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A Beloved Boutique Hotel in Marrakesh Expands
Nearly 20 years ago, while in search of a small holiday home to share, Vanessa Branson and her friend and business partner, Howell James, agreed to purchase a 19th-century riad in Marrakesh’s medina. Having seen the property at night, they didn’t notice that it also included several smaller houses; in light of the scope of the place, they decided to renovate and turn it into a boutique hotel. El Fenn, with its jewel-toned lime tadelakt plaster walls and maze of courtyards, has been beloved ever since. Last year, the hotel’s owners, along with a large team of local artisans, made the most of their pandemic-induced closure by refreshing things once again, this time with an expansion that included the addition of four spacious suites, with floors covered in stitched leather panels, and an open-air bar tucked behind a ground-floor colonnade. There’s also a new chaise longue-filled terrace pool area, which offers a chance to cool off — with views of the Koutoubia Mosque and the Atlas Mountains beyond. el-fenn.com.
As summer shades into fall, a lightweight dress becomes de rigueur, whether worn on its own or with a sweater. Copenhagen brand Ganni’s crinkled satin dress, intentionally wrinkled and with a scooped, low back, is perfect for a weekend getaway. The balloon-sleeved, bow-bedizened Annalisa gown from Ulla Johnson pairs nicely with sandals or boots. Proenza Schouler’s swirl-print jersey shirtdress can be worn loose or with a cinched-in waist — the soft jersey smock is ultracomfortable and makes a perfect statement piece after months of loungewear. The scarf tossed across the shoulders of Rosetta Getty’s paisley scarf shirtdress, along with the belted waist, gives it a fully styled feeling with minimal effort. Finally, Rentrayage, designer Erin Beatty’s sustainable label, uses dead stock and upcycled vintage fabric to create unique pieces that are conversation starters, including her pinstriped kimono wrap dress.
Chocolate on a Mission
While visiting New York in 2010, Mexico City-based designer Rafael Prieto wondered why the artisanal-chocolate market was dominated by Swiss and Belgian brands given Mexico’s proximity and deep cultural connections to chocolate. “I wanted Mexican chocolate to have that same moment,” he says. The following year he founded Casa Bosques, a boutique small-batch chocolate company focusing on Mexican-style chocolate. Since then Casa Bosques has released several distinct bars in collaboration with artists, chefs and creatives, offering highly textured yet smooth chocolate infused with herbs, fruits and spices. This month, Casa Bosques is shining a light on Black artists with its Makers Series, a collaboration between Prieto, designer Rafael de Cárdenas and Brooklyn-based artist and chef DeVonn Francis. Francis’s custom bar is an amalgam of dark chocolate, ginger, crushed bay leaf and a sprinkling of chamomile flowers. “I wanted to think about my Jamaican heritage and make it feel like the tea my mom and grandmother grew up drinking,” he says. Prieto designed the bar’s packaging to honor Black artists, and all profits will be donated to the Okra Project, which offers home-cooked meals to Black trans individuals. casabosques.co.
A Portraitist Turns to Nature
Julia Felsenthal had always put her writing — for magazines including T — before her painting. Then the pandemic hit and she found herself without many freelance assignments but, because she spends much of her time on Cape Cod, with the ocean close at hand. It was a chance for the artist, who felt more comfortable with portraiture, to try her hand at landscape painting. She started by taking hundreds of pictures while walking her dog along Nauset Light Beach, then choosing a few to reference as she began to layer watercolor and gouache back in her studio. “I really had to figure out how water works,” she says, “paying attention to what’s on the surface and what’s underneath.” That the ocean is, as she puts it, “a mercurial and infinitely complicated thing” dovetailed nicely with the tumultuousness of her emotions at the time. In one of the works, 22 of which are on view at Garvey Rita Art & Antiques in Orleans, Mass., bottle-green waves roll in beneath an ominous gray sky. In another, the water is calm and clear and seems to beckon, as if wading into its light-dappled shallows might wash away one’s troubles. A portion of the proceeds from “Salt Water,” which is on view through Sept. 11, will go to the Sipson Island Trust. garveyrita.com.
One day in 2017, as designer and Mexico City native Elise Durbecq was tooling around Oaxaca, a region known for its huaraches (among many other things), she encountered a sheep herder selling lamb pelts, a not uncommon sight in the Mexican countryside. Durbecq began to wonder why she’d never seen lambskin used in footwear, and before she knew it, a brand was born: Huaraches, limited-edition sandals made with wildly tousled sheepskin pelts, produced in family-owned and -operated workshops in the mountains of southern Oaxaca. “The first four pairs were so fun and wild-looking,” she says. “I was stopped on every corner and asked about my shoes.” The extra-durable soles are made from used tires — the same design used by agave harvesters to avoid getting poked by thorns — and the pelts come in riotous colors made with natural dyes. Crucial to Durbecq’s regional partnerships is “economic inclusivity”: “As a rule, the artisan making the huarache always receives more of the proceeds per pair than myself,” she says. From $165, huarach.es.
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