Hey TUNIQ fam,
It's been a while! The TUNIQ team has been working hard behind the scenes to create a North African-inspired men's line that we're proud of. I want to update you all about everything we've been doing, our challenges and delays, to give you a full picture of everything it takes to create clothing that strengthens communities and protects the sanctity of human dignity, labor, and God's earth.
So, we knew we wanted to create a men's line many months ago, when our chechia's started becoming so popular and we were getting requests from you guys asking to make more North African men's styles available. We briefly considered taking the easy route and going to the Souq in Tunis and just buying whatever was able there. But, we couldn't let ourselves do that, because we made a commitment to not use synthetic materials, because of how they harm the environment and our health, and to rely completely on the skills of traditional artisans who make everything by hand and, unfortunately, too many products in the Souq today are made of polyester or other synthetic fabrics and produced in factories and sweatshops.
And, of course, we didn't want to only sell clothes that already existed in very traditional styles, but also to create new designs using North African traditions as inspiration. So we had two important tasks: come up with our own original traditionally-inspired designs to sell alongside the classic styles and seek out and find artisans all over the country who have the skills to handmake traditional men's styles. This meant we needed people to sew, people to weave fabrics, people to spin thread, and multiple people to embroider the many different styles of embroidery that exist all over Tunis. Easy! We got right to work.
To design our line, we called many of our customers to find out what you guys look for in clothes. We did focus groups and discovered you care about comfort, function, handmade quality, and ease of dress with other items in your wardrobe. That helped us come up with the idea of creating a completely handmade collection that all matches together. The pants can be worn with all the tops, the sweaters layer on top nicely, all the colors go together, etc. This way you could even buy a whole wardrobe at once while knowing you don't have to struggle to put an outfit together with any of the items.
At this point, around October, things got a bit more complicated because we started wondering where we'll get our fabric from, in addition to artisans who could work on a men's line. We could've bought a lot of the imported fabrics that you can find quite cheaply in Tunis, but we wanted to stick to our commitments. Our mission is to support local artisans and avoid industrialization and capitalism, so why use fabric that was industrially produced and imported from outside North Africa, especially when most of it is synthetic? So we started wondering if any fabrics were still woven by hand from natural fibers anywhere in Tunis. We asked around and got disappointing answers. Everyone discouraged us, but we felt, particularly in southern rural areas, that local people *somewhere* in Tunis must be weaving their own fabrics still. How could they all be dependent on industrial fabrics for their clothing needs?
We followed our hunch and hit the road to the south of Tunis.
And we are so glad we did! The South of Tunis is such a blessed place. Doors opened for us and we were miraculously able to find everyone we dreamed of working with in just a few short weeks. We found a very kind elderly man who weaves his own wool fabric with his sons. We found a group of amazing artisans who embroider many different styles and weave palm into amazing designs, and we found a local designer who could help us take our concepts and rough sketches and turn them into well-tailored realities!
By the end of November, we had an amazing team of wonderful artisans with whom we really connected and became friends. So now we're on track. We have technical sketches (so exciting!!!) of our men's line (set to be available at the end of January) and we will begin (today!) slowly rolling out other products as well, including traditional Men's styles, men's and women's accessories, and even homeware! All handmade with love, of course, by our traditional North African craftspeople.
With Love & Light,
The TUNIQ Team
Iman, Mariem, and Leila