Traditional Moroccan tapestry is one of Morocco’s most fascinating artisanal crafts. Colorful, hand-crafted rugs and carpets are available in all Moroccan traditional souks, captivating the curiosity of tourists.
Colors, patterns, and materials used to craft the carpets differ from one Moroccan region to another. In the Atlas Mountains, the art of Boucherouite — crafting carpets from pieces of excess fabric, wool, or leather — was passed down through many generations and survives to this day.
Fadwa Moussaif, a young eco-conscious Moroccan, saw in Boucherouite more than an art. She saw an opportunity to support women in the Atlas Mountains and a chance to promote sustainability in the fashion industry.
Fadwa created IDYR (“Life” in Tamazight [Berber]) — a social enterprise that rebrands and modernizes the art of Boucherouite while allowing women in the Atlas Mountains to make a profit from their talent. Women working with the company modernized their craft and began making clothing items and handbags, in addition to carpets.
Handbags are some of IDYR’s best-selling products.
In an interview with MWN, Fadwa reminisced about her path as an entrepreneur, from a disoriented student to a young businesswoman, passing by her selection for the Anzisha program for young African entrepreneurs.
Born and raised in Casablanca, Fadwa developed an affinity for creative arts at a young age.
“In primary school, my friends and I loved drawing dresses and imaginary characters. I always drew the best dresses and accessories. My dream was to become a designer,” she recalled.
Science also sparked the young creative’s interest during her adolescence. As her high school graduation neared, Fadwa’s parents encouraged her to pursue studies in science and promised to support her when she decided to switch towards design.
“My parents, my sister, and my brother kept their promise,” she said, “They were my first investors, incubators, clients, counselors, and supporters when I decided to venture into entrepreneurship.”
Fadwa conceptualized her IDYR project idea while studying at Science and Technology School (FST) of Mohammedia, near Casablanca.
In a social entrepreneurship course, Fadwa had the assignment to develop a business plan for a fictional social enterprise. While researching for her assignment, the young student discovered that, in the 12 rural villages she visited, at least 50% of women knew how to craft carpets.
With her classmate and eventual business partner, Amal Kenzari, Fadwa found that out of all Moroccan women who learned how to confect tapestry, only 15% exploit their talent in generating income.
IDYR collaborates with several women artisans. Photo credit: IDYR/Instagram
The student also discovered that Moroccan women artisans sell their products to retailers at very low prices. Merchants then make a significant profit by selling the products to tourists.
“These women only needed an opportunity to show their skills and to express themselves. They did not know how to promote their talents and generate income,” Fadwa explained.
Another alarming fact that Fadwa discovered is Morocco’s textile industry throws away 205,000 tons of fabric every year, and only 8% of the unwanted materials get recycled.
The significant amount of uncontrolled waste triggered Fadwa’s desire to play a role in protecting the environment. Mixing the data on the art of tapestry and textile waste gave birth to the idea of IDYR.
Fadwa and Amal decided to recycle the unwanted fabric thrown away by Moroccan factories through the art of Boucherouite, simultaneously protecting the natural environment and valorizing the talents of Moroccan women in rural areas.
The women weave fabric manually. Photo credit: IDYR/Instagram
“I am realizing my childhood dream of supporting social and environmental causes. I always wanted to do something to sustainably help people in precarious situations, but I never knew how until I reached university,” Fadwa said.
According to Fadwa, IDYR aims to revive the art of Boucherouite, “a beautiful culture that overflows with values and history,” while fighting against unemployment.
“The art gives hope to artisans and young vulnerable girls,” she added.
Fadwa did not wait until finishing her studies to launch her ambitious project and did not expect her business to be as successful as it is today.
“I only began [the project] because I thought it will be nice. The idea of traveling alone, using public transportation, and meeting new people represented an adventure for me,” she recalled.
Fadwa’s original idea and ambitious spirit earned her several financing opportunities, notably from the Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (MCISE).
The young student began her entrepreneurship adventure through trial and error. “We began working with the resources we had and selling our products to our relatives. Little by little, we were able to improve our products, expand our team, and learn how to network,” she said.
One of the phases that majorly shaped Fadwa as an entrepreneur and allowed her to take her business to the next level was her participation in the Anzisha Program. The program is a partnership between the African Leadership Academy in South Africa and the Mastercard Foundation. It seeks to increase the number of young entrepreneurs in Africa by identifying promising candidates and training them.
Fadwa had never heard about the Anzisha Program until her business partner Amal registered her name, without her knowledge. When she received an email congratulating her for being selected to take part in the program, she did not know what it was about.
The products blend a traditional art with modern designs. Photo credit: IDYR/Instagram
Only after asking her friend Amal did Fadwa understand what the program was. “I decided to try my luck with the program for fun, and I was expecting regular training sessions like with all startup accelerators. My idea about Anzisha changed when I saw how the program’s team gets fully invested in the entrepreneur’s project,” she recalled.
According to Fadwa, her selection from a pool of 800 entrepreneurs boosted her confidence in herself and in her project’s potential.
Following her selection, Fadwa flew to South Africa to take part in the training program. After her return to Morocco, the support from Anzisha did not stop. The program’s team continued to follow up with Fadwa’s project, providing the Moroccan entrepreneur with guidance and counseling.
“I received both personal and professional guidance, which helped me a lot in my entrepreneurial path and improved the efficiency and productivity of the IDYR project,” Fadwa said.
Moroccan, global, ethical brand
Today, IDYR’s impact is visible in the rural villages where the company developed partnerships. The project has allowed many young girls who dropped out of school to shine as artisans and valorize their talents.
The company’s team includes 15 members and their products are not only available in Morocco, but also in France, Cyprus, and South Africa, among other countries. Soon, Fadwa plans to venture into more advanced e-commerce to promote the art of Boucherouite in more countries around the world.
“We learned that we need to take our time in building a strategy, and we are today determined to create a 100% made in Morocco ethical global brand,” Fadwa said.
IDYR products come in various shapes, sizes, and colors
Fadwa wants to encourage young Moroccans who are hesitant about venturing into entrepreneurship, advising them to be innovative and creative and to “awake their inner passions.”
Hard work and perseverance are also a must for reaching goals, Fadwa stressed.
“In a more sensitive and ethical world, it is necessary to develop creative concepts that can answer global challenges,” she said.
“If you cannot think of a concept, think about the coming generations who will live on this same Earth, drink the same water, and breathe the same air. Let’s preserve them as much as we can,” Fadwa concluded.