Interview: Karim Adduchi, Fashion Designer and Visual Artist

Karim Adduchi is a multi-disciplinary artist working with textile, paint, photography, and most recently, has shown intention of infusing sound into his future projects. Born in Morocco, raised in Barcelona, and currently splitting his time in artistic and cultural capitals Amsterdam and Paris, Karim prefers to keep his belongings humbly tucked away in his travel bag as he tends to take flight on very short notice. I defined him later as an elegantly suited optimist based on his strikingly contagious laugh and a very amiable attitude. Karim sustains on a day-by-day lifestyle and takes every opportunity for adventure, leaving his fate in the hands of chance.

He shared with me his story, both personal and public. He spoke so easily of the organic process behind his current work and the roots of his childhood that it felt as if I had known him a decade. Despite his physical detachment from his birth country, or any country for that matter, Karim spoke very earnestly of his early years as an infant which evidently impacted a great amount of his work to date. Each piece is created by a unique process, a single root stemming from his own struggles as a child, and later as a young adult. What persisted throughout our dialogue was his boundless nature for emancipation. As an artist, Karim is constantly growing and adapting to his changing environment yet thriving from the thrill of discomfort and new beginnings. If you would like to learn more about Karim, his work, or would like to attain one of his current pieces, you can do so here.

Tell me a little bit about what you do and how you got started.

I am preparing to graduate from my study at Gerrit Reitveld Academie but right now I am looking for an internship. After being accepted to an internship I will be writing my thesis, ideas and concepts. Then I will focus on finding some money to make everything happen in time for my graduation show in June.

What brought you to Amsterdam?

I was studying Fine Arts in Barcelona at the university. I never completed the final year but they gave me papers confirming that I was there (laughs). Then I took a year off, not knowing what I wanted to do, so I started working for museums and movie productions, making costumes, doing all kinds of different small jobs. After a year of that I thought ‘I have to get out of this city’ because sometimes you have to get away form where you are to somehow find out what you want to do. I didn’t know yet what that was. I thought about running away from the duties. It was starting to go good for me, all these steady jobs with the movies, and I was getting stuck on it, you know? I had money, I had a nice apartment, I could see my family every three weeks, my friends… It would keep repeating. I thought ‘oh no, I don’t want to do this’. And if I stayed there, I know I would just keep doing it every day because it was good money and I would start to feel stuck. I saw myself suddenly waking up at 40 doing something I didn’t like to do, something that didn’t make me happy but was safe and comfortable. I imagined going away and again being in this situation of being lost and being alone, not speaking the local language, not having any money and seeing how it goes.

Do you ever regret that decision you made to leave Barcelona and give your life a bigger challenge?

No. When I was five years old, my mother, brother and I moved to Barcelona but my father was already there since I was born. I was living in Morocco before that and I didn’t have any education because you begin school when you turn seven. My family was very poor when I was young, so I was like this little child in the streets, running around. I had so much fun playing with my toys cut from old bottles, making my own shoes, or taking metal pieces and putting them together. As soon as we moved to Barcelona they put me in school, because children start school at three over there. Because I was already five, I was two years later then the other children but they placed me with the youngest group to catch up on their level. I felt so out of place, these people didn’t know anything about who I was or what I knew because I didn’t come from an educational background. I felt completely blocked. I didn’t speak English, Catalan or Spanish, and I didn’t know how to write, how to talk or how to communicate. Before that I was only surrounded by my family or people who lived in my village in Morocco. One day I was trying to ask my teacher something but I didn’t know how to say it so she told me to draw it. This is a real romantic story (laughs), sometimes people think I made it up, but it’s true! So she gave me a piece of paper and said to me ‘draw on this paper where you would like to go’. I wanted to go to the toilet but I didn’t know how to explain this. So I drew mountains and me running through the huge trees. When I gave it to the teacher, she looked at me and she just turned around and walked away without saying anything. The next week, some type of psychologist came to see me at the school with my parents, but I had no idea they were coming. This woman told my parents that they wanted to send me to a special school, an institution, that would be good for me to develop better communication using my hands and through my drawings. It was like medicine for me because I was stuck. I spent about eleven years at this institutional school until I was about sixteen or seventeen.

And that school was specifically for…

Applied arts. I always called it ‘ballet school’ because they were so heavy and strict, physically as well. We had to make all of the frames ourselves and it was a real Italian school, a real institution.

You mentioned that both of your parents were tailors?

Yes. In Morocco. My father left in 1989, a year after I was born, and went to work in a factory in Barcelona but my mother is still working as a tailor now.

Do you ever think about visiting them now?

When I can, yes. Every year or two I try.

When you were younger, living in Morocco or in your first years in Barcelona, what did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

I remember that every day I thought about being someone else, but always having the same intentions. I wanted to help. I dreamt about being a driver, or a gymnast, an astronaut, sometimes just bullshit and sometimes too pretentious. But I was always thinking that this person would have the possibility to help his parents. I was always thinking in this way.

