Marrakech

Due East’s Mollie Brown takes us into the heart of Morocco

by Hannah Morrow
Photographs by Holly Cowart and  Kate Zimmerman Turpin
due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiors
Brown started Due East after a trip to Morroco in 2016. She now visits a few times a year to source textiles, leather goods and home accessories.

Marrakech is a place of tactile exploration. Narrow passageways weave like veins through the dreamy city, seated in western Morocco, connecting its mosques, palaces, gardens, and souks — the picturesque marketplaces that act like arteries of artisanal tradition. In these souks, thumbing through textiles and handwoven rugs, you’ll find Mollie Brown, founder of Austin’s own Due East. The Texas native first came to Marrakech in 2016 with her husband to visit friends. Brown fell fast for the culture, the people, and the markets that brimmed with local craftsmanship. “There is so much magic in Marrakech, and the heart of it is in the medina, which dates to the 10th century,” says Brown. “The contagious energy, the vibrant colors, and the artistry steeped into every corner are inspiring to even the most well-traveled.”

due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiorsBrown founded Due East, an ethical importer that brings authentic Moroccan designs and goods to Texas buyers, last year. The business’ name is inspired by the fact that Morocco lies at the same latitude as our state. “I’ve made a business out of sourcing beautiful things in and out of the souks and have created wonderful relationships in Morocco that are the foundation of Due East,” says Brown. “The people of Morocco are continuously welcoming. They are gracious hosts, and so many of them are invested in nurturing the traditions and artistry of their ancestors.” Here, we’ve invited Brown, who was in Morocco last month on a sourcing trip for Due East’s fall / winter collection, to share her picks from the former imperial city.

TO STAY

I call El Fenn the Hotel Saint Cecilia of Marrakech. This once dilapidated riad was refurbished into one of the most iconic hotels in Africa. The exquisite interiors are a modern and fresh take on traditional Moroccan decor and architecture. Each room is impeccably decorated to leave every guest feeling inspired and energized. Don’t miss watching the sunset on the roof.

due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiors

Marrakech’s El Fenn hotel is a favorite of Brown’s.

TO SEE

The best advice I ever received was that on your first venture into the souks, don’t buy anything! It’s easy to get overwhelmed and intrigued, but to really be smart in shopping, you should get a feel for what the souks have to offer first and then go back the next day. Don’t be afraid to barter, and never pay more than you’re comfortable with, because it’s most likely overpriced!

due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiors

Left: The souks are home to an array of colorful textiles.
Right: Shtatto restaurant.

Have lunch at La Famile or Nomad. Both restaurants have a casual and alfresco atmosphere; fresh, locally inspired food, plus small shops to peruse if there is a wait — or even if there isn’t.

due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiors

After scouring the souks for rugs and goodies, take a break at Shtatto for a juice or coffee on the roof while you take in the view of the Atlas Mountains over the rooftops of the medina. Be sure to stop at each floor on your way up, which include local shops and even a quirky retro barbershop.

due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiors

Left: A coffee break at Nomad.
Right: A scene from one of Marrakech’s many souks.

TO RESTORE

You can’t leave Morocco without treating yourself to a hammam. Rooted in Islamic cleansing rituals, frequent visits to the local hammam is a part of almost every Moroccan’s life. At Les Bains de Marrakech, you’ll experience three of the main elements of the hammam treatment: cleansing, exfoliating, and the washing. Some hammams are still heated by hand. In the picture you can see this man throwing sawdust and paper onto the fire to heat the water for his local hammam.

due east austin mollie brown marrakech textiles interiors


Read More From the Architecture Issue | October 2018


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