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Under the Moroccan sun with Zoe & Morgan

21 October 2016

For Zoe Williams and sister Ruth Sibbald of jewellery label Zoe & Morgan, the vibrant culture and rich history of Marrakesh proved to be the perfect inspiration.

Zoe & Morgan designer, Zoe Williams, took inspiration from the ornate doorways, picturesque vistas and traditional tiling of Morocco for her new collection, ‘Castles Made of Sand.’ Together with her sister, Ruth Sibbald, who manages the brand’s UK team, she ventured to Marrakesh to capture the inspiration behind the jewels and put herself in front of the lens, too. Here she shares her highlights and must-dos.

Describe how your vision for the Zoe & Morgan campaign came together.
We decided to fly to Marrakesh to capture the beauty, our inspirations, and our journey through the magical place, as opposed to solely doing a fashion shoot. We wanted the photos to show our appreciation for the details, so we shot close-ups with the tiles in the background, and emerald, or rose quartz painted rooms. Being in the heart of the place that had inspired us to create the collection felt like the most natural way to shoot the campaign, as we were surrounded by the environment from which the ideas for the collection had been first dreamt up. The colours in Morocco are so rich and the patterns so intricate, everywhere we looked there was something new to see.

What inspires you about Morocco?
The architecture is probably the most inspiring thing for us. The rooftops, windows and door frames are functional yet beautiful, framing views everywhere you cast your eye. We really appreciate the hand crafts too; the traditional berber rugs are almost like a tale of history, with designs that represent mountains and lakes. We met a man in the Atlas Mountains that works for his dad, an avid carpet collector. He had 45,000 different carpets and is one of 27 children (his dad has four wives). So this is one large, busy family hand-weaving rugs!

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What were some of the best spots you discovered on your travels?
After walking around the medina in Marrakesh, bargaining for shoes and baskets, we stumbled upon a rooftop restaurant called Nomad, a social hang-out for locals and tourists. We had a lovely, relaxing evening watching the sun set over the mountain range. Our hotel, El Fenn, was in an amazing location in the heart of the medina – each room was a different colour and inspired by an artwork from owner Vanessa Branson’s personal collection. Another highlight was the dusky pink 2000-year-old castle en route to the Atlas Mountains. There we shared sweet mint tea with a local who was restoring the castle. We loved the palmery and mountain regions, as the air was so clean and the atmosphere was open and peaceful. Yves Saint Laurent’s house, garden and museum space, the Jardin Majorelle, were also full of colour and inspiration.

Can you describe any moments of beauty that you experienced while there?
I had been reading about mindfulness prior to my trip and the science behind it states that the simple action of being fully present in a situation makes you appreciate the experience and absorb it into your system. With this fresh in my mind, I took snapshots of memories throughout our trip, and we had many a moment of true beauty. Watching the sun set over the rooftops and experiencing the excitement of being there with my sister was a beautiful experience. It is a personal philosophy of mine to seek beauty. I believe that those who seek beauty shall find it, so naturally the whole trip was filled with moments like this.

Zoe relaxing in the emerald room at El Fenn after a big day.
Zoe relaxing in the emerald room at El Fenn after a big day.

Zoe’s must-do’s

1. Stay at El Fenn in the Marrakesh medina.
2. Visit the fresh air of the Atlas Mountains.
3. Take a break from the souks and enjoy a social dinner at Nomad, a rooftop restaurant.
4. Do a Moroccan cooking course and learn about the local food culture.
5. Visit Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent’s garden and house, designed by French painter Jacques Majorelle, the property’s original owner.
6. Stop at Rue Majorelle, a concept store which sells local artists’ work.
7. Head down the coast to Essaouira, where Jimi Hendrix lived in the 60s.
8. Try a hammam (a traditional bath).
9. Walk through the medina in Marrakesh and bargain for textiles.
10. Take time to notice the detail and appreciate the beauty around you.

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