Nezha Alaoui is not only the Creative Director of her own brand Mayshad Paris but she is an artist, successful photographer, designer, mother, and humanitarian.
The purpose of Mayshad Paris was not just to create a fashion brand for the love of luxury, but to send a message to women around the world to empower themselves. The name Mayshad itself comes from the first syllables of both her daughter’s names, putting them not only in the centre of her life but in the centre of her life’s project.
As a woman from North Africa with a French education and American living experience, Nezha has developed a presence in 4 continents, allowing her a great reach for her strong message for women to ‘be what you want to be’, a movement that inspires women to accept themselves as they are and embrace the different aspects of their lives, with love and passion in order to achieve their goals and dreams.
Besides being a motivational woman of substance, Nezha has created a luxury handbag brand which has gone on to receive recognition for its socially responsible approach and importance given to craftsmanship, design, and customer service. Here, we talk to Nezha to find out how Mayshad Paris came about and the steps she takes to make her life more positive.
Every woman feels that she has a message to share at some point in her life, did you ever have this feeling?
Yes, I definitely did, and it was a feeling that scared me at a younger age, as I was feeling that I was not like my friends who didn’t question life. At a young age I was always thinking about what I should achieve and the meaning of life, and my peers were not in the same headspace, so I tried to run away from that by going into a very classical life.
You are a successful photographer, how did you discover this skill?
By the age of 27 I had my daughters and had found myself in a comfort zone. It was at this point that I wanted to find out who I really wanted to be, and so that’s when I decided to become a photographer, taking on missions for the United Nations.
Tell us about the Mayshad Foundation?
I have always had a social side to me since I was 16 years old, as when I was growing up I would always try to make an impact on those less fortunate than myself. Instead of just giving money to a charity, I would always do an action, such as organising an afternoon party in an orphanage to give them memorable moments. This was always nurturing my soul and was a part of my personality, so it was only natural to create a foundation to channel this.
What does the name Mayshad mean?
The name comes from the first syllables of both my daughter’s names. I created Mayshad before the handbags were a business idea, and when I set up the company I didn’t know what it would become, but I knew it would be a company that would carry out projects with a positive impact and an empowering message. So, when I came to start designing handbags, it was clear to me that they should be called Mayshad.
What is special about your handbag brand is that it relays a message and emotion. But how challenging is it to position your brand among other luxury brands?
It was certainly very difficult at the beginning, finding that conviction to pursue the project as I was faced with a lot of discouragement. But what saved me was that I never felt in competition with other brands, as the woman that carries a Mayshad bag is not a woman who will give up on other brands. I want her to carry the Mayshad bag on that day when she wants some extra empowerment, or a day when she wants to be individual. It was that vision that was very clear in my head, and allowed me to never feel discouraged, and see that there was space for my brand. Now, the most difficult part is the sourcing and not the selling. It is finding the right people to make the product and to get the right level of quality and craftmanship. It has always been important for me to produce in small quantities, as I wanted to remain exclusive.
Do you remember when you first carried one of your own bags and which one it was? What was the impact and what did your friends say?
It was the BFF bag, and it was loved because of the leathers, something that really differentiates our bags. You cannot invent a shape that hasn’t existed before, so instead it is about how it is crafted and what materials it is made from. It is a natural process using your handbag, so it is imperative to me that your bag needs to be practical, and so I always insist on it being light and easy to use. However, as I create each collection I feel that it comes with mixed emotions. Every design and creation is like giving birth and holding a baby, it couples a huge amount of pride together with the baby blues. After spending a great length of time creating, it is suddenly out there in the open, and is no longer just yours.
Let’s talk about the leathers and colours, what was behind the inspiration of your current palette of shades?
Alongside the beautiful pastel shades is the use of the arabesque pattern. From day one everyone wanted me to go back to my roots, and use this Moroccan print and influence, however I wanted to wait until I could allow it the justice it deserved, and that is now.
You are a self-empowered woman, can you share with us a story where you felt reborn?
For some people, an external accident happens in your life which forces you to re-evaluate everything, whereas in my case it was not something that was forced upon me. Instead I chose to force myself out of a very stable and sustainable life in order to build something that was more meaningful. Stepping out of your comfort zone is essential to building something that is truly sustainable and for me this was the case when I was 27. I had my 2 daughters, 12 stores and a loving husband, living a life that was very much successful to the eyes of society, yet that was not really who I wanted to be. So, with a great amount of courage I left a society that was not allowing me to grow anymore, and part of that involved leaving the father of my children. It was not something that he understood back then, however I needed to be logical and explain that I was not fully committed to that life. Taking out the loving element in my life, together with having my daughters by my side, I built Mayshad, and only reintegrated everyone once I had succeeded.
What do you fear in life?
What I have feared before is not what I fear today. In the past, I feared not being able to fit in, but between the ages of 27 and 30 I freed myself of those insecurities. What I fear now is losing the values in my soul, and this is particularly something that I feel after fashion week and other equally glamorous occasions. So, I will always try to balance this by taking some time out to work with my foundation, which forces me back down to earth.
What can we expect to see next with the Mayshad brand?
There will be a men’s collection, and also a travel collection, and then later on I think my daughters will be involved with a children’s bag collection. My idea is to create one bag where you choose the base colour and then you can add many accessories and different colourways and patchworks to personalise it, and of course it would be made in leather.
How can we expect to see your product lines expand?
I am looking to expand into shoes and I already have a great contact in Italy, so I just need to find the time to go and explore that. The key to these shoes is that they need to be very comfortable, whether they are flat, midsize, or high. There are so many shoes out there and to differentiate mine they need to be able to support the Mayshad woman.
What 3 words describe your brand?
Luxury, exclusivity, and empowerment.
What would you like to share with the women of the Middle East?
I have a lot of respect for their evolution, and I find a lot of empowerment and education in women from the Middle East. They are smart women who can really understand the message behind my brand.
Many people will look up to your success story, especially because you have achieved it at a young age. What would be your advice for others to make it to the next level?
Ultimately it is to have conviction, and to believe in yourself. You need to understand who you are and what you can do, accepting yourself and knowing what are your limits and advantages. Secondly, you need to be disciplined, as there is no success story that has been built overnight. It isn’t even instant for the person who wins the lottery, they have been buying a ticket for years before. Above all, there is always a need for commitment to achieve your dream.
If you are not carrying a Mayshad bag, which brand would you carry?
I love Chanel bags, but in all the different textures and materials, rather than just the classics. I like to have something new, unique, and creative.
How would you like the world to remember you?
As a doer in life and someone who inspires other people to do. Nothing is impossible but everything demands a lot of work.
By Lara Mansour Sawaya