Meet Aelfie, the Textile Designer Breaking All the Rules | The_ONES
The Textile Designer Who’s Breaking All the Rules
Aelfie Oudghiri has always marched to the beat of her own rebel heart. The Brooklyn textile designer has been turning out pattern-happy rugs and funky home accessories since 2012, but the path leading up to this design boom was far from linear and anything but expected. Before launching her eponymous textiles company, Oudghiri went to art school and dropped out of medical school; worked as a bicycle messenger and played drums in a punk band; and at various points did turns as a lab assistant, packaging designer, and fashion stylist.
And that same daredevil spirit still shows up in Oudghiri’s approach to just about everything, especially her designs, which span from hand-dyed sheepskins to throws covered in eyeball illustrations. “To a certain extent, it’s just what comes out,” says Oudghiri. “It’s just a matter of my personality.” It’s this uncompromising, tongue-in-cheek way of thinking that has put her on the map as both a favorite of the city’s cool creative set and a decidedly unconventional designer who simply doesn’t do pretty. And Oudghiri is clearly keeping her pace. She recently realized her childhood dream of designing a bedding line (none of which is plain white) and also just launched a new kids line along with a pop-up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn—just steps from her own color- and pattern-packed home in the renovated factory she shares with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, Mirah.
To capture Oudghiri’s unapologetically bold sense of personal style, the core of her designs, we teamed up with photographer Julia Parris to shoot Oudghiri when she’s at her most creative: in her studio, also in Greenpoint. Then we got to talking about the daily hustle, keeping patterns weird, and how she’s gone through some of her biggest life events wearing her same favorite pair of shoes.
Tell us about your first designs. Has your aesthetic changed since?
Aelfie Oudghiri: “My first rug collection was balls-to-the-walls. I was just experimenting—I didn’t have an audience. That was five years ago. My use of color and pattern has stayed pretty consistently bonkers since then. On a deeper level, I do think the home should be a happy place filled with happy designs. Sometimes I foray into more subtle work, but it’s definitely not my forte. [Eff] grey.”
“My style hasn’t really changed a lot since middle school. (Thankfully, the ’90s are back.) I would describe my current look as ‘autonomous-fifth-grader’!”
- designer Aelfie Oudghiri
How does a new collection or project begin for you?
AO: “One of the last jobs I had before starting my company was as a research assistant for a few professors at Columbia University. I am a hardcore and obsessive researcher. It's a major part of my creative process. I don't really like to make work without context. Sometimes I do, but it's not as fulfilling.”
What’s the weirdest but most fun pattern you’ve designed?
AO: “I created a flying tampon print for a period pop-up store by Kotex. That really tops my list of unusual prints.”
AO: “They made sweatshirts out of it, of all things.”
Now we have to know: What’s your creative process like?
AO: “The creative side of the business is very messy and intuitive. There aren’t processes in the same way that we have processes around our warehouse operations or finances; it’s anti-process. It’s a constant open conversation and not relegated to a time or a place, and it just sort of magically unfolds.”
You obviously have an eye for color and pattern. How does that work into your personal style?
AO: “My style hasn’t really changed a lot since middle school. (Thankfully, the ’90s are back.) I would describe my current look as ‘autonomous-fifth-grader’!”
Any advice for someone looking to go a little bolder with color and pattern?
AO: “I’m going to borrow from Nike and say, ‘Just do it!’”
Speaking of which…are these the Converse Chuck Taylors that are always on your Insta? How long have you had them?
AO: “Yep. I’ve always had white high tops since forever. I can’t pinpoint when I got this current pair because they all bleed into each other.”
Any idea when you wore your first pair out?
AO: “School dances. I was definitely wearing high tops when I had my first kiss as a teenager… black ones. I think I was wearing my Chucks when I first met my husband, too. So, basically every important meeting of my life.”
What do you normally wear with your Chucks?
AO: “High-waisted jeans and a crop top. But I have also worn them with basically any sartorial combo you can think of. I’m not kidding—I rarely take them off.”
Walk us through a typical day for you.
AO: “I reluctantly wake up. My family basically has to drag me out of bed. I am not a morning person and if I weren’t a parent, I would stay up until 3am every night drawing, listening to music, and watching TV. But I’m an adult, so I wake up at some ungodly hour and try to drown away the fatigue with a literal jug of coffee.”
What’s your work studio like?
AO: “Our current configuration is actually three different spaces across two floors. We have our showroom/studio space; a storage unit for props, art supplies, and office supplies; and a warehouse on another floor in our building where all of our textiles live.”
And you’re in Greenpoint, right? Tell us about the neighborhood!
AO: “It is objectively the best neighborhood and the worst. The train sucks. It’s a toxic superfund site. But it also has an amazing view of Manhattan and some of the best small businesses, from tiny one-woman knitting factories to plant/coffee hybrid shops. There's also an overabundance of high-end hair salons. It actually worries me how many have opened. Need a haircut? Come to Greenpoint!”
What are your favorite haunts?
AO: “Homecoming is the best place for a coffee and plant shop combo. Le Gamin is amazing for breakfast. I order lunch regularly from Eagle Trading Co. and I also love going to this vibey, hippie commune called Jungle Cafe—they have a wall in the restaurant dedicated to famous vegetarians. For drinks, I’m a regular at Ramona, which is quiet and sophisticated.”
“I was definitely wearing high tops when I had my first kiss as a teenager… black ones. I think I was wearing my Chucks when I first met my husband, too. So, basically every important meeting of my life.”
- designer Aelfie Oudghiri
The designer loves her Chucks, but possesses a healthy appreciation for a wide variety of sneaks from old-school to new.
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