Monday July 22nd, 2024
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Paris-Based A-3 Studio Shares North African Heritage With the World

"For us, design is about more than aesthetics - it's a way to tell stories, to represent our roots proudly while making them accessible globally,"

Ziyad El-Helbawy

“I think our love of craft runs in our blood.”

For Paris-based label A-3 Studio, bridging North Africa with the rest of the world through visually striking yet inherently inclusive design is a daily practice rooted in familial heritage. Founded four years ago by the Haddadi family - Adel, Amel, and Adem, hence the ‘A-3’ - A-3's aesthetically striking yet accessible collections are placing north African representation left, right and centre. 

A-3 Studio was born of Adel Haddadi's lifelong dream to launch his own clothing brand. Growing up in Tunisia, he discovered a natural talent and passion for design from a young age. Though he abandoned his aspirations as an immigrant in France, believing fashion was not for him, the seeds were planted. Years later after travels throughout the world reignited his creative spark, Adel decided to pursue his true calling, starting the brand in Dubai with daughter Amel and son Adem.

Drawing from roots extending between Tunisia, Algeria and France, each A-3 design pays tribute to the brand's multifaceted identity. The label's signature Khamsa bags epitomise this vision, proudly displaying the symbolic North African hand motif in striking recognizable silhouettes. Other signature styles within the brand include the Babouche slippers, honouring the region's footwear heritage.

SceneStyled recently had the opportunity to virtually speak to Amel Haddadi, one third of the A-3 trio.

Could you tell me about your family’s background? your affinity for fashion and design. How did you discover your love for the craft?

A-3 is a brand started by a father and his children. My dad is the original founder, and creating his own brand has always been a dream of his. He was born in Tunisia and moved to France with his family when he was 12. He started designing his clothes when he was 15 because he could not afford to buy brands. The first outstanding piece he made was a leather jacket he took inspiration from a guitarist in a music video he saw on TV. All his friends wanted to wear it, and he understood his potential as a designer from a very young age. But the reality of society came, and he abandoned his dream, thinking fashion was not made for him, a North African immigrant. I think our love of craft runs deep into our blood. My grandfather was a stonecutter in Tunisia, and my grandmother a carpet weaver; they were the best in Kairouan, our hometown. It has influenced us to appreciate and explore craft.

How did A-3 come to be? What was the driving force behind creating the brand?

At the age of 50, my dad reignited his passion after travelling through Asia, finding inspiration in Japan. Motivated by this renewed creative spark, he made the bold decision to establish his own clothing brand and chose Dubai as the starting point. As his daughter, my love for fashion led me to study it at a design school. Subsequently, I joined my dad and my brother in Dubai to collaborate on the project. Following numerous trials, extensive research, and hard work, we ultimately made the decision to relocate to Paris and jointly launch our brand.

How has the experience of running the brand been like?

Working as a family has proven highly advantageous, given our familiarity with each other's personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. This dynamic allows us to complement each other effectively in all aspects of our brand. On a personal level, it provides a platform for expressing our creativity and significantly reinforces our family bonds. Professionally, we've encountered numerous experiences that surpassed our expectations, such as collaborating with celebrities and organising workshops.

What drew you to that North African aesthetic A-3 represents?

Essentially, our roots lie in Tunisia, with my dad being Tunisian, and my mom Algerian. I've consistently felt a compelling need to represent our culture through our designs, aiming to showcase the richness, depth, and fascinating aspects of our heritage to the world.

A follow up to the previous question, how would you describe A-3’s aesthetic? What messages do you seek to convey through your designs?

The A-3 aesthetic seamlessly merges North African craft with streetwear. Our aim is to represent our culture in a fresh, accessible, and modern manner—a celebration of who we are and the immense pride we take in it. We believe in the limitless possibilities, transcending cultural and social backgrounds.

Your products are all handmade, what is your design and craft process like?

We initiate our design process by conceptualising ideas and identifying a central theme for the collection. Once the designs for every bag and shoe are finalised, we proceed to cut the fabrics, meticulously assemble them through hand sewing, and incorporate accessories, among other detailed steps.

Your Khamsa bag is spectacular- I’d love to hear its personal significance to you…

Thank you so much! The Khamsa hand is a symbol that we as North Africans have grown up with and seen our whole lives. It’s also a symbol that speaks to pretty much everyone as it is associated with the Arab world in general. We’ve tried to appropriate a symbol from our culture and use it in an unusual way. We’re very proud of the bags we were able to design; they’re simple but effective.

What have been some of your favourite moments since you launched, are there any specific stories that you could share with me?

Our most cherished memories include collaborating with Adidas and hosting workshops during the World Cup. We've been fortunate to travel extensively, conducting workshops in London and Tunisia, and participating in an event in Indonesia. We're immensely grateful for these special moments.

What does the future for A-3 look like? Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on?

We've been diligently working on upcoming collections featuring brand-new products. Additionally, we have several special projects in the pipeline for 2024. Looking further into the future, we aspire to organise international pop-ups or workshops, with a particular focus on Arab countries.

Are your products only available in Paris?

Nope, we do ship internationally!