the outer part of the pouf only.

Part of me likes the new Moroccan look from West Elm, and the other part of me kind of makes me feel like the Moroccan men feel when Lonely Planet comes through to do their reviews.  The writers don’t take the time to really get to know their culture…to ask the right questions.  They walk up, write it up as if they were there, instead of diving into what the locals know in order to generate a true story of that place or region.  Then, when the Moroccan men read what Lonely Planet had to write about them…it’s this little one or two line thing that is so ‘on the surface’ of what the experience really was all about.  It’s like the person didn’t even care to show Morocco in the real light.

That’s kind of how I feel about West Elm’s collection.  They only curated items from Marrakech. 

If they had made it up to Fes, they would have found all new wonders that put Marrakech to shame.  If they had made it out to the Sahara Desert towns, they would have found fossilized furniture, trinkets for the home and more…all from the days when the Sahara Desert was part of the ocean.  These fossils are so amazing…mined from the earth with sea creatures bigger than any you have ever seen in your life…and they turn these fossils into household goods.

If they had visited the textile businesses, they could have watched them make silk blankets, curtains, and much more…all by hand.  We’re talking top notch and incredible beauty…at an amazing price in all of the colors of the rainbow (my blue silk blanket is so beautiful…it even has purple velvet sewn in).

If they had visited the potters…they could have found a whole world of pottery and tiles in an array of colors all made by hand…that would truly be the spirit of bringing back that part of Morocco that gives the beauty within their architecture so much notoriety.

There are even the wood carvers that create elaborate jewelry boxes.  There are the other metalsmiths that have silver teapots and Moroccan glasses for the mint tea that Arab countries are so famous for.  And what about the Moroccan lamps?  How does one forget to bring those back to America? 

If West Elm wants to go with me on my next trip in July, I’ll show them the Morocco that should be brought back to their customers.  Or…maybe I’ll just start my own store.

About Michelle Kenneth

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