Tuesday March 5th, 2024
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French-Algerian Label Aristhane is an Intergalactic Sartorial Odyssey

Founded by Parisian-born Algerian designer Maïssane Zinai, Aristhane is a universe that extends far beyond the material world.

Ziyad El-Helbawy

French-Algerian Label Aristhane is an Intergalactic Sartorial Odyssey

"What is it to leave a trace? How can one culture prove it was here? How can the memory of one person survive time?” These are the fundamental questions that have driven Parisian-born Algerian designer Maïssane Zinai in her work since imagining intricate fictional worlds at just six years old. An architect of entire intergalactic sartorial universes through her label Aristhane, Zinai is dedicated to crafting complex contemporary mythologies across disciplines.

At 25 years old, Maïssane, a graduate of Central Saint Martins Fashion BA program, has garnered notable recognition, earning finalist status for the 2023 Fashion Trust Arabia award. However, her path in fashion wasn't preordained. Zinai shares that her initial aspirations leaned toward a medical career after completing a scientific baccalaureate and commencing medical studies. “My academic background was supposed to lead me to a career as a military surgeon as well as being a high-level Athlete,” Maïssane Zinai tells SceneStyled.

However, Zinai’s disparate interests in cinema, music, fashion, mythology, history, theology and linguistics gradually imposed fashion upon her fate. “When you have such a spectrum of interests along with a strong inclination to challenge yourself and a compulsive need to create stories, Fashion is the right medium,” she explains. After enrolling in an art foundation program in Paris, Zinai was accepted into Central Saint Martins prestigious Fashion Design course just six months later. “It went so fast which makes me believe I’m on the right path,” she reflects.

These formative years cultivating her multifaceted imagination and design skills allowed Zinai to give shape to her label Aristhane. Established in 2022 shortly after graduating, Aristhane serves as the platform to develop the intricate fictional universe she has crafted since childhood. “I started it 19 years ago. Since the age of 6 years old I’ve been creating a full Universe composed of multiple worlds, characters, languages, and spiritualities ... articulated all together.” This intricately detailed world became a sanctuary for Zinai, fostering her creativity and giving rise to Aristhane - a label named after a woman from that very universe, with whom Zinai shares a deep and profound connection.

“Maybe I wish I was her, or maybe she simply makes me feel stronger when I need to.”

Through meticulously detailed collections that play with the concepts of polarity and harmony, Zinai seeks to introduce audiences to 54 vividly imagined planets and their diverse yet complementary cultures. The first stop? East of planet Günrun. 

Zinai’s design philosophy stems from her belief in “the coexistence of contrasts. I don’t believe discipline is contrary to fluidity or reality to fiction.” Her aesthetics fuse dynamic, elegant silhouettes with a celebration of pluralism - the notion that one’s being contains multitudes. Of her goal, Zinai declares, “I want to dress dreamers and fighters. Plural people who understand the world and have one foot here, one in another dimension.” Beyond fashion, she envisions Aristhane as “the first step toward a bigger metaverse” - a multifaceted creative platform where ideas can be challenged and planted within rich fictional soil.

Maïssane Zinai's designs for Aristhane exude a vibrant aesthetic that seamlessly blends the futuristic with the elegant, the dynamic with the whimsical. Her sport-oriented silhouettes are imbued with a subtle flair that honors traditions while pushing boundaries. Sculptural yet fluid forms marry innovation with a glint of heritage, as seen in reimagined traditional Algerian silhouettes. Leather jackets and mini skirts meet cascading silk dresses and layered trousers draped with ethereal coats create an androgynous interplay of texture and movement. 

Aristhane possesses a genuinely distinctive identity - one that's rarely encountered, originating from the profound depths of the mind and soul. It extends its reach to the boundless universe of imagination while firmly grounding itself in reality.

“No one can live without their roots and I’m proud of mine.”

Within these dynamic visions, Zinai champions the community and invites the wearer to step into the boots of warriors and dreamers. Details like bio jelly materials woven into leather breastplates or knitted into tense tights pay homage to Zinai's distinctly imagined planetary cultures. Bold pops of color and alien-like silhouettes transport the wearer between worlds, allowing them to inhabit dual realities as forever young, rebellious minds fighting for independence across galaxies.

“If the world is a macrosome, then the human is a microsome. A world in reduction. Therefore, all energies swiftly dancing outside vibrate with the same intensity inside. The deepest becomes the highest, the one becomes the whole. These collections set the foundation of both Aristhane as a label and as a universe.”

Through Aristhane, Zinai celebrates individualism within universalism, dressing sovereign beings with an audacious flame who seek adventure amid contradiction and seek grace within discipline. Hers is an aesthetic that caught the attention of pop superstar Katy Perry, who donned Aristhane’s fashion on the cover of Paper Magazine.

Set for launch in February of 2024, the Günrun East collection vows to be an exploration of chaos and an introduction to the first of many sartorial planets; ones that boast their own cultures, from sufi-inspired ideologies to ones paying homage to Algerian culture.

On the spectrum herself, Maïssane Zinai drew deeply from her own neurodivergence when crafting the inhabitants of Günrun. As an autistic creative, she shaped the Günrulëans with similar mind patterns and dynamics that she innately understands. This intentional mirroring allowed Zinai to cultivate a society within Günrun that celebrated her own way of being. In compiling meticulous world-building details, Zinai wove strands of her own experiences and identities into Günrun's tapestry, from its landscape to its peoples. 

Yet through collaboration, she has witnessed these foundations transcend her singular perspective, resonating with others also on the spectrum or those relating to these fictional spiritual practices. Zinai's work celebrates extricating universal truths embedded in particular cultures, empowering traditions to reach new communities through the imaginative languages of fiction and fashion.

“Mythologies are songs which are sung by multiple voices and so is the Aristhane universe.”

Being named a finalist for the prestigious Fashion Trust Arabia award in 2023 has given Maïssane Zinai’s work significant recognition as she builds Aristhane’s foundations. Receiving this honor means her perseverance is paying off, as it represents an important next step in the label’s journey that she has worked tirelessly to achieve with her collaborators. 

On a personal level, the nod from FTA holds special resonance for Zinai as someone who grew up between Algeria and France - it is a validation of her strong cultural roots which she channels through her design storytelling. Much like water lilies that appear to float freely yet thrive below the surface thanks to roots extending unseen, Zinai draws strength from her lineage that nourishes Aristhane’s future growth. 

As SceneStyled’s virtual exchange with Zinai comes to an end, she leaves us with these words of wisdom…

“Culture is all about familiarity. But what does that mean? Well, think about your family - they’re the people you feel a connection with, right? Your culture is a mix of all the experiences and knowledge that have shaped you, as well as those who came before you and those who will come after. It all comes back to one thing - the sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself. When you dress in a certain way, you’re not just creating a visual statement - you’re bringing your ideas and experiences to life. That’s why fashion is so powerful - it’s a language that goes beyond words, connecting us in ways we never thought possible.”


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