Charaf Tajer’s two-year-old luxe streetwear brand has nothing to do with Casablanca Records. The American-based music label boasted Donna Summer, The Village People, Parliament and KISS during their hit record heyday of the 1970s. Tajer’s line evokes the mood of that era, particularly evident via the vinyl discs’ sticker design. The records company’s founder Neil Bogart channeled the movie Casablanca with a disco touch, depicting a desert casbah invitation to the exotic city. It’s the kind of place Tajer could envision his cast of unique characters for the brand reminiscent of the by-gone era. The fashion label demonstrates an aesthetic most closely identified with the Jet-Set lifestyle popularized in the Seventies and Eighties. Tajer delivered a brand with a nuanced look just when the market was asking for it.
The Parisian-born Tajer didn’t set out to become a fashion designer. Growing up in Paris with a passion for architecture and classic French designs from Chanel, Hermès and Yves Saint Laurent, Tajer found himself in the nightclub business as the owner of Le Pompom, a popular joint in Paris from 2010 to 2019. The club represented a world Tajer longed for during his formative years. “I always aspired to get into the best private clubs, tennis and country clubs, all those places which were exclusive and inaccessible to me,” he recalled. “I loved how they dressed, in polos and tracksuits with Hermès scarves and Cartier glasses. I loved the culture behind all of this,” he recalled naming style muses such as Brazilian singer Jorge Ben or Aristotle Onassis. The club allowed him to build a community.
This community was integral to his first foray into fashion with Pigalle, a streetwear brand, where Tajer worked from 2009 until 2017. “Pigalle was a school for me. Casablanca is an invitation to travel and explore different places and cultures,” he said. (The brand was named after the famous city where his parents met.) The connections and community he built via Pigalle and Le PomPom helped him put his fashion lessons to the test as he launched Casablanca. With 3,000 Euros and a concept, he set up a showroom in his mother’s apartment. The first season he sold to Browns, United Arrows, SSENSE and Maxfield LA. “I was lucky enough to have friends in the fashion industry who were willing to give me a chance,” he noted.
“With Le Pompon, I was running a brand and a nightclub, deciding how to build a community, the look, feel, and experience of the club were so important to me. It taught me to create and develop a brand image,” said Tajer noting the importance of aesthetics. “It’s what connects you to people. At Casablanca, we have the same mentality, meticulous with detail across every aspect of the brand; I believe this has enabled us to achieve so much in three years.” They have already expanded from a men’s line to include women’s and accessories. A new bag range is launching for Fall 2021.
They also achieved the coveted fashion collaboration, entering the second partnership with New Balance. “With New Balance, we have always looked to challenge the notion of what a sports shoe is, creating truly unique styles.” Before Casablanca, he had the chance to collaborate with buzzy names such as Off-White X The End collection, Nike X Pigalle and Supreme through design work and other forms of consulting.
With Casablanca’s humble financial beginnings and rocket speed growth, it’s easy to see how both 2019 and 2020 marked a 100 percent increase from the last year. Even with strategic retail partners, like many, Covid-19 helped bolster their DTC and e-commerce efforts helping to grow their community. “Casablanca has a loyal following around the world, and our wholesale partners are important to us; without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.” To wit, both Selfridge’s in London and Saks Fifth Avenue have dedicated Casablanca shop in shops with elaborate set designs.
He is setting his sights next in China and the Central and South American markets. And the industry is watching, too; Kenzo was rumored to be in talks with Tajer to replace former artistic director Felipe Oliveira Baptista. The fast-moving pace of Casablanca has proven it isn’t just a mirage in the desert but rather a brand set on leaving a mark on fashion’s landscape.