Jun 28, 2015

Kinzora: Statement clutches inspired by women of power


Kinzora is a new Antwerp based brand inspired by powerful woman. From the Moroccan woman who’ve woven the fabrics for this brand’s beautiful clutches to the girlfriends of different ethnicities that have shown their support.

In serious need of a new statement purse and curious about the power woman behind this brand, I’ve spent a whole Sunday afternoon in the sweet company of the designer Asma B. at Buchbar. A little cosy coffee & book bar at the city of Antwerp where we drank some mint tea while talking about her clutches. Lucky me, she had brought along some clutches of the new Kinzora collection. As my fingers playfully fiddle through the fringe of one of her clutches, I sense that there’s much more to the fabric of these clutches than meets the eye…

So what’s the story behind Kinzora?

“It actually all started with the help of my friend Kübra. She had just opened her own concept store and asked me if I had something that looked a bit Moroccan vintage that she could sell in her store. She knew about my creative soul and she inspired me to do something with it.

Ever since I’ve mistaken a Moroccan cushion for a travel bag at my aunt’s home, I’ve been playing with the thought of creating a handbag out of kilim, which is a typical Moroccan hand-woven fabric. Kübra gave me the little push I needed to buy my own sewing machine, experiment with different designs and finally create my own label.

I’ve never studied to become a fashion designer. Instead I graduated as an industrial engineer in biochemistry. Which is obviously something completely different. As my creativity prevailed, I’ve taken a couple of sewing classes. That in combination with the love I have for my Moroccan culture, resulted in the brand Kinzora.”

These clutches do radiate an Eastern vibe, but what’s the connection between Kinzora and your Moroccan heritage?

“Making these clutches has brought me closer to my culture. They thought me to appreciate my heritage and to understand the birthplace of my parents. When I was younger all of this was kind of taboo for me. Back then I tried my best to dissociate myself from my parents customs. To become blank and to blend into my environment.

Having founded this brand I’ve finally established a sort of relationship with my heritage through the Moroccan fabrics I work with. I’ve grown very fond of my culture and even became proud of it. So Kinzora is actually a tribute to my culture and my parents. Especially to my mum, Zora. She has always been very creative herself. I guess I have inherited my creativity from her. Therefor I’ve called the brand Kinzora, which means “the treasure chest of Zora”.”

Based on the fact that Kinzora was created as a tribute, how would you describe your label?

“It’s something different from the usual. Having a Kinzora clutch is equivalent to owning a piece of Moroccan history, because the fabrics are vintage. It’s actually becoming hard to find fabrics such as kilim. It takes the woman from the Moroccan villages a lot of time to weave these fabrics, but it pays badly. So I fear that in a few years from now the creation of kilim will become a dying craft. It would be a damn shame if the production of kilim would become completely industrial. There wouldn’t be the same authentic feel to it.”

How do you  go from a piece of cloth with Moroccan history  to a Kinzora clutch?

“I often travel back and forth to Morocco. Whenever I’m there I pass by the souks, the local markets, to select a range of handmade fabrics for each design that comes to mind. Back home in Antwerp, I cut out the form of the design and sew it into a clutch. Half of the stitching is done through a sewing machine and the other half is done by hand.

It takes me about three to four hours to finish one clutch. Which is rather fast as it took me almost a whole day to finish only one clutch at the very beginning. My sewing machine tended to be stubborn at times. The fabrics I work with are kind of thick and I couldn’t get them through the machine at first. Luckily I persisted. We now have a much better understanding. I just really love doing it, which is also the reason I don’t ask too much for a clutch.”

Seeing these clutches you’ve brought along, I just want to buy them all, where do you draw inspiration from ?

“Everything from the daily life. Going from this necklace I’m wearing to my religion. Many people think that you can’t wear a hijab and be fashionable at the same time. But that’s not true. Wearing a hijab is not a limitation to your sense of fashion. It even inspired me. My friends inspire me as well. They form a sort of panel. I turn to them for advice and their ideas on what they find practical. I for one like my clutch without a chain. I wear it under my arm. However, my friends do prefer a chain to keep their arms free. And so I created a couple of clutches with a chain as well. Whenever I talk about Kinzora on social media, I actually never talk about myself. I always speak in first person plural. My friends and husband included.”

Who do you make these clutches for?

“For those who dare and appreciate special things. And those who can make a statement with very little. When you have a Kinzora clutch, you don’t need a heavy outfit. You could simply wear a jeans and a white shirt combined with one of my clutches. There you have your outfit! It’s comfortable and stylish. Fashion to me isn’t about wearing the latest trends or top brands. It’s a way of expressing yourself. So to me you can be perfectly modest and make a fashion statement.”

I’ve heard that you’ve been invited to participate to an Arabic fashion week in London. What does the future of Kinzora look like?

I don’t know yet, but I do know that the future can bring many surprises. Looking back to the very beginning, I never thought that I would be given so many opportunities. For instance, during the London fashion week in February, I was indeed invited to participate to a separate Arabic fashion week. The Kinzora clutches were shown on a catwalk for the first time. That’s huge for a novice designer from Antwerp. However, I don’t strive to become famous. As long as I like to make clutches, I will keep doing just that. And while doing so, I hope to inspire people. Once it becomes an obligation, I will no longer continue. I don’t want it to become a fulltime job. I rather see it as a project I’m very passionate about.

Do  you have a favorite clutch from the Kinzora collection?

Every item. I love them all. But if I really need to pick one, it would definitely be my very first clutch. The feeling I had when I finished that clutch was very odd. It was the very first design that evolved from an idea, a scribble on paper to a tangible object. It was love at first sight. However, I do love every single clutch I’ve made so far. Every clutch carries a little piece of my heart. I’m always very delighted whenever a friend buys one of my clutches, because it means that I still get to see them from time to time. That’s how much I love my clutches.

Read about Kinzora’s favorite spots in Antwerp in the original interview I’ve written for the latest issue of This is Antwerp.

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