Some designers are as famous for the cheeky, multi-referential clothes as much as the ecstatic, Studio 54-like atmosphere of their catwalks. Paris has Andrea Crews, and London has Jeremy Scott. Now, Tunis has Salah Barka.
Salah took the crowd by surprise during Tunis fashion week when his models invaded the stage in enormous head pieces, fake eyelashes and Russian print harem pants-skirts matched with Berber jewelry. All to the sound of ‘Medusas’ by Prodigy.
Fashionista talks to the cool kid on the block about his long-distance infatuation with fashion, the Queen of Carthage and Tunisian tradition.
Who are you, and how did you end up in fashion?
I’m 35, I come from Gabes in South Tunisia. I’m completely self-taught. I previously worked as a costume designer, which is where the theatrical element comes from.
Your show seems to refer a lot to local history, artisanal know-how. Is this intentional?
Yes, the history of the region, 3,000 years of civilizations living, migrating, can still be sensed today, and is definitely one of my main points of interest. Also, characters such as Dido, the queen of Carthage–our local Joan of Arc–is a key source of influence in this collection.
Can you tell us more about the show?
Well, I wanted to translate the idea of cultural hybridity onto clothes. As for the production, all the models are my friends, and I made everything myself, all from my mom’s home where I’ve set up a little studio.
And what influenced this collection?
The show is called ‘Miles Away’ because I try to bring together references miles away from each other, from Arabic tradition to London designers. Also, I’ve never left Tunisia, so ‘Miles Away’ is about the way I learn about fashion: From my village, from home, miles away.