Style blogger Tommy Lei combines trend-setting with jet-setting on his blog, MyBelonging. On his latest trip to Morocco, Tommy took a few pieces from Krammer & Stoudt and Vestment to shoot in exotic places like the sand dunes in the Sahara and the vibrant streets of Marrakech.
We caught up with Tommy after his trip to ask him a few questions about his experiences and style:
Were you surprised at the differences between American and Morrocan cultures?
To be frank, I wasn’t shocked at all. I’ve travelled plenty enough to understand and know first-hand that third-world countries have their share of internal and socioeconomic struggles. What I did learn is the incredible breadth of diaspora within the Moroccan community; there is so much diversity ranging from Berbers to Moroccan-Jews, which all influences the local food, politics and economy. Keeping in mind that Morocco is largely still a third-world country, agriculture exists at the highest of highest altitudes. It was interesting to see women and children transporting their harvests on heavily-stacked donkeys climbing up hill.
Another interesting fact is the annual salary for the average Moroccan is about $1000 USD.
Your style is often influenced by California, where you live. What was the most striking cultural similarity you saw between Algeria and California?
The primary differences are pretty vast, although there is a lot of structural development happening within both Marrakech and Casablanca due to the sheer amount of tourists that visit during peak season. I can speak to Marrakech in particular. Once we ventured out of La Mamounia, the 5-star resort we stayed at, and into the open-air spice markets in Medina (what is considered the old Marrakech), there was some resistance from the locals in reaction to photography and our presence. I wouldn’t say it’s significant enough to say it is anti-tourist, but foreigners should exercise common sense and courtesy for all!
Outside of Medina, however, there is an emerging modernity of new shopping centers, cosmopolitan hotels and restaurants that has evident Moroccan roots but caters to an English-speaking demographic of Westerners and Europeans. There is certainly a palpable sense of art and commerce, especially around where Jardin Majorelle, the YSL garden, is located.
How did your experience there influence your style?
I have a tendency to dress by osmosis and incorporate something that is culturally-unique to the destination that I find myself in. In this instance, I did don a few robes — particularly one from Vestment — and some that I bought directly from homemakers and artisan stalls strewn on the roadside. However, I make it a point to never wear these pieces beyond their intended immediate surroundings; instead, I choose to keep it as a lifelong memento to kindly remind me of the time I’ve spent there.