This spring the inspiration for many fashions comes out of Africa. Vitually every major designer followed the runway to Morocco, turning out collections of billowy, layered ensembles that recall the costumes of "Casablanca" and "Beau Geste." The Moroccan influence is an unconstricted, flowing look -- as far from the tailored suits of the '80s as one can get.
Among the key pieces are sheer harem pants and skirts, vests, oversized tunics, knotted scarves and shawls that wrap around the shoulders or waist. Loose--weave fabrics such as burlap and linen figure prominently. Colors are warm, often inspired by the natural pigments used by North African tribes--coral reds, sand, indigo and mustard.
More than any type of fabric or garment, the Moroccan look is about layering. Put a tunic over a skirt over a flowing pair of pants and you're Africa-bound.
Rough-hewn accessories add to the Moroccan flavor. There are necklaces fashioned out of a cord strung with a few primitive clay and wood beads; head wraps and skull caps made of loose weave straw and platform sandals with braided soles.
Giorgio Armani, who has charted the way to Morocco with his signature and Emporio collections, explained the allure in W magazine:
"Morocco is an Africa that is dolce. Everything about it--the noises, music, food, sunsets, mountains and people--it's all just sweeter there."
His clothes move to a Moroccan beat. For men there are tunics in primitive prints, loose jackets of burlap, flowing linen pants and batik ties, all available locally at Emporio Armani in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. The pieces are put together in loose layers of contrasting stripes and colors. Sandy colors of the Sahara are prevalent.
Women can find full skirts in bright, handwoven fabrics, vests, harem pants and tunic dresses. To round out the look, Emporio Armani has fezzes, shawls, espadrilles and primitive-styled jewelry.
The new collection will be launched Saturday night at Emporio Armani's Moroccan-themed gala to benefit pediatric AIDS research.
Among the pieces for men: a green viscose shirt with indigo, mustard and red Moroccan stripes ($295) paired with a green, double-breasted suit ($1,025); a side-button shirt with banded collar in gray cotton with subtle red stripes ($195) and, for a Moroccan evening, a black oversized tunic with a primitive off-white star pattern ($250) and a white dinner jacket with black pants ($1,035).
For women seeking the Moroccan mystique, there's a full skirt of fuchsia silk linen with a blue, green and red weave pattern and glass beaded fringe around the hem ($895) that complements a multicolored silk scarf wrapped into a top ($130).
Emporio Armani's white jacket trimmed with burlap braid ($460), black wool blend vest with pewter buttons ($230) and full black silk pants ($235) are just the thing for a night out at Rick's cafe.
The fluid dress of the Moroccan people inspired designer Laise Adzer to bring the look to the United States.
On a trip to Morocco a decade ago, she became enamored of the natives' soft handwoven garments--"natural clothes I could move in," she said. Her Laise Adzer store in Fashion Island Newport Beach carries clothes from North Africa as well as Guatemala and other far-off locales.
In Morocco, Adzer discovered susti , a loosely woven cotton fabric that drapes easily over the body. Many of the store's tunics, wrap jackets, circle skirts and pantaloons are made of susti dyed in ethnic hues of turquoise, cranberry, purple, black and white.
Laise Adzer's current collection of susti separates includes a white wrap skirt ($160) with a billowy tunic ($152); a magenta top with a fringed cowl neck ($150) and pants with fringe on the yoke ($150), and a mint and black striped tunic ($145) with a layered skirt ($160).
Creative types can put the pieces together in endless combinations.
"Everybody interprets the look differently," says Marianne Tassio, manager of Laise Adzer. "Layer and drape--that's the whole secret."
Going Moroccan without looking like a character stumbling across the Sahara in a B movie requires some fashion sense.
For the petite woman, it might mean adding a belt to the ensemble, as Tassio did to a black tunic top and skirt to keep her small frame from being swamped by all that fabric. Everything at Laise Adzer is one size fits all.
Tall, slender women can simply drape the clothes over their lanky frames. Thanks to a statuesque figure, Tassio's assistant easily sports a long black jacket that falls to the knees over a cranberry top and trousers.
Heavier people also find that the loose-fitting clothes flatter their figures.
"Women don't want to be bothered with constricted styles," Tassio says.
Why the surge in Moroccan styles? Tassio attributes it to the global village; thanks to television and technology, she says, the appreciation of other people and cultures is growing:
"We're a lot more aware of what's going on in the world."