I love the view,” she sighs. “We have a farm back home in Tunisia which I really wanted to recreate on the terrace. I started with planting olive and lemons trees,” she laughs. “Obviously they didn’t withstand the New York winter so we made some adjustments.”At 33, the model, political campaigner and French Literature graduate is relaxed, light and graceful, and it is somehow fitting that a woman who has made her living, thus far, for being beautiful lives in a New York abode which is equally easy on the eye. But scratch the surface even a little, and both Kenza Fourati, and her Brooklyn apartment reveal a different depth of character.
Kenza relaxes on the terrace, which overlooks New York from Brooklyn. Kenza wears: Blazer, Giorgio Armani.
Top, Ralph Lauren,Leather trousers, Rag & Bone. Bracelet, Chanel, All her own. Shoes, La Babouche, and sunglasses, Gaya, both at Osay The Label
Kenza’s home is a visual reference of her life and global consciousness. The shelves are littered with tell-tale art, well-thumbed books, ornaments and photography from travels far and wide – vintage posters from Tunisia, a lamp picked up in a museum in Beirut, a rug her mum sent over from the Middle East – all personal nods to the couple’s Middle Eastern heritage. “My home is very eclectic,” she explains, gesturing to the thoughtfully-placed paraphernalia around her. Kenza lives with her husband Ayman Mohyeldin, 18-month-old daughter, Dora Fourati Mohyeldin and 20-week-old bump – baby number two is due in April.
A shelf in Dora’s room filled with curated trinkets
“My husband travelled a lot with work, and so I travelled a lot, too. I collect photography and art books and he collects war books – it’s kind of funny to see the contrast. I’ll have a beautiful Avedon picture book and next to it will be a photograph he took during the Tunisian revolution or the Egyptian revolution,” Kenza tells Bazaar.
A Moroccan lamp and some vinatge posters, which Kenza collects
“Ayman is half-Palestinian and half Egyptian so he introduced me to Lebanese-style cooking, I’m Tunisian and our nanny is Moroccan – we have this Arab/ North African rivalry going on in the kitchen,” she laughs. “All of us cook and my favourite thing in our home is our collection of spices,” she says.
Kenza moved to New York in 2010 for work. “It feels more like home more than anywhere else in the world. I feel New York can feel so comfortable for people who have a foot here, and a foot there. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you do,it can be so welcoming. That’s what I love about it.”
A cabinet in the dining roomis filled with worldly treasures
Growing up in the Arab world meant Kenza’s rise into the realms of modelling was peppered with personal challenges. She found notoriety at the age of 16 after being scouted at an Elite Model Look competition at home in Tunisia, and shortly after high school moved to Paris. "I’m proud of where I’m from,” she insists. “On the flip side, at home, people would say they’d seen pictures of me in lingerie or swimwear and there would be criticism. At the time, I didn’t have the words or the understanding, so I found it really hard.” Undeterred, she carried on – “It means a lot of different things to be a young Arab today and I just thought, why not be a part of that conversation.” Kenza ended up walking for the likes of Valentino, Armani and Balenciaga, and was the first Arab model to star on the front of Sports Illustrated.
Kenza in her living room furnished with eclectic finds from around the world, including a Beni Ourain rug. Kenza wears: T-shirt, Habibi at Osay The Label. Trousers, Diane Von Furstenberg. Shoes, La Babouches at Osay The Label. Bracelet, necklace and ring, all Amira at Osay The Label
More recently, she starred alongside Charlize Theron in the J’Adore Dior fragrance campaign and she launcheda sustainably-focused e-commerce platform Osay the Label (Our Stories Are Yours) in August this year.“I love things that have a story. I’m attracted to vintage pieces and unique pieces – like a beautiful leather jacket that was here way before me and will be way after – which is probably why Osay came about.” Together with her business partner, Simone Carrica – who also grew up in Tunisia – they have curated and collaborated on designs with ethical and socially-minded brands, designers and artisans. “More than ever, we know we have to consume and live fashion differently, essentially with more integrity, purpose, conscience, and soul.” Kenza’s style is relaxed but polished – a nod to years spent working in the industry.
Kenza wears: Jumpsuit, Anissa at Osay The Label. Vinatge belt, Chanel. Ring, Engie Hassan. Dora wears: Top, Habibi at Osay The Label.
When it comes to shopping, she prefers a more personal experience, admitting feeling “a little sad” when seeing the bricks and mortar stores going down in New York. “We’re all consuming so much online now, so I appreciate going in stores and trying things and seeing how people create things.” As a family we also love to discover new things and places together, obviously I love going back home, too.” And while she accepts the Middle East can be “too conservative” in some areas, she admires it’s progressiveness in others. “I’ve discovered a lot of cool designers in the region. I appreciate the booming part of the region, too. Where everything else feels gloomy, seeing new people not afraid to have a start-up business is inspiring. It feels so energetic in the Middle East at the moment.”
From the December 2018 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia
Press play to watch Kenza Fourati answer our quick-fire questions