I’m an undaunted fan of what Charaf Tajer is up to with his two-year Casablanca brand. The Paris-based designer, 33, makes clothes so popular in her memories and so direct in her references that there is a kind of purity, almost an innocence. He loves beautiful colors and people and places like Gstaad, Morocco and Hawaii – “I like places with very strong iconography,” he said on the phone in Paris last week. He also likes fancy dogs and thinks fruit is wonderful. His favorite designers are Coco Chanel, Gianni Versace and Hermès. I’d bet if you took an otoscope to his ear and looked inside his head, you’d see these Catherine Deneuve Chanel # 5 commercials, Helmut Newton’s photographs from Nice in the 80s, and Cary Grant in a bandana twirling around. (Or maybe Aristotle Onassis, Tajer’s self-proclaimed icon: “He’s an elegant, very classic entrepreneur.”) His clothes purr like a classic sports car advertisement: do you like luxury? Do you like the cool feeling of a buttered leather interior under your handcrafted pants? The driver’s poodle looks at you and winks. “Casablanca,” says a man whom you only know smokes an expensive cigar every night. “Grace, space, place!”
The clothes are flashy but smart. Tajer, who was last year’s LVMH award finalist, employs two artists who are the brand’s full-time painters, creating swirling, wonderfully ridiculous Versace-ish assemblages from the late 80s of dogs, women and various concepts of paradise. His clothes look great with pearls, large loafers, and coiffed hair. They are the cinematic dream of the mischievous joys that come with a life well lived. You could call his husband Bro Brummell.
Tajer’s spring collection was inspired by a stay in Hawaii, but he wanted to do something a little more aggressive for the fall, so he focused on Monaco and the heyday of Formula 1. Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief made it in there, as did the sheer opulence of the Jet sets that splashed in the principality’s famous casinos. Some of the strongest looks in the collection were those that are now solid Casablanca signatures, like a grandma-in-Chanel pant suit that fits a man like a tracksuit and the blouse pants with loan shark collar buttons. Its vibrant knitwear is also a must. This season he launched a full line of women’s clothing, although he was already making and selling items for Net-a-Porter and women buying his men’s silk blouses and outerwear. It almost surpassed men, if you can believe it.