Caroline Issa’s Moroccan Inspiration

You know the saying “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? Well, we’d just like to amend that; today is the first day of the rest of your life in the new, exclusive-to-Nordstrom Caroline Issa collection. The style icon and fashion insider’s first collection is all about gorgeously modern classics—pieces that are fresh and chic right now, and will be for years to come.

To celebrate this exciting launch, we had Issa tell us all about Morocco, the source of inspiration for many of these looks. We even got her to share some of her own vacation images—and a few of her inside travel tips.

Caroline Issa in removable-bow blouse and wool and silk A-line skirt from the new collection

The Thread: What were the circumstances of your first trip to Morocco?
Caroline Issa: Last January, after having been to the couture shows, we went to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday in Morocco; she hired an events company who produced an event extravaganza including horse rides in the desert, genies rubbing magic lanterns and Sufi dancers in a courtyard one evening, and a treasure hunt for a magic tailor in the main souk. It was pretty incredible and definitely made me fall in love with Marrakech, a city full of lights and colors and delicious smells.

How and when did this love affair coalesce with the design of this first collection? Did you know, at the inception of the line, that you would draw on that experience, or did it come up later as you were putting silhouettes and ideas together?
As I started to think about the first collection, I drew on the research I did on chic American style icons—Slim Keith, Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley—and from that starting point, we created classic silhouettes, key essential pieces that could work for every woman.

But when we started to think about print and colors, my recent trip to Marrakech and the explosion of kaleidoscopic shapes and colors all seemed to make a fun fit with the more traditional shapes. You have to go with memories that stay in your head and want to spill out into sketches or picture research, and I’m really happy with the way my trip translated into some of the dresses and skirt and blouse prints.

What’s on your travel basics list when you visit Morocco?
A cashmere shawl, in case I want to visit any of the beautiful mosques. As a woman, you need to cover your head and your shoulders in those locations.

Which pieces from your new collection would you take to Morocco?
The parka jacket for chilly evenings, the white cardigan to slouch around the souk in and the blue patterned chiffon dress for an evening out belly dancing.

What songs or music come to mind when you think of being in Morocco?
Koudlam’s The Landsc Apes—I listened to it on repeat.

What flavors and foods come to mind—and in case we actually never get there, do you know of any restaurants outside of Morocco that are able to replicate that cuisine?
The smell of orange blossom and fresh mint tea is ever present in Marrakech. There’s nothing like sweet Moroccan tea after scavenging the souk for treasures. And a tagine with vegetables is incredibly yummy and addictive. It’s such a light meal. Luckily, Momo in London has always been a must-visit and serves the best Moroccan food in the UK.

What are a few things you know about Morocco only because you’ve been there? Please share your insider tips!
Always bring a light jacket even in the summer—it gets chilly at night! If you take a traditional hammam, or professionally staffed steam bath, expect to be scrubbed down vigorously; it’s not a light, happy, calm affair but one that gets rid of all the old layers of skin. That can be surprising if you don’t expect it!

What’s the best place to stay?
Riad Farnatchi is cozy, chic and gorgeous. The rooms are beautifully decorated with touches of color and pattern. The courtyard is romantic and the hammam an experience in itself.

What are the must-visit spots?
My advice is to get lost in the souk—that’s an adventure in itself! Outside the city is a hammam and glorious garden at the Richard Branson–owned Kasbah Tamadot. Beldi has got some beautiful jackets, caftans and linen shirts and is small and cute; and someone once recommended a small boutique selling vintage caftans and antiques called Au Fil d’Or, which I wasn’t able to get to. I think everyone should have tea in the gardens at La Mamounia, the city’s oldest, most beautiful hotel.

What is the best local treasure to bring home for friends?
Moroccan suede slippers—the best pointy shape and super comfortable. I love the plain suede ones, but they have them in all decorative ways.

Moroccan colors are… bright, but I see blues and purples and oranges in my Marrakech dreams.

The mood of Morocco is… buzzing; there’s something beautiful to see at every corner.

Morocco is timeless because… it will always stay true to itself. It is generous, exotic and chaotic—a wonderful eye-opener.

Shop: Caroline Issa x Nordstrom

—Laura Cassidy