Artisan fashion label connects Sioux Falls, Moroccan owners

Oct. 4, 2019

Entrepreneurs in Sioux Falls and Morocco are partnering to create an artisan fashion label.

Aime Lou is a collaboration between Amy Gehling of Sioux Falls and Yuba Atlas, a Morocco native studying business at Creighton University in Omaha.

Gehling is a consultant by day who helps companies with visual thinking and brand strategies.

As the two got to know each other, Gehling said she learned that many products in the U.S. that had imprints of Moroccan culture weren’t recognized as such.

“I realized that there was very little acknowledgement of the origination of these beautiful designs, let alone funds going to the culture that inspired them,” she said. “This was particularly frustrating because the Moroccan culture produces so much creativity yet wasn’t being acknowledged or compensated for our love of their designs.”

Atlas had looked into starting an import business but ruled it out because there wasn’t a way to ensure quality control and fair payment for the makers behind the merchandise.

“He and I decided to team up to start our own fashion label that would recognize his culture, pay artisans fairly and create luxury products that do not compromise quality,” Gehling said.

They are working with two people on the ground in Morocco  —  A’tif Mellal and Sara Medina — to source artisans, focusing initially on lines for women.

“They have worked with other boutiques in the past to help with materials sourcing, artisan management and quality control,” Gehling said. “A’tif also happens to be a designer, and he already worked with me in my consulting business and has known Yuba for a long time, so this was an easy decision to work with him and Sara in starting this new business.”

Their lead artisan, Miloud, has created initial products, including an oversized clutch handbag that’s designed to fit a cellphone, card case and keys.

“We are focusing on creating timeless pieces that run in editions with different textiles and materials changing with each edition,” Gehling said. “We do not want to play to seasons as our driving design timeline as much as we are focused on creating something classic, purpose-driven and fit for modern technology.”

A brand preview will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Plum’s Cooking Co. featuring French-Moroccan private chef Driss Mellal from Marrakech Gastronomy.

Mellal, who will prepare modern Moroccan food, offers cooking classes, food tours and catering in Marrakech.

To learn more and reserve a spot, click here.

“As we set out, we are looking at doing experience-focused pop-up events. We really want to give people a taste of the culture they are supporting,” Gehling said.

“This is why our first event in Sioux Falls features a guest chef who will add an extra dimension to the night. These events are also critical because we get to see people interacting directly with the products we are working to develop and helps us build a relationship with them and their relationship to the products they are buying.”

The business plans to further ramp up early next year following a trip to Morocco. Future lines could include more women’s accessories, home goods and a men’s line.

The plan is to sell online and direct-to-consumer as well as wholesale but not to open a bricks-and-mortar store.

“We are still setting our goals for how we will scale and sustain ourselves,” Gehling said. “Much of this relies on how the artisans want to be supported. We are not looking to impose a system that they do not want to be a part of.”

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Artisan fashion label connects Sioux Falls, Moroccan owners

Entrepreneurs in Sioux Falls and Morocco are partnering to create an artisan fashion label.

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