Fashion & Style Interviews

Aurore Hetzel on How Collaborating With Moroccan Artisans Inspired Her to Launch Petit Nomade

Photo of Aurore Hetzel.
Aurore Hetzel. Photo Credit: Lea Grandvalet 

In early 2020, Aurore Hetzel left a long career in corporate fashion to launch her conscious resort-wear company, Petit Nomade. Its collections are handmade by independent artisans in Marrakech, Morocco. “I wanted to create a brand that would highlight the beauty of my husband’s home country and do good by supporting ethical and sustainable practices,” Aurore said.

Petit Nomade’s team works directly with artisans and pays fair-trade prices, forming an ethical relationship with their artisan partners. Creating goods for the resort-wear brand helps the craftspeople build a sustainable future for themselves and their families. “Through handmade details and reviving century-old traditions, our collections tell the story of the community we partner with to bring the Petit Nomade spirit alive.”

Basket by Petit Nomade.
Courtesy of Aurore Hetzel/Petit Nomade.

We asked Aurore more about Petit Nomade and the people behind it in the interview below.

Artisan Joy: Can you share the backstory of your artisan partners, such as where they live, what life is like for them, etc.?

Aurore Hetzel: I’ve known the artisans I partner with for many years through trips to Morocco with my family. I started collaborating with them to create special gifts for my friends back in the US. Our artisans live in rural villages near Marrakech, where opportunities are few and far between with little-to-no access to education.

We collaborate with many Berber women, artisans who work in their homes while maintaining households and raising kids. They generate a crucial income that empowers and helps them achieve financial independence and break from poverty and patriarchy. Their ancient skills are passed down from generation to generation, perpetuating traditions that would otherwise be lost in Morocco’s rapidly changing society.

An artisan in  Marrakech, Morocco crafting a basket for Petit Nomade.
An artisan in Marrakech, Morocco crafting a basket for Petit Nomade. Photo courtesy of Petit Nomade/Aurore Hetzel.

AJ: How does it feel to give your artisan partners a platform to showcase their creations to the world?

AH: The power of having a platform that connects artisans to a wider audience is invaluable. I don’t work with intermediaries, which allows us to pay our partners fair-trade prices, trace the origin of our materials to guarantee their sustainability and offer unique collections at a great price point.

AJ: Can you describe the impact your brand has had on your artisan partners’ lives?

AH: Petit Nomade is a mission-driven brand. This is only the beginning, as we are only a year old. The way we impact our partners’ lives is profound. As Morocco shut down because of COVID-19 and artisans could no longer sell to tourists, Petit Nomade became their only source of revenue. It is so meaningful to me to directly contribute to the future of their community and see the pride in their eyes.

AJ: How has working with your artisan partners changed your life?

AH: I worked for over 15 years in corporate for large luxury brands. Launching Petit Nomade was a life-changing and humbling experience for me personally. Creating collections centered on the value of handwork to build a brand that cares and gives back is beyond meaningful to me. I also wanted to highlight the beauty of Morocco and make my kids feel proud of their Moroccan heritage instead of being stigmatized for it.

Aurore Hetzel's children sitting with a Petit Nomade basket.
Photo courtesy of Aurore Hetzel/Petit Nomade

AJ: Describe how working with your artisan partners inspires you each day.

AH: My artisans are the center of everything and an integral part of the creation process behind each collection. We bounce off ideas and creative ways to celebrate their heritage, and I cherish what we are building together. My artisans are Berbers, but they preferred to be called ‘Amazighs,’ which means free people. Their passion for life and drive, despite their many hardships, is fueling me every day to dream bigger and reach higher.

A Petit Nomade bag featuring an Evil Eye design.
A Petit Nomade bag featuring an Evil Eye design. Photo courtesy of Aurore Hetzel/Petit Nomade.

AJ: Name the biggest challenge of running your business.

AH: Distance is definitely a very challenging aspect of our business model, especially during a global pandemic, and I cannot wait to get back to Morocco. But at the end of the day, distance makes you build a level of trust that maybe wouldn’t be there if we were closer.

AJ: How do you manage that challenge?

AH: Open communication is key, and I talk to my artisans almost daily in a mix of Arabic and French. Video calls are definitely a great help, but nothing replaces being together.

AJ: What brings you joy?

AH: My biggest joy in life is exploring the world with my kids—the joy of discovering new places and cultures and creating memories on the go!

Thanks, Aurore! Petit Nomade’s goods are available at shoppetitnomade.com, and you can follow the brand on Instagram.

This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.

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