PARIS – Mourad Behlouli is looking for the current revival of the shopping scene in Paris and is swimming into the Aubervilliers, a northern suburb of the French capital, with a new retail concept that stretches across the border between art and fashion.
“I did not want to open another street art gallery – there are already several of these,” said Behlouli, describing his new shopping area, called L’Avant Coureur, a French term that tells the story of a forerunner.
The concrete area is located in an area of 650 square meters and has men’s and women’s clothing and sneakers with private sale several days a month. The store features brands such as Yeezy, Enfants Riches Déprimés, Supreme, Ami, Takashi Murakami and Maison Margiela, while featured artists include Quentin Veron, Jadore Tong and Ckeja.
“I wanted to show that street art – I’ve seen it in terms of creativity – inspires great designers; street art and fashion fit well together and I would add to this mindset, ”Behlouli added.
The former merchant navy employee, who traces his interest in fashion to a Versace outlet in France, said his travels around the world helped create interest in crafts. On his extensive breaks from time to sea, he traveled inland, back to Paris and checked out the local fashion scene and hit all the trendy spots.
“In fashion, you create and recreate – inspired again and again by the past years – while with street art there is a complete renewal. I’m not talking about simple graffiti on walls or tags. I’m talking about creativity that comes from the street, but which moves into the biggest galleries in the world … this inspires fashion, ”said Behlouli.
“My idea is to offer products that look very forward in terms of fashion, but which are also works of art,” the entrepreneur added.
Behlouli explained that he wanted to push his idea beyond adapting or adapting things that have become industry words.
“We are not talking about adaptation – it is a form of subculture, and I do not mean it pejoratively, but what I want to do is create works of art that are at the same time very refined haute couture work,” he added.
Behlouli explained that he focuses on limited series in collaboration with artists. He buys clothing, including runway pieces, from major fashion houses – he cited Balenciaga as an example – or from shops or showrooms, and then works with artists to draw original pieces not found elsewhere on the market.
“I really want to emphasize the craft side of things – mass-scale production does not interest me,” he added. “You have to return to working with hands – not machines. Handicrafts are more skilled than machine work in my eyes, ”he insisted.
Behlouli, who worked in the oil industry – followed by aquaculture to help African countries, he said, describing the latter activity as his ‘mea culpa’ for previous jobs – noted an interest in combating over-consumption.
He urged a craftsman working with existing furs – the ones that sneak in the back of a closet – to give them new life.
“He recycles them, he deconstructs them and rebuilds them according to his design,” remarked Behlouli, who said he was also motivated by an interest in preserving the skills of the craftsman.
When asked if his travels affected his aesthetics, he replied enthusiastically. “I did not do design or fashion school, but I have a certain sensitivity that stylists do not have – and that is thanks to my travels,” he said.
In particular, Behlouli cited Africa. “When I see what artists do and what they are able to create – my travels have completely changed my life in this regard,” he added.