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Making The Modern Babouche

The Lei_Making The Modern Babouche 
The babouche, or Moroccan slipper, is a soft, curious thing. It has been worn by Moroccans for centuries and was embraced most vehemently by 17th-century French courtiers, for whom the slipper may have suggested an easy, nonchalant way of life  one where walking was perhaps not always necessary.  Today, it remains an essential element of the Moroccan dress. Everywhere you will see them scuffling about through Marrakech's narrow alleys, feet enveloped in large, boat-like babouches with pillow-soft soles and toes so whimsically pointy and elfin they curl upward.

The shoe is constructed with pliable leather that has been repeatedly cleaned and dried until it reaches peak softness — so soft that it struggles to keep its shape — and worn in a dizzying array of colours and patterns. 

I would see them everywhere, and loved them, knowing however that I would never wear them. Venturing deep into the souks, I set off in search of someone who could make a pair I’d wear. Something simple, quiet and long-lasting. I came across a man selling modern versions of the babouche covered in everything from leopard print and metallic snakeskin to slippers adorned in gold tassels and orange pom poms. He said he can make anything I wanted. Anything at all. In fact, his workshop was just around the corner, and his leather stock just across the street. So we went. And we made shoes. Lots of shoes. 
The Lei_Leather Cutting The Lei_Leather Cut OutsThe Lei_Leather Samples The Lei_Making the Modern Babouche
We experimented with everything from the shape and leather type to the cushioning and heel form. Each pair demands skill, strength and several hours to make. Every part of the shoe is made by working hands, from the cutting of the leather to the joining of the heel. 

For all intent and purposes, our incarnation of the babouche is nothing like the babouche. It is inspired by it. The traditional version is extraordinarily comfortable, but impractical and aesthetically difficult to wear in a world outside of Morocco.
When it came to creating our first collection, I wanted to preserve the parts of it I did like: the elegance of a pointed toe and the nonchalance of slipping into a warm, easy thing. But I wanted something more subtle, a cut more clean, more forgiving and built with more structural integrity. I wanted something effortless but luxurious you can slip into whether you are wearing a dress or jeans or pajamas. I wanted something you can wear every day and everywhere, whether you are walking 20 blocks a day to get to work, to dinner and then to cocktails in New York City or London or Hong Kong or snaking though the dusty souks of Marrakech. 

Our first collection is a labor of love. In between afternoon prayers, disjointed conversations, copious amounts of mint tea, keftas and tagines, we created two styles— a light, flat version with a straight vamp and a cushioned, heavier version with a curved vamp —  handmade in two different workshops. We made them in seven creamy, earthy shades that go with just about anything. And I hope you love wearing them just as much as we enjoyed making them.



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