Ilyes Ouali’s Genius is Rooted in Algeria

The designer brings North African pride to each collection

Ilyes Ouali’s Genius is Rooted in Algeria

An Algerian that headed to London in search of a career in fashion, Ilyes Ouali has built a burgeoning brand based on his mother’s love of fashion, North African pride, and no shortage of sparkle. Offering clean silhouettes with a fabulous use of traditional Algerian cord, there’s a touch of disco glam when it comes to Ouali’s designs. It’s a genre-mash-up we approve of, and fully expect global stardom to follow.


Where can we find you?

You’ll find me in London. 

Tell us how your homeland influences you

Algeria is the first – and biggest – influence of my brand. It’s the backbone of every idea. The start is always Algeria, the rest is accumulated through my daily life, people, food and travels. I’m an observer and memorise all of these snaps from my daily life. 

Speaking of memory, what’s your first fashion recollection?

It has to be my mother sewing at home. This was the sparkle for my love of fashion. 


So where did that journey take you?

I was passionate about fashion from a very young age, but growing up in Algeria – with not much of a fashion scene to speak of – took me away to London to polish my skills and turn a hobby into a career. 

Is it true your eponymous brand – which launched in 2016 – was inspired by your mother’s wardrobe?

Well, my mother was an influence and she was the main factor in me loving fashion. However, after I started digging deeper I found it was more about what she represents as a North African woman. All the richness of tradition and history that North African and, more specifically, Algerian women hold.


Your business is a family affair. How do you avoid the drama?

It’s true it has always been supported by my mother and sister as they take care of all the delicate cord embroidery in Algeria. As for drama, well, we’re Algerians… there’s always drama, it’s part of the show! It’s like you’re making couscous but you eat it cold IT’S NOT COUSCOUS. 

What design are you most proud of and why?

It has to be the cord embroidered pieces. They just hold so much heritage, love and detail. It’s a 100 per cent Algerian product made carefully by Algerian women to empower other women or men. 

MENA designers are starting to get the wider platform their talent deserves, how does that feel?

It’s time for the talent in the MENA region to truly show its power. Many from the West have been inspired, or even directly used, our heritage but with no credit given. MENA creatives have lived it, experienced it and should definitely show it to the entire world.

How did it feel making the final of the Vogue Fashion Prize?

Making it to the final was definitely a great step in my career, not only because of the event but also the fact that I got to meet all the other finalists and share experiences from all over the world.

Fashion is in flux right now, do you see yourself staying with womenswear forever?

I don’t think so. Something is cooking…hopefully soon.


What’s been the toughest and best part of your journey so far?

There are many tough moments in fashion, and for many designers 2020 [during Covid] was very difficult. Strangely for me, it was also a positive time. It gave me moments to reflect and focus more on what is important for myself and the brand.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?


What would you like aspiring designers from the MENA region to know?

Just do you, and don’t be scared to show individuality. 

What’s next for you?

I’m still figuring it out! But something should be coming out soon.