Interview with Kahenas, the first moroccan customized eshop

Reconciling tradition and modernity in the Moroccan culture is an ambitious yet very delighting goal the managers of Kahenas committed to achieve. A refreshing mix that attracts the youth and gets the elders instant approval. With a simple yet catchy design, Kahenas work continuously to bring together artists with different perspectives and emphasize their contribution to the moroccan culture, a flourishing yet lacking field. A very welcomed initiative that will invigorate the Moroccan creative impulse and revive the flame of innovation and the sharing spirit.

One can find everything on the website, from customized clothing to handmade accessories, jewelry and unique paintings, depicting and representing Morocco as seen through the eyes of highly talented artists.

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We can think that bringing together tradition and modernity can sometimes come as an « epic fail », for one of the two always prevails and dominates the other which makes it look like the tradition that is supposed to be anchored in each one of us, or the modern aspect that rules the world nowadays and requires, even compels us to follow its lead is underrated and not fully recognized. However -and from a very objective view by the way- Kahenas and the artists it represents managed to find that crucial balance to put the two opposite yet complementary sides on equal footing.

Although the immense gap between our ancestors traditions and nowadays globalization reshaping every culture in the world  is making us wandering, confused, between the two concepts without really identifying ourselves to any of the two, the innovative idea of Kahenas reminds me personally of the immense history each and every one of us still carries, to these days, within. We are to be proud of our roots and our cultural heritage that allow us to blend easily with today’s world without losing what definInteres us in the process.

-How did you came up with the idea of an online shop?

We came up for the idea of an online shop when we realized there was no platform or space, either offline or online, that brought together all the artists and brands that we identified to as our contemporary Moroccan culture. Today, there are few offline places of note, but still no online places. When we studied abroad, we craved a place that offered quality, affordable, and especially creative Moroccan products. The business plan for Kahenas was not only a website, but we started there as the most logical point of departure.

-When was Kahenas founded?
Kahenas was founded in March 2013, although the idea was a work in progress for a good year before that.
-‘Kahenas’, an original name for a website. Was it random, or does it carry a special meaning for you?
Kahena is the name of a Berber princess, but is easy on the tongue, unlike many words in Darija. In trying to find a word that symbolized our roots but that could be easily exported and repeated, Kahenas came as a natural choice.
-We noticed you don’t limit yourselves to local artists, you try to reach foreign ones too. Is it successful so far?
Actually, all of our artists are Moroccan or have a strong tie to Morocco. In the future, we hope to grow and incorporate artists from the Maghreb and Africa. Our country’s history is based on mixing and matching, and the wealth of our culture is due to this ‘brassage’.
-You’re growing bigger every day. Is it hard to deal with  customers and artists at the same time, on a daily basis?
It’s a joy to deal with both customers and artists. It has allowed us to meet some really amazing people with inspiring stories and we are privileged to be a part of it. It’s the value chain that makes us miserable, from the producers to the outdated export laws to the strange e-commerce restrictions.
-To this day, your idea of offering traditionnal items with a touch of modernity is quite special. Are you afraid of rising competition that might take away what differenciates you so far?
Competition is good and healthy. If you are online, you are in open space, and you just have to focus at being the best at what you do. What differentiates us is many things, some visible, some not, but more than anything, we are not here to make money off of the artists, we are here to build a sustainable business model. So far, we are not there yet.
-We are sure that as managers, you must be proud of your achievements. Are there any new concepts for the website coming up?
We aren’t proud because we aren’t sustainable yet. Doing something aesthetically nice with a credible philosophy behind it is a good first step, but it is just that, a first step. We need to move more aggresively on Marketing, and on finding a viable business model, which we haven’t so far. If we can’t help ourselves, we won’t be helping anybody. We are actually working to launch Kahenas 2.0 to address a few issues we have had with the concept and hopefully allow it to reach a new potential. Let’s see what happens :)
… And we’re eager to see how this sustainable business model will take shape, and if Kahenas will indeed last (so far, their original innovative concept and their great skills of operating on different platforms turns out to be a great recipe for success!), as the e-publishing field is dynamic and unprotected -especially in Morocco- and highly known for its fierce competition and the permanent threat of new entrants.
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