Fashion for Social Change

Souad Abbad, Ceci n'est pas un caftan

The Problem

After her retirement as a secondary school teacher, Souad Abbad decided to start a new career in caftan haute couture and launch her own fashion brand in Tangier, Morocco. Many challenges manifested in the form of a large and strong competition with high barriers to entry — especially among the professional designers already established in the marketplace and widely promoted through traditional media. As a start-up, Souad Abbad had a limited budget that would not allow it to resort to mass communication channels, but the new brand had a unique opportunity to break into the market with a new civic take on caftan fashion design.

The Solution

It was important to first determine the key distinguishing features of the new brand, Souad Abbad. The brand indeed had a distinct personality and mission from most competitors. What was unique about Souad Abbad was its raison d’être: to train and employ disadvantaged women in the ancient art of caftan needlework so they could have a source of income, gain more autonomy and improve their social situation. Her caftans are vehicles of social change.

This feature served as the spark that helped shape the brand strategy and positioning. 

I developed a name and a visual identity for the brand evoking simplicity, elegance and ancient tradition. The brand identity — an ancient Moorish pattern found in the stucco carvings of a historic building in Granada — reflects the passion that Souad Abbad has to revive the ancient Moorish art of her Andalusian ancestry. I crafted “Ceci n’est pas un caftan” to be the slogan of the brand, inspired from René Magritte’s philosophy of giving new meaning to familiar objects. Given the small budget and the lack of a store to showcase the dresses, the main promotion was carried out through flyers, WOM, social media, and, essentially, a runway show. The show aimed at launching the brand officially. I organized the show, ensured media coverage and ensured the distribution of invitations to the target audience.  

The Results

As soon as word went out about the new brand, the designer started receiving enquiries from interested customers. The social media platform used recorded a growing number of followers. The runway show recorded a full-house attendance and highly positive attitudes and perceptions. Souad Abbad was featured in various print, broadcast and online press pieces, and succeeded in selling half of its first collection in the first two weeks following the event. Work is still in progress to further promote the brand and develop a marketing strategy.