I guess the point that you are at right now has expanded upon that concept, so now you are not only trying to help your parents but other people as well.

Yes, definitely.

What do you think is missing in most people in the present?

People don’t listen. They are often a part of this generation of phones, or being selfish, I think they don’t listen because they are afraid to feel related somehow.

To what the other person is saying.

And sometimes they don’t know how to help the other person, they don’t listen so they don’t have to get involved in the other person’s problems.

By being related do you also mean being intimate with another person?


When you consider your creative process, how you would describe it in one word?

Intuition. I never try to make a statement or make other people happy in this way because I think it is something that just has to come, to happen. If you feel bad you will see it and if I feel good you will also see it in my work. The point is to think but never to think too much, but just to let it go. Sometimes this is difficult because the way you think when you are working in fashion, or the way you think when you are drawing or painting, those are very different ways. If I have to switch between both I feel a crash and realize I cannot do both sides at the same time because it makes me crazy.

So you have periods where you are focusing on your art and periods where you are focusing on your fashion. Do you also consider photography and painting a big part of your art, asides from fashion?

Yes. I really like to mix all of the mediums. Sometimes I make a drawing from a sketch of a dress of a dress from a drawing, sometimes I take old family pictures and I explode them, or I take a piece of a pattern and I make it 3D to use for a dress. They are all different ways that, without a lot of thinking, take me to the same goal. In one of my sketchbooks, I have a picture of my father working as tailor, and from this picture I take a small piece and made a print that was the base for one of my dresses.

So it begins as a process and you build upon it.

It’s like a relationship actually or… like some type of friendship, when you have a friend that you met through another friend, and some day all of these friends will meet together and have a really nice dinner (laughs). So somehow it is all connected. I never try to make something specific but I let it all just happen. I think it’s also important to stay honest.

Being honest with what you are doing?

Yes but with what is going on or what I am.

Do you ever feel vulnerable if you have to open yourself up to someone?

No, because I know who I am. They can’t bring me down, but in a good way, you know? I know what I had or what I didn’t have.

That’s a valuable skill I think. And what does happiness mean to you?

Oh this question.. it’s hard (laughs). I feel happy when I see someone that is happy because I helped them to be happy.

So if you are a reason for their happiness, that makes you happy as well.

Personally for me, happiness is when you know who you are or where you come from and to know what you are good at and what your weak points are. That’s happiness.

Are you afraid of your weak points?

No because it is what gives me my strong points.

What is a measure of success for you, how do you know when something you did has become successful or that you are becoming successful?

That’s a tricky question. I think I am the most successful I have every been right now. For me, success comes if you compare it to where you came from. You have to remember all of these stones you had to step over to get where you are now. I am successful now because I got here. For me success is the steps you take to get where you are. It is not based on money. I know that social modelling has this perception of success, you know. It was always a voice saying to me that there is something else I should be doing but I didn’t know what, but I still followed this abstract picture. For me, that is success already.

You are improving on your craft every time, and doing something new or something that gives you a new perception of challenge. Some people prefer safety over challenge or comfort over adventure. Actually it’s really scary and I think those people are often afraid of the potential failure.

Yeah, to lose something. But it’s because they don’t know that they might gain something from losing something else.

That’s also true. Do you have people that inspire you, symbols or concepts that you take your inspiration from?

I know that my childhood is doing a lot (laughs). I think about all of these children in Morocco, running around, not having a chance to make anything more of themselves because of their political or social context.

I guess it’s easy to help one person, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else will learn from that one example.

That’s why I say I am so lucky. If I hadn’t left Morocco I could still be there on the streets of my town. It’s as if you are dead. Sometimes I think, how come in Morocco we never had any famous musicians or writers? We don’t have the chance. The social perception or stereotype of Moroccan people is really bad. Maybe right now there is a second Mozart running around in Morocco. He will stay there forever not knowing his talent because nobody gives him a chance to express himself in that way.

He is not discovered.

It is not his fault, it is the fault of the situation.

What is the most valuable tool for your art?

I can use anything I find along the way. Yesterday I made a painting with a spoon. Really, I find tools along the street, on my way to the supermarket.

Are there any individuals within your current social and geographic context that you feel are very important for your work? Or do you feel that it might be similar if you were doing this anywhere else in the world?

Sometimes the place of your surroundings contributes to your work as well. It gives you a certain mood, a different perception, a different answer to your work. It helps you feel related to someone else or that person to you, so you get inspiration or new ideas for your project. Sometimes it takes some time to get used to a new city and finding your way. I have a lot of people who really believe in me and my work. But the most important person is actually myself.

You are your biggest fan.

(laughs) You cannot place that responsibility onto someone else. It’s not their job to inspire you or believe in you, you have to do that yourself.