Shiraz Fradi, shot at her home in Tunis by Bachire Tayachi for Fouta Harissa
Meet Shiraz Fradi, Tunisian film director, mom of two and fashion lover. We first met Shiraz in Sao Paulo, where she and her family were on tour with her husband, musician Dhafer Youssef. We caught up with Shiraz in Tunis to chat about why seeing foutas at the beach initially surprised her, the proper way to enjoy harissa, and how she’s grown into her enviable personal style.
Share with us a special Fouta story - a first memory using a fouta, a family or childhood memory that stands out to you.
I was born and raised in a small village, called Kalâa Kebira, which is now a city, and I come from a family of farmers, so fouta for me was never related to beach or summer, it's the complete opposite. For me it's a winter accessory, we take it out in the winter, when it's the season for the olives, this is when ladies take out the fouta and they wrap themselves in the fouta to protect their outfit from the olive stains.
And also fouta was the fabric we’d put on the table to make the table, or mida, look nice. For me, fouta was the typical winter accessory. And then I discovered that fouta for some people is a summer accessory. I think I was 16 or 17 years old when we came to Tunis, to the beach, La Marsa, and suddenly I saw people taking out their fouta, and I was like, this is really strange. So this is my complicated story with fouta...This was one of the things when I came to Tunis, when I left my village, I started to see things differently, and the fouta was one of them.
How would you style the foutas we photographed?
What are the top three items you have to have in your beach basket when you take your family to the beach?
Do you like Harissa? Souri or 3arbi?
This is the way I like eating harissa 3arbi: In a sandwich with very good bread, with tuna (Tunisian tuna of course), with limoun (preserved lemon) and slices of tomato and some onion and lots of olive oil. This is absolutely the best sandwich for me. So harissa can be very very good, but it has to be in the right place, otherwise it’s a mess!
For example, I hate cooking with harissa, because when you cook with harissa, your plate only tastes of harissa, you don’t taste the vegetables, you don’t taste meat, you can’t even taste the difference between fish or chicken. It has such a strong taste that when you cook with it it overpowers everything, and it kills your palette.
When did you discover your love for textiles/fashion?
Coming from the Sahel, you'll have at least one member of the family working in the textile industry. [The Sahel is the region where most of the textile industry, one of the country’s most important activities, is located in Tunisia]. My father was the manager of a big manufacturer at that time in Sousse, so I grew up spending my summer in the factory, helping the girls there, and seeing how a small piece of fabric could become something completely different. The whole process was impressive to me. Everything starts with a pen. Draw, cut a paper, and then choose fabric, and make clothes. And then at home I would try to produce the same thing from what I was seeing in the factory. I used what I learned to cut my own clothes and make something different, which was very fun for me, but not very fun for my mother.
It took me a while to understand what I love. When I was an adolescent, I wanted complicated stuff, I would put on layers of clothes to look stylish. And now I wear very simple things, one cut, very minimalist. It changes with age, and with your needs and with the way you see the world. In my adolescence I was looking for personality, trying to understand who I am, fighting with society and letting it know loudly that I can dress however I want, and do what I want with my body. My style was very provocative for the society I was living in, and people didn't like it, but whatever. Then you grow up and you’re not fighting with anyone. I am who I am and can dress how I want, and don't feel the need to prove myself to anyone. Now I just look for simple and very very comfortable things, the keyword is comfortable. Linen is definitely one of my favorite fabrics of all time.
What are you reading to your kids right now?
The same book I've been reading every night for months! Layan takes one book and wants to read the same one over and over and over again. Sometimes it's a bit hard for me since I’m like, I’m bored kids! I’m reading the same words! Layan even knows it by heart now. When I turn the page she starts to read because she’s memorized it.
The book is Frida Kahlo, from the collection of books called Little People Big Dreams. The new favorite one is about Coco Chanel, or Coco Kanel, as Layan says. They’re in German and English, so imagine the mess of languages here.
For Kawn, the favorite over the past three months is Le Mouton, by Zena Rached. It has lots of sounds that the sheep make that I have to say over and over, so he’s very entertained by that.