Sitting at lunch in West Hollywood with rising pop star Faouzia a few weeks ago, she almost could’ve been any other 21-year-old excited about visiting Los Angeles. Almost, except very few other 21-year-olds could expertly describe the brilliant, stretchy black Annakiki dress she was rocking, a piece with striking, geometric shoulders that read high-fashion without any overbearing glitz and glam. As we settled in for an interview at Cavatina, an outdoor garden-side restaurant tucked just inside the Sunset Marquis Hotel, the Moroccan-born singer-songwriter immediately began to gush about the designs of Anna Kolomoiets, aka Annakiki, a Ukrainian designer who has caught her attention of late.
“I’m actually wearing Annakiki right now,” she says. “I’m a big fan of Annakiki because it’s a designer that has such unique shapes, very cool prints and very cool colors. It’s definitely a brand that stands out — in the way that you know it’s Annakiki when you see it.” Born Faouzia Ouihya in Casablanca, Morocco, the artist moved to Canada at a very young age and grew up in Manitoba, where fashion was always one of her interests. Along with a very obvious early talent for music, Faouzia has been paying attention to her own personal taste for a lot longer than the average twenty-something, partly due to the intersecting cultures in her background.
“I’m obsessed with style and fashion, that’s a really big world for me, even though music is the one that’s obviously the most apparent,” she continues. “I find it’s just as important and it’s truly a passion of mine.” And that isn’t just lip service, either — the day after our interview she flew to Dubai to attend the always exclusive Chanel fashion show there, and shoot a spread for Harper’s Bazaar, one of the most prestigious style magazines in the world. “I’m literally over the moon, I probably won’t be getting any sleep tonight,” she laughs, happy to withstand the grueling flight for the chance to preview a new season from one of her favorite brands.
If you’ve ever caught Faouzia at a live performance, or seen one of her colorful, carefully choreographed music videos, her emphasis on style as an element within her music will stand out immediately. Though she’s still starting out in her career as an artist, the singer-songwriter already has a signature style all her own, one that’s defined by high-fashion taste level, unexpected modern twists, and the balance between her stage persona, her at-home presence, and her Morrocan heritage.
“There’s three different Faouzias: Casual/dressed down Faouzia, show/artist Faouzia, and then there’s Moroccan Faouzia,” she explains. “I like to tap into those three categories and vary between them. Most of the time you’ll find me in the dressed-down Faouzia phase, where I resort to really big, oversized hoodies, a cool shoe with a pant, and then dress my hair and makeup up to do something cool with that.” And as she continues to establish herself as a performing artist, her stage look is getting the necessary attention from designers who want to be a part of the persona she’s building for the stage.
“I’ve been talking with fashion designers to build that brand and build that image for show Faouzia,” she says. “I want it to be very weird and cool, and play off shapes and colors. I like to stay very uniform with colors, so sticking to like two colors per outfit. And I like to be over-the-top when it comes to performing and the outfits I wear as artist Faouzia. I’m a big fan of really high heels, like chunky boots or chunky heels. And then for Moroccan Faouzia I would say it’s just traditional wear, like the kaftan, which is more traditional, dressed up attire, or the djellaba, which is more dressed down.”
Even after moving to Manitoba, Faouzia’s Moroccan heritage remained a huge part of her life. She describes her childhood home as a “mini Morocco” with a full Moroccan living room, and she spoke in Arabic or French with her parents at home. “I ate Morrocan food, and I’m still very tied to my roots,” she explains. “I don’t feel like I disconnected from my culture, which is really great. I got to really experience two different cultures growing up, Canadian culture and Moroccan culture.”
Along with Annakiki, Faouzia also lists Chanel, Prada, and Bulgari as other designers who have influenced her personal style.“Chanel is one of them, I’m a big big fan of Chanel,” she says of her couture picks. “Prada is another brand that I really love. They have really interesting shapes, too. I recently got a pair of Prada shoes and the bottom has two parts to it, a shape that almost looks like an animal or something. So if I turn to the side you can see the two different shapes — it’s a very cool shoe. Bulgari also has really amazing bags and accessories. They focus mainly on purses and bags, but they’re mostly known for their bags. Those are probably my top three.”
But long before she was old enough to be interested in couture, Faouzia’s powerhouse voice was turning heads globally. As a teenager, she won so many local contests and competitions that Paradigm Talent Agency signed her — and Atlantic Records followed shortly after and she began releasing a steady stream of singles. Last year’s Stripped EP, includes six of her songs pared down to their simplest form to highlight her voice, and she’s continued releasing new music throughout this year, too. 2020’s standout included a duet with John Legend on the grief-stricken, elegant piano ballad “Minefields,” and this year’s offerings, “Hero” and her latest single “Puppet,” emphasize a fierce independence that comes through in everything she does.
As a Muslim woman, Faouzia’s identity intersects with her style in another key way — she prefers modesty even while building her own iconic looks. And it isn’t always super accessible to lock in the fresh, hip looks while also covering up. “I’ve always strived to dress modestly and be as covered up as possible,” she says. “But I’ve always wanted to do that in a way that felt like I was being true to myself and my creative direction. It’s been a lot of fun exploring this world of artistry, but also being covered up. I just want to prove to myself and to any other young girls like me that you can do that. I just want there to be a space for people who want to be fashionable and have a signature look, and do want to cover up.”
As she continues to explore what works best for her personal style and artistic persona, there are lots of female role models in the pop world that Faouzia looks up to. “Rihanna is the style icon,” she laughs. “I’m always anticipating what she’s going to wear, and she never disappoints. And then Lady Gaga, because she’s always out of the box. She makes choices that people would think are weird into something fashionable. Also, Ariana Grande has a very simple and sweet style that I like. There’s something about taking something so simple and making it feel so elevated.”
Faouzia is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